The comment should have been the best Christmas present Reds fans could get, even better than a contract extension that would keep All-Star second baseman Brandon Phillips in Cincinnati for the rest of his career. After more analysis, though, that beautifully-wrapped statement could hold a lump of coal.
Reds announcer Thom Brennaman ended his weekly Hot Stove report on 11/15/11 with a remark about Cincinnati's first baseman and 2010 NL M.V.P..
"Joey Votto will be with the Reds for a long time," Brennaman said at the close of the show.
Many of the callers prior to that comment had expressed concerns about the status of Votto's contract, which expires after 2013. Indeed, rumors have been rampant that the Reds could deal Votto if a great offer came along.
One team that has come up consistently in such rumors is Tampa Bay, which could use an offensive upgrade in its lineup. The Rays also have a plethora of talented arms that might interest Cincinnati.
"The Rays are concentrating on upgrading at first base, DH, and landing two relievers," said Joel Sherman of the New York Post. "They want to hang on to their pitching depth, but that would change if Joey Votto of the Redsbecame available." David Price and James Shields are two of the pitchers mentioned as possible trade options in any deal for Votto.
Joe Sheehan of Sports Illustrated suggested a similar deal involving the Rays and Reds, only his transaction would reinforce Brennaman's prediction. It would keep Votto in Cincinnati.
He suggests that the Rays trade pitcher James Shields to the Reds not for Votto, but for first baseman Yonder Alonso and pitcher Edinson Volquez.
"A deal that made sense during the summer still does," Sheehan stated. "Tampa Bay has too many starting pitchers for one rotation, and the Reds have too many first basemen for one lineup."
The article also points out that Volquez needs a change of scenery and could benefit from spending time in the Tampa bullpen in 2012. He suggests that Shields, coming off his best season, would be the number one starter the Reds need.
Reds fans should be cautious about Shields' suggestion, for it shows his lack of familiarity with the Cincinnati rotation. The Reds already have a number one starter, Johnny Cueto, whose numbers are every bit as impressive as those of Shields. Also, Tampa is not likely to give up a proven quality starter for a player who has just a few weeks of Major League experience. The Rays would jump at the chance to get Votto, but not so for Alonso.
Nor should Reds fans be cheered by Brennaman's suggestion that Votto will be in a Reds uniform for a long time. If he is correct, then Votto's past few seasons in Cincinnati will have been a fluke.
The Votto we have been seeing has numbers that compare favorably with two current free agent first basemen, Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder. Both are going to get lucrative deals that Cincinnati could never afford.
Votto will be making the same demands one year from now. The only way the Reds would be able to sign him would be if his numbers greatly decrease in 2012 and 2013.
If that happens, Reds fans will not be excited to see Votto in a Reds uniform. We will be wishing, much too late however, that the alleged Votto for Shields trade would have materialized.
Doug Poe once delivered newspapers to Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and Tony Perez, three customers who have made him a lifelong Reds fan.
New York Post,11/2/11