Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 7/4/12

Baseball has always been a game of big money. With no salary cap to speak of the MLB has a history of big players signing unfathomably large contracts. This season has been no exception; from Albert Pujols to Prince Fielder we have had our fair share of major signings and major disappointments.

Even in Cincinnati, a small market team, these massive deals were taking place. In Joey Votto’s case it was a 10 year $225 million extension, not Pujols or Fielder size but still large enough to drop anyone’s jaw. But there is a difference between Votto and his contemporaries, production.

While in most cases we see a huge drop in numbers after signing a big deal, just look at Pujols at the start of the season, Votto has remained immune to this slump. The 2010 MVP has stepped up his game this season, currently in the top 2 on the Reds in Homers, RBIs, and average. He even earned the starting position in the NL at first base, but could potentially lose his spot due to an injury he sustained last week. Either way Votto has earned it, and at the moment is one of the early favorites for the NL MVP.

This is not really that much of a shock, when they signed Joey the Reds expected for him to be the face of the franchise, but with the rest of the league’s major signings playing like minor leaguers Votto has been a standout.

The big deal about this though is not just the bucking of a trend, but the meaning this has to Cincinnati. It has been a couple of good years for the Queen City in terms of spots. The Bengals are on the rise and the Reds continue to compete at the highest levels. This is not going to change for a long time.

I expect for the Reds to not only win the division regularly, but to win multiple World Series before Votto is done. To do so the Reds only have to follow the blueprint of their division rival, the St. Louis Cardinals.

Just compare the Reds now to the Cardinals from last season and you will see what I mean. Votto is the Reds Pujols. Scott Rolen, a former World Series champ with the Cardinals, is Matt Holliday. Jay Bruce is Lance Brekman. Both had underrated pitching staffs and hall of fame managers. And in that list I leave off two of the Reds best players, Brandon Phillips and Zack Cozart.

If they can follow the Cardinals game plan, the Reds can win at least a couple of World Series titles in the next few years and it all rests on the shoulders of Joey Votto. With the signing of the long-term deal and Phillips signing his own, the Reds have locked up their superstars for an extended run at the top. Now they just have to hope the production can stay at its current level.

I have faith in the team and think they can keep it up. Will it happen? I have no idea, but it is becoming clear that the Reds made the best deal of the year when they locked up Votto.

Eat your hearts out St. Louis.

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