No. 3: Joey Votto, $51M remaining
It’s quite possible this career-long Cincinnati Red will end up with a plaque in Cooperstown one day, because Votto has been one of the best hitters in the game during his 16-year career. Well, during the first 15 years, at least, because the 2022 campaign has been absolutely brutal for Votto.
His .128/.277/.154 line in 94 plate appearances shows he still has a great eye, as he continues to earn more than his fair share of free passes despite doing virtually nothing when he swings the bat. And Votto has bounced back from awful stretches before, so we can’t assume he’s really done this time even though he’s now 38 years old. After all, he hit 36 homers and drove in 99 runs just last season with a 136 OPS+, good enough results to earn Votto some MVP votes.
But the Reds are on the hook for over $50M in guaranteed salary to an aging first baseman. As they’ve strip down their payroll obligations, there’s little doubt Cincinnati would be glad to get out from under this commitment. But Votto has repeatedly stateid he does not want to leave the Queen City, and that’s his right as a 10-and-5 player. (Players with 10 years in the majors and five consecutive seasons with the same team earn what is essentially a full no-trade clause.)
Votto just returned to action Friday, and there’s plenty of time left for him to turn his season around. Does he have another trick up his sleeve, the ability to once again conjure the potent abilities he’s so often shown that strike terror into opposing pitchers? Maybe, or maybe Votto’s time as a productive ballplayer finally has passed.