CINCINNATI -- When a small-market club like the Reds signs Joey Votto to a 10-year, $225 million contract extension, as it did on Wednesday, there is one burning question that has to be asked. Where will the Reds get the dough to pay for a deal like that? As far as Reds owner/CEO Bob Castellini and general manager Walt Jocketty are concerned, they feel that they have it covered.
"We have thought long and hard about this," Castellini said. "What we're doing will not be to the financial detriment to the makeup of our team in the future." Many Reds fans remember the blockbuster trade that brought hometown icon Ken Griffey Jr. to the Reds from the Mariners before the 2000 season. Griffey signed a nine-year, $113 million contract. Even a future Hall of Famer like Griffey could not make the partnership successful. Griffey was often injured after he joined the Reds, and his production, while still robust at times, never matched the first 10 years of his career in Seattle. Cincinnati, which came one game from making the playoffs in 1999, never reached the postseason during Griffey's tenure. One major issue then was that the previous ownership, led by Carl Lindner, did not surround Griffey with enough talent. And when the team performed poorly, payroll was slashed. The current regime does not believe that history will repeat itself. "The franchise has the capability and capacity to meet its financial challenges, even as a small-market team," Castellini said. "Is it risky? No doubt. That's the environment that we live in, especially as a small-market team. We feel confident that Joey will be the cornerstone and foundation of our franchise. That's why we picked him out the way we have." Votto's contract is heavily back-loaded -- he'll make $12 million in 2014 and $14 million in '15, $20 million in '16, $22 million in '17 and $25 million per season for the final five years through 2023. The team's current local television deal with Fox Sports Ohio ends after the '16 season. A new deal could mean more revenues to offset the balance sheet. So would winning. Teams that contend usually sell plenty of tickets and merchandise that help support the expenditures in payroll. Cincinnati's payroll has hovered close to $70-$80 million the past few seasons, but would seem to be headed upward. "You got to figure that people that own teams are amongst the top business people in the country and almost the world," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "They certainly didn't get to that position being foolish with their money." The Reds also have a lot of young talent locked up for several years. Right fielder Jay Bruce, starting pitcher Johnny Cueto and Cuban phenom Aroldis Chapman have long-term contracts while players like Drew Stubbs, Sean Marshall, Mike Leake, Mat Latos, Devin Mesoraco, Chris Heisey and Zack Cozart are under club control for at least the next four years. There is a productive farm system in place, with highly touted prospects like Billy Hamilton, Didi Gregorius and Daniel Corcino in the pipeline. And there are contracts coming off of the books. Scott Rolen can become a free agent after this season, and Bronson Arroyo has two years left on his deal. "Joey, the type of player he is, attracts other players," said Bruce, who is signed for five more years, plus an option. "Who wouldn't want to play with him? He's an MVP and I'm just really excited to be able to stick around for it. They took a pretty big leap of faith to do this. If we want to be the type of franchise we expect to be, that was a move that needed to be made." Knowing that much of the team nucleus would be together for a while made Votto's decision a little easier. "If I was in a situation where guys are going to leave, guys were getting older, the team stunk and they didn't have the likelihood of competitiveness going forward, I would not have stayed," Votto said. "It seems ridiculous to turn down 12 years and $225 million, but as a fan base, I think looking at our team, we can see five years. We have a pretty good idea of who is going to be here for five years, unless there are massive changes. "That was a huge factor in the equation. If I was with a team that had no future, I would have said no. I would have waited and picked the right team."