CINCINNATI -- Signing a contract of a massive magnitude often requires very complicated thinking toward one very big decision. For Reds first baseman Joey Votto, it ultimately came down to something very basic. "The bottom line is I like it here," Votto said.
On Wednesday, Votto was signed to the richest contract in Reds history -- a 10-year, $225 million contract that comes with a $20 million club option for the 2024 season. "I enjoy coming to the ballpark and playing for the Cincinnati fans," Votto said following a news conference at Great American Ball Park. "I like the momentum that we're building with the fans. That was big for me." The 2010 National League MVP, two-time All-Star and '11 NL Gold Glove Award winner, Votto still had two years and $26 million remaining on the three-year, $38 million contract he signed in January 2011. He is due to earn $9.5 million this season and $19 million in '13. Starting in 2014, Votto will make $12 million, then goes to $14 million in '15, $20 million in '16, $22 million in '17 and $25 million each season from 2018-2023, when Votto will be 40 years old. There is a $7 million buyout on the 2024 option. It's a stunning deal for a small-market team like the Reds to pull off, and one that shocked the baseball community that expected Votto would be preyed upon by big-market teams. The contract has a full no-trade clause, which was also added to the remaining two years of the original contract. Votto, 28, was groomed into a star from within the Reds' organization since it selected him in the second round of the 2002 Draft. "It's very unusual for a player to have drafted, signed and played his entire career in one organization, and we're very proud to say Joey will do that," Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said. Since his big league debut with the Reds in 2007, Votto is a lifetime .313 hitter with 119 home runs and 401 RBIs over 617 career games. Last season, he batted .309 with 29 homers and 103 RBIs. "He's a winner and he exemplifies what the Reds stand for," Reds CEO Bob Castellini said. "Who he is and what he does represents how we're trying to build this team." When Votto signed his contract in January 2011 that meant avoiding three years of arbitration, many assumed he would head toward the free-agent market after 2013 and sign elsewhere. At the time, Votto could not see too far into the future to make such a long-term deal. "Well, my girlfriend, who is here, probably hopes that this is a trend going forward that I am more willing to make long-term commitments," Votto said, getting laughs. "Hopefully I am growing as a person. It certainly is a long time." Votto said he sought counsel from friend and teammate, Scott Rolen, who advised him to be where he was happy and where a team can continue to be built around him. "The Reds are committed to keeping him as a core guy for a long time," Rolen said. "That's certainly a good starting point right there, no question." The humble Votto comes from a working class Canadian family; the dollar amount of the contract should be staggering. Not as staggering as one would believe though, according to Votto. "I've been through the contract part," Votto said. "Honestly, I don't think I could spend the first contract. I care about the years. I care about the opportunity to have a long career with options. It's a nice challenge. What a new, fun challenge for me. I've got a choice. I can either get bogged down by this whole thing and regret it, or I can look at optimistically, and treat it as a challenge." Teams in other cities, namely Votto's hometown of Toronto, hoped he would hit the open market in two years. "I think a lot of teams thought that. They were waiting in the wings," said Dan Lozano, Votto's agent. "It would have been a very healthy market." It was a market that Votto had little desire to explore, however. "I could have waited until free agency and signed in a big market, and it could have stunk and I could have hated it the entire time," Votto said. "I went back to the meat and potatoes. Do I like it here? Do I like my teammates? Do I like the people I work with? Do I enjoy hitting at this stadium? Do I enjoy playing for this organization?" The answers were all the same -- yes. And that's why Votto will likely be a member of the Reds for life.