Violating the Five Year Policy for Votto

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When it comes to MLB free agents, they’re only looking for three things: money, years, and a shot at winning a World Series ring. So it should come as no surprise that Joey Votto is also seeking that highly coveted trifecta.

What it really boils down to money. Joey Votto has been one of the best players in the Major Leagues these past few years and in turn he wants to be paid like one.

Votto wants the cash that first baseman like Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder commanded this offseason. Frankly, you can’t blame him. There’s a reason why Jerry Maguire didn’t shout “show me the city!” … and that’s because it’s all about the Benjamins, baby.


Despite the hopes of him coming back to Canada, I don’t think Votto has the Blue Jays on his short list of potential destinations. As enticing as it might
be to suit up in his former hometown, the chance to play in Toronto is trumped by the almighty dollar.

Quite simply, he fact that the Blue Jays are in Votto’s hometown means next to nil. Jon Heyman went right to the source, and it sounded like he will not be taking a hometown discount any time soon:

“It would be tough for a position player to sign for five years.
No matter how fond a person is of the city, players have to maximize the
number of years.”

Even though it makes perfect sense for the Blue Jays to sign Joey Votto, he isn’t giving any preference to his hometown team. If anything, he’s basically all but ruled the Jays out because they won’t sign contracts in excess of five years.

Earlier this week, TSN 1050’s Cybulski & Company were debating whether the Blue Jays should renege on their five-year maximum contract policy. I believe it was Dave Feschuck who made the point (paraphrasing here) that the Blue Jays are handcuffing themselves by adhering to this policy.

Perhaps they should make an exception for this special case? I mean, how often do players with the offensive and defensive calibre of Joey Votto come along? Not very often.

It feels like we’re having the same discussion about Joey Votto as we were with Prince Fielder. Both would shore up the first base situation for many years to come, and all it would take to sign them is cash … but lots of it.

Unless Adam Lind reverts back to his 2009 self or David Cooper or Mike McDade develop into the team’s first baseman of the future, the Blue Jays are going to have a serious problem at first base in the next few years.

Which is why the prospect of signing Joey Votto is so tantalizing; he fits the exact requirements that the Blue Jays are looking for right now. Still relatively young, solid defensively, and an incredible offensive weapon at the plate.

Not to mention, Joey Votto could finally provide the Blue Jays with some stable lineup protection for Jose Bautista. Just for a moment, imagine the 1-2 punch of Votto and Bautista. That’s the kind of stuff dreams are made of.


Unless the Jays act on that impulse, they’ll have to explore other avenues when it comes to the right side of the diamond. Knowing Alex Anthopoulos’ affinity for acquiring players via trade, there are really only a select few up and coming first baseman that might be on his radar.

Scouring through the list of potential suitors, the only name that really stood out to me was Mitch Moreland. Barring a trade with the Texas Rangers for the first baseman, the Blue Jays will have some tough decisions to make when it comes to first base.

Do they give Adam Lind the benefit of the doubt? Do they hand the reigns to David Cooper or Mike McDade? Do they trade to get Mitch Moreland? Or do they do the unthinkable and pony up the cash and sign Joey Votto?

I don’t know how much Alex Anthopoulos hands are tied when it comes to long-term contracts like ones Votto will be gunning for, but it sounds like the powers that be aren’t giving him very much wiggle room.

If the Blue Jays were willing to make an exception for their five year contract policy to sign Joey Votto (or any other top tier first baseman for that matter), not only would it solidify the position, but it would be a huge upgrade offensively.

At this point in his career, I think it’s safe to say banking on Joey Votto is a pretty safe bet. So although it would be a huge chunk of change to sign Votto, it would hopefully be money very well spent.


And if AA wanted to get creative create a loophole in the five year policy, maybe the Blue Jays could offer a five year contract with 2-3 player options? If they gave Jose Bautista a sixth year with an option, then that doesn’t necessarily mean contracts are five years maximum … no exceptions.

The funny thing is I didn’t see anybody harping on the Detroit Tigers for signing Prince Fielder. Was that because they’re the odds-on favourite to repeat as AL Central Champions? Perhaps. But I suppose it’s all about perception, right?

If the Blue Jays perceive that they’re extremely close to contending, then signing Joey Votto could push them over the top. Whereas if they still have a few more leaps to make, then undertaking a contract of Votto’s magnitude might not seem that wise.

