Originally posted on Fox Sports Ohio  |  Last updated 4/4/12
If you are a Cincinnati Reds fan, just call him Pal Joey, because Joey Votto is going to be your friendly first baseman for the next 12 years. His 10-year contract extension, tacked on to the two years for which he is already signed, puts him in a Reds uniform through 2023. That's a long, long time, even in dog years, and when the contract expires he will be 40 years old. And they can't trade him. The contract includes a full no-trade clause and the team has an option on him for 2024, when he'll be 41. The immediate knee-jerk reaction by fans who have watched this incredible talent for the past few years is, "Hoo-ray, hoo-ray, hoo-ray." And if anybody deserves that kind of money -- and does anybody playing baseball for a living really deserve 22.5 million a year? -- well, it is Pal Joey. Despite the fact he is a confirmed introvert, a guy who shies away from the klieg lights, cameras and recorders, Votto is good for the Reds, good for Cincinnati and good for baseball. He is an exemplary citizen and an accomplished talent who is feared league-wide with a baseball bat in his hands. But take a deep breath. Think about it. Ten years? A long, long time. A lot can open over a decade. The human body erodes gradually, or quickly, over the course of 12 years. That's not to say it will happen with Votto, because he takes care of himself and he works hard. Seldom do you find him lounging in the clubhouse before or after games. He is in the training room working out. Or he is in the video room checking his swing or checking the repertoire of other pitchers. If anybody can maintain vigilance over his body, it is Joey Votto, not withstanding possible unavoidable injuries. But in today's market, today's unworldly game of baseball, it is what teams have to do to keep their stars. What does it mean down the road for a small-market (or medium-market) team? Does it mean the team can't keep Brandon Phillips? That's a strong possibility and the team has to hope the young players they are grooming in the minor leagues can be the filler around Votto. How strapped will the Reds be for the next 12 years with so much invested in one player? Everybody saw what happened when the Reds signed Ken Griffey Jr. to a long-term 116.5 million deal. They signed him in 2000, after the team lost a one-game playoff to the New York Mets in 1999 when a win would have put them in the playoffs. They never made the playoffs during Griffey's years because they were financially strapped. All that, though, is in the hands of club presidentCEO Bob Castellini and general manager Walt Jocketty. Castellini is committed to constructing a winner in Cincinnati and locking up Votto is a move in that direction, plus it is a move designed to please the fan base. Castellini didn't make his produce money by being reckless, so it is assumed he knows what he is doing and doesn't believe he is jeopardizing the team's financial or competitive future with a frivolous decision. It is a great day for Votto. It is a great day for Reds fans. The only question is how great it will be down the road, over the long, long haul of 12 years. Who knows? The way salaries keep escalating, by 2016 Votto might be one of the best bargains in the game. Hold your breath.
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