The Milwaukee Brewers received news that Rowdy Tellez could be out for up to a month, having broken his finger shagging flies during batting practice, a truly freak injury. That being said, he was performing poorly over the last couple of months, anyway, and the Brewers could do with a significant upgrade at a position that should be occupied by a quality batter. Owen Miller, after a hot streak in May, has cooled off considerably once pitchers worked out not to throw high and tight to him, and is more valuable as a versatility option or to face left-handers than to be an everyday first baseman–meaning the Brewers have a pressing need.
The Cincinnati Reds have just called up Christian Encarnacion-Strand, who has been tearing up Triple A and is more than ready for his opportunity at the major-league level. With a plethora of quality hitters (particularly in left field and first base, meaning Spencer Steer will likely rotate between the two), there is a possibility that Joey Votto represents a surplus to requirements in the state of Ohio.
Trades between divisional rivals seem impractical, but there’s the potential that both sides benefit from a trade of a higher-quality back-end starter than what the Reds currently have for the high-priced contract of Votto at first base, who isn’t quite the force he once was.
Votto’s current line looks good, with a .951 OPS including a .351 on base percentage, as well as being a quality veteran presence. He’s hitting the ball at an average of 91.3 miles per hour, with an 11.7% walk rate (albeit an inflated 29.9% strikeout rate), and he’s slightly outperforming his expected numbers so far (in a small sample) this season.
That being said, he’s a fairly reliable .800 OPS hitter when he’s healthy and fit. He has an expected slugging of .711 on four-seam fastballs, and could be a potent hitter vs right-handed starters, really making a potent top of the order with William Contreras, a fully-firing Willy Adames, and Christian Yelich.
One thing you can’t do is fall behind in the count, because once you’re in a fastball count to Votto, he will do damage, and a pitcher who can’t land his breaking pitches for strikes will struggle. The 39-year-old has limited range but very good hands at first base, likely more reliable there than Owen Miller and certainly more of a cleanup hitter.
While a big addition (especially if he hits one of his hot streaks), he’s not the Joey Votto of old, and that brings his price down substantially, on top of the $10-million salary the Brewers would have to pay over the balance of the season if they got him at the deadline. The Reds are in dire need of pitching, given the poor performances of the likes of Brandon Williamson and Luke Weaver and injuries to both Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo.
So, it depends entirely on what the Brewers are willing to give up, and how the Reds stand in terms of contending at the deadline. You would imagine that they would take Wade Miley in a heartbeat, but alas, he’s just hit the 15-day injured list with elbow discomfort. Could the performances of Colin Rea or Julio Teheran be acceptable for them? The Brewers also have Robert Gasser waiting in the wings, having worked out his command issues from earlier in the season, and he’s striking out batters in high numbers in Triple-A Nashville, ready to fill a slot should the Brewers need him. Gasser himself would be much more appealing to the Reds, of course, but the Brewers might be as reluctant to give him up for an aged Votto as the Reds would be to give up Votto for a fungible starter.
The other thing the Reds need is some form of offensive catcher, a position they have almost no production from, and you could add someone like Alex Jackson to sweeten the deal.
What would you be willing to trade for Joey Votto?
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