The problem is the Blue Jays don’t have that luxury of sitting around and waiting until they’re on the cusp of contention. They need to be proactive and foresee how their roster will look in the next 2-3 years.

Should the Blue Jays make a play for Joey Votto, or should they just stay the course and avoid the rat race for his services? As you can tell, it’s an issue I’m very conflicted about.

If the Blue Jays had a viable long-term first base solution in place, then I’d feel a little more safe. However, the position is in flux at the moment and there’s no better way to solidify it than by signing the best potential free agent first baseman.

I just hope the door isn’t completely closed on signing Joey Votto, because it would be a huge mistake to not at least consider it.

Ian Hunter

Ian has been writing about the Toronto Blue Jays since 2007. He enjoyed the tail-end of the Roy Halladay era and vividly remembers the Alex Rodriguez "mine" incident. He'll also retell the story of Game 5 of the 2015 ALDS to his kids for the next 20 years.

19 thoughts on “Violating the Five Year Policy for Votto

  • March 22, 2012 at 4:24 pm

    Don't agree that the Blue Jays need a free agent to solve their 1st base problem. Jose Bautista can play 1st. The strength in the Blue Jays minor league system is outfielders, in particular two very talented players, Anthony Gose and Jake Marisnick. That's why Baseball America projected a future outfield of Gose (cf), Marisnick (rf), and Rasmus (lf) with Jose moving to first.

    • March 22, 2012 at 7:54 pm

      Good point – I thought about the prospect of Arencibia shifting over to first base when d'Arnaud is ready, but J.P is the same style hitter as Lind (high HR's, but low OBP). I wonder if the Blue Jays would consider Bautista DH'ing, but I think he'll want to stay in the outfield for as long as possible.

    • March 25, 2012 at 9:48 am

      JP's bat is good… for a catcher. Moving him to first would be a downgrade from Adam Lind.

  • March 22, 2012 at 9:55 pm

    I think the 5 year policy is just a scapegoat for the organization to avoid going after marquee free agents right now cause they know their not ready to compete yet. They'll break it when their ready. Also Mitch Moreland is basically adam lind 2.0, not much of an upgrade there.

    • March 23, 2012 at 4:07 pm

      Who knows … it could very well be a front just to minimize the speculation about free agents. But if that's the case, it doesn't seem to be working.

    • March 25, 2012 at 10:46 am

      How can you even speculate that this is a front, or a scapegoat. It is in place now, and until they actually break it, your butt is sucking buttermilk.
      There are a couple of facts that point to the probability that this is a policy that the Blue Jays intend to follow for the foreseeable future.
      Fact: The Blue Jays operate one of the largest scouting departments in baseball, which makes them very good at seeking out and acquiring undervalued players like Escobar, Lawrie, and Rasmus.
      Fact: The Blue Jays have developed a top ranked farm system, absolutely brimming with depth and high ceiling prospects. This allows them the luxury of growing their own stars, and trading excess to fill holes.
      Fact: When The Blue Jays were at their best, they have never felt the need to put all their eggs in one basket. Even 1993, when Joe Carter was the highest paid player in baseball, and The Blue jays had the highest payroll, Carter's stipend wasn't hugely out of line with Alomar, White, Molitor, etc.

  • March 22, 2012 at 11:24 pm

    "When it comes to MLB free agents, they're only looking for three things: money, years, and a shot at winning a World Series ring."

    This should really be with and/or's between every criteria. Take Cliff Lee just the other year as a counter-example. He left cash and years on the table for the third point, plus the fact that he was comfortable with the team.

    "What it really boils down to money."

    See above.

    "Scouring through the list of potential suitors, the only name that really stood out to me was Mitch Moreland."

    Is this a joke? I can't tell. He's been even worse than Adam Lind over the past two years, and that's nearly impossible to do and still be a big league player who gets regular at bats.

    If Adam Lind continues to nose dive this season, the Jays don't have any internal options. No, David Cooper is not realistic long term option, sorry. And from what we've seen over the past year, JPA's bat will not play at first. Only person who could seriously take over who isn't already locked into a spot is Edwin.

    I do agree with your main point though. Votto basically fits perfectly with where the Jays plan to be in 2 years. It makes so much sense, and there are none of the reservations there were about Fielder regarding early decline. As pointed by another commenter, the 5 year policy is almost surely smoke and mirrors. He also astutely points out that Mitch Moreland is adam lind 2.0, except that hes even WORSE since he has no record of big league success.

