Joey VottoThe season is over, as the Reds’ longtime first baseman told reporters (incl Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer) that he will undergo surgery on Friday to repair a torn rotator cuff.
As Votto told reporters (including representatives of Bally Sports), that his shoulder has actually been bothering him since 2015, although it only became “painful to the point where it’s…hard to lift, hurts to sleep” over the past few months. “The doctor informed me that with these types of injuries at some point you hit a breaking point, and you can’t manage it very well.,” Votto said, and that proverbial breaking point just happened this season. The procedure has about a six-month rehabilitation time, so Votto should be ready for around the start of the Reds’ Spring Training.
Votto’s 16th season will end at 91 games, because in addition to this rotator cuff problem, he also missed more than two weeks on the COVID-19 list in May. The veteran posted a .205/.319/.370 slash line and hit 11 home runs over 376 plate appearances — he hit well in his first few weeks back from the COVID list but otherwise, the 2022 season has been a struggle.
While the number of games is certainly a factor, Votto’s 92 wRC+ is the worst of his career, and it represents the second time in four seasons that Votto’s offensive production has fallen below the league-average 100 wRC+ threshold. Votto hit pretty well in 2020, but there were still whispers that his best days were behind him… before Votto broke out with another great season in 2021. The first baseman hit 36 home runs (matching the second-highest total of his career) last. year hitting .266/.375/.563 in 533 PA.
It’s safe to say that Votto’s increasingly problematic rotator cuff injury was the source of his 2022 downfall, as the lesser version of his shoulder pain hasn’t stopped him from posting MVP-caliber numbers multiple times since 2015. With the injury now finally dealt with, It’s possible that Votto could have one more big performance lined up for 2023. That said, Votto will also be 39 next season, and even with a fixed rotator cuff, he may not be immune to an aging curve that typically limits players out there. from their first years.
The return from surgery also adds another wrinkle to what may be Votto’s bye season altogether. 2023 is the final guaranteed season of the 10-year, $225MM extension Votto signed back in April 2012, though Cincinnati has a $20MM club option (with a $7MM buyout) for 2024. If Votto returns to his 2021 form, that could be enough to the Reds should make the $13MM decision to bring back the longtime face of the franchise, even if the Reds have focused more on cutting payroll in the past two seasons.
Votto’s own feelings will naturally also be a factor, as he is encouraged in the past that he would retire if he no longer got enjoyment from the game. It remains to be seen how Votto will approach this eventual decision, as he will surely weigh such factors as his health, how close the Reds might be to contending, and his 2023 performance as well as the personal satisfaction he still gets from baseball. Whenever he decides to hang up the glove, Votto is sure to get plenty of consideration from Hall of Fame voters, and a ticket to Cooperstown could well be in Votto’s long-term future.