Reds Locking Up Core Players: Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Johnny Cueto Get Extensions
The Cincinnati Reds have been busy signing their (mostly) young talent to multi-year extensions this offseason. In December, pitcher Bronson Arroyo signed a three-year deal that will take him through the age of 36. He’s the only player the Reds extended that’s over the age of 27. Shortly after extending Arroyo, the Reds signed 23-year-old Jay Bruce and 27-year-old and reigning NL MVP Joey Votto to six and three-year deals, respectively. On Thursday, the Reds signed pitcher Johnny Cueto, 25, to a four-year deal and are reportedly pursuing an extension with 27-year-old pitcher Edinson Volquez.
The moves signal that the 2010 NL Central champs are serious about contending for the foreseeable future. Since arriving in Cincinnati in 2006, Arroyo has won at least 14 games four times, including a career-high 17 last season. Arroyo also won a Gold Glove last season. Cueto went 12-7 last season with a respectable 3.64 ERA. Bruce hit 25 home runs last season, though 19 of those came at the Great American Ballpark — about as hitter-friendly a park as you’ll find. The main concern with Bruce is his strikeout numbers; he’s had more than 100 twice in his three major league seasons, and a career-high 136 last year.
The biggest deal for the Reds obvious was extending Votto. He finished sixth in the majors with 37 home runs and seventh with 113 RBI. Of the players with at least 500 at-bats, Votto finished fifth with a .324 batting average and fourth with a .600 slugging percentage. The only real concern with Votto is his penchant for striking out. His totals have risen each year from 102 in 2008, to 106 in 2009, to 125 last season. The difference here is that Votto has still managed to hit for a high average, whereas Bruce hit a career-best of just .281 last season.
Though the move hasn’t been made yet, a Volquez extension would bring spark the most questions. Volquez was an All-Star as a rookie in 2008 when he won 17 games, but he underwent Tommy John Surgery after just nine starts in 2009. Edinson returned for just 12 starts last year, showing strong flashes while going 4-3 and striking out 67. There is also the question of whether or not those 17 wins were the result of PEDs. Volquez was suspended 50 games last season — a suspension he served while on the disabled list — for testing positive for a banned substance. While several pitchers have come back to have success after Tommy John surgery, we’ve also seen players’ bodies break down after being caught using PEDs. So the Reds have to decide which trend they believe Volquez will follow. It seems like the main reason they want to extend Volquez is because of what they gave up to get him. Volquez came to Cincinnati as part of the trade that sent last year’s AL MVP Josh Hamilton to Texas. Even if they don’t work out an extension, Volquez is signed through 2013.
Last season the Reds finished above .500 for the first time since 2000 and made the playoffs for the first time since 1995. With these extensions, and possible extension, they’ve done what they needed to do to ensure they don’t have stretches like that anytime soon. Throw in 26-year-old Drew Stubbs and 22-year-old Aroldis Chapman, and the Reds look like they’ll be good for a long time.