How to Cripple a Small Market
I grew up in Cincinnati. I love Eric Davis and Barry Larkin because of it. I choose Camp Washington Chili over any other offerings, and I refuse to tell you that I graduated from Colerain High School when you ask me where I went to school because I now have a college degree. However, there are some things that you just can’t do in Cincinnati, and signing a player for market value in a small market is one of those things.
Cincinnati isn’t Boston, New York, or Los Angeles. It isn’t Chicago or Detroit. It is miniscule in comparison, an afterthought to a list of cities that house a professional baseball and football team, mainly due to the fact that both have had such miserable bouts of inadequacy over the last 20 years. The city pulls away from failures quickly, leaving the stadiums to fill up with the few morons who are willing to shell out a lot of money in a time where there just isn’t much. Attendance has been all over the place in recent years, especially for the Bengals, but when you have 81 home dates and a payroll which now contains the 4th richest contract in Major League Baseball history.
The issue with the Reds signing Votto is this: When Ken Griffey, Jr. was making $12.5 million per season and deferring money towards his retirement, the Reds were crippled. There is a new owner, of course, but the man sells fruit. He has made money selling…fruit. How much more produce needs to be consumed to make this contract reasonable? Can the Reds really have a guy making $20-22.5 million per year and maintain a roster with Bruce, Phillips, Latos, Cueto, and Chapman?
The problem also becomes the fact that the Reds have gutted the upper levels of the minors by acquiring talent this offseason. While the Reds wait for Billy Hamilton and his crazy speed to reach the Majors, they’ll probably have to watch Brandon Phillips walk this winter via free agency. Do they turn to Todd Frazier, Chris Valaika, a journeyman veteran who, if he is still there, Dusty Baker would love to play way too often? How do they replace starting pitching as it becomes too expensive? Are the Reds going to start giving long-term deals, like the Rays did with Matt Moore or the Indians did with Grady Sizemore years ago, to save eventual costs?
This contract is a great thing for Cincinnati fans, especially the 18,000 that show up between any weekday night from May until school is out in mid-June and families return; however, Votto’s contract needs to have questions raised: What will happen when Cueto, Chapman, and Leake reach arbitration or free agency? How will you replace guys you can’t afford when you’re paying one guy 25% of your budgeted payroll? How is this contract going to look if Votto ages like Scott Rolen or becomes a shell of himself in his age 37-39 seasons?