For the past 12 years, Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto has developed into the face of a struggling franchise and an underappreciated All-Star that will one day likely end up in Cooperstown.
The five-time All-Star and 2010 National League MVP has slugged 263 home runs with the Reds with a .313 batting average that ranks third among all active players behind Miguel Cabrera and Jose Altuve and a .428 on-base percentage that ranks first.
He's brought consistent legitimacy to a franchise that has often dealt their best players around the first baseman, whether it was Johnny Cueto, Jay Bruce or Todd Frazier, just to name a few. But he's only made the postseason three times in his first 11 full seasons in the majors while the Reds have gone a combined 2-7 in those games.
Not even two full months into the 2018 season and there is no chance that Votto and the Reds will add a fourth postseason appearance to the Canadian's resume. Through 42 games, Cincinnati is 14-28, a 10-7 loss on Monday night to the San Francisco Giants ending a six-game win streak that has helped make the worst record in the National League look a little better.
While Votto has been a good servant for the club, it looks as though his patience is wearing thin as he spoke with the Yahoo Sports MLB Podcast:
"I genuinely hope that we're trending in the right direction, but this is the worst start I've ever seen," Votto said. "If I'm not mistaken, it's been noted in the past that this was historically one of the worst starts for this franchise."
He's not wrong. A miserable 3-18 start was the Reds' worst start in team history, one that spans all the way back to 1882. And he realized the strain it's putting on those around the organization.
"There are so many people that are losing interest in our organization — and deservedly so," he said. "It hasn't been a fun time to be a Cincinnati Reds fan."
"Not often does a player get to speak the way I'm speaking right now because my role is to do my job on the field and pretty much zip my lips, which makes sense. But in the same breath, I've been with this franchise for, I think, 17 years now (drafted in 2002). You can say things are business, but to be honest with you, I was a kid when I signed with this franchise, I take it personally. This is a personal thing to me. People inside the organization in all likelihood are not going to enjoy my responses. But it's been disappointing."
Not at age 34, Votto's is on the wrong side of his prime playing days, though he is still producing as he's slashing .291/.414/.446 with six home runs and 23 RBI. If the Reds continue to inhabit the basement of the National League, it's time to completely usher in a rebuild and clean house.
That means parting ways with Votto, who is signed through the 2023 season with a club option in 2024. That contract will be tough to move, though. With five years remaining, Votto will make $25 million per year until he's 39 years old, which could scare some teams away from legitimately going after him.
That being said, the Reds should do right by their veteran, who has trudged through more than a decade of mediocrity and try and deal him to a contending team that can provide some young prospects in return.
It will all depend on if Votto would be willing to waive his no-trade clause. And despite saying he does not wish to be traded, his frustration could suggest otherwise.