    • March 23, 2012 at 4:11 pm

      John, I don't think Moreland would be the saviour for the Blue Jays at first base, but in my eyes he just fits that type of player profile that AA might find desirable: young, controllable, and he plays on a crowded roster already.

      I think there is some potential for Moreland there – last year was the first where he saw some decent playing time, and his numbers were okay. At least his OBP was .320 compared to Lind's .295.

      In the meantime though, I'll pipe dream about Votto coming to Toronto. The odds of it actually happening are next to nil, but damn would be fit in well on this roster.

  • March 23, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    I like the Jays' general policy of keeping contracts to a five year limit. However, I think they should be willing to forego that and make an exception when it is just that – exceptional. Votto is exceptional. Canadian 1B and 3B? Votto & Bautista? That would be worth the risk (especially since this appears to be a lower risk).

    • March 23, 2012 at 4:12 pm

      I'm cool with the policy being in place, but rules are meant to be broken. If the opportunity should arise, the front office should at least consider it.

  • March 24, 2012 at 5:57 pm

    I really think the organization's view is to give Lind 1 last chance. If he does not return to some semblance of a hitter, they will look to move him and his reasonable contract this offseason. Then it's Thames / Snider/ Gose/ Rasmus with Bautista moving to 1B.
    There are plenty of ABs for both JPA and D'Arnuad between C, DH and spelling Jose at 1B.
    Changes are coming. Thankfully

    • March 26, 2012 at 4:06 am

      I'm willing to give Lind the benefit of the doubt this year. But I think they need a contingency plan in place just in case he doesn't bounce back.

  • March 24, 2012 at 9:20 pm

    "Which is why the prospect of signing Joey Votto is so tantalizing; he fits the exact requirements that the Blue Jays are looking for right now."

    Too bad he's in a Red's jersey for two more seasons…what's the point of debating the merits now? lot can happen in two years.

  • March 25, 2012 at 12:09 am

    I think huge deals of over 6 years are insane and rarely work out. Its a recent and rare phenomenon. The Blue Jays are wise to be prudent because I feel like in about 6 years when Pujols and perhaps even Fielder are no longer as productive and their teams are burdened with their huge contracts if signing 28 and 29 year olds to 10 year 200 million dollar contracts is still a trend. The Blue Jays will look smart in 6 years when they are playing the Angels and the commentator is talking about an injured Pujols and his $20 per season salary.

  • March 25, 2012 at 10:02 am

    Five year maximum… no exceptions! For one thing, it's letting the camel's nose get under the tent. Long term deals almost never work out either.
    Cooper, McDade, or trade. The Blue Jays have worked hard to build their minor league capital, and by next year they will have an excess of major league ready prospects to trade.
    This is not to mention the fact that tying up 20 to 25% of your payroll severely limits flexibility, and can adversely affect team dynamics.

  • March 25, 2012 at 10:07 am

    "I didn't see anybody harping on the Detroit Tigers for signing Prince Fielder."
    I don't know what you were reading, if anything, but I heard a significant outcry from the Detroit fan base. They really felt that their 80 something owner was out for one last WS ring before he died, and then to Hell with the team after that.

  • March 25, 2012 at 4:21 pm

    Do you guys realize that Bautista is still one of the best RF in the game? He won't be going to first anytime soon.

  • March 27, 2012 at 10:29 pm

    There may be a way around it…

    If Cincinnati falters this year and they know they can't re-sign Votto after next season, they may look to trade him and get the maximum return possible. The Jays, with their deep farm system and AA's ability to fleece other GMs could certainly pry Votto from the Reds.

    Then with Votto in the fold, they re-work his current contract. Extend it by 5 years, plus an option or three. He'd then be under a much longer contract, but the team could weasel word it down to "technically only 5 additional guaranteed years" or something. Boom.

    Votto's a Jay long term. Rules aren't broken. And Toronto's a serious contender so other top players are more likely to sign here.


    • March 28, 2012 at 3:27 am

      Chris, I like your idea – so something similar to what the Red Sox did with Adrian Gonzalez. I guess it all depends on where the Reds are midseason and even at the end of the year. Depending on their standing, they might be more inclined to ship off Votto and get what they can before he walks away a FA.

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