Should the Milwaukee Brewers Pursue a Longtime Division Rival in Free Agency?

Instead of terrorizing the Crew, maybe he could help them terrorize other teams instead.
Sep 24, 2023; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto (19) acknowledges the
Sep 24, 2023; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto (19) acknowledges the / David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

The Milwaukee Brewers have seen plenty of Joey Votto throughout his 17-year MLB career. Until a few days ago, his entire career had been spent as a member of the Cincinnati Reds. Now the two sides have parted ways as his $20MM club option for 2024 was declined and a reunion between the two sides looks like a long shot.

Following the Reds declining Votto's contract option, their president of baseball operations Nick Krall released a statement. He thanked Votto for all of his accomplishments, but acknowledged that Cincinnati could no longer guarantee him the playing time that he was seeking.

Votto spent the first half of the 2023 season rehabbing from shoulder surgery. During this time, players like Spencer Steer and Christian Encarnacion-Strand earned playing time at first base and this appears the direction that they want to take going forward.

In addition to playing time concerns, Votto's rather expensive salary surely played a factor as well, but he did receive a $7MM buyout as a result of his option being declined. As a free agent who is 40 years old, the website Spotrac has his 2024 market value estimated at $5.5MM per year. This begs the question as to whether the Milwaukee Brewers should pursue him or not?

Should the Milwaukee Brewers pursue longtime Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto?

Looking at the Brewers 2023-2024 offseason needs, first base is one position at which they may have to make a move. The player who finished the 2023 season at first base, Carlos Santana, is a free agent. Additionally, backup Rowdy Tellez has an arbitration projection of $5.9MM and could be non-tendered in a few weeks. Lastly, prospect Tyler Black just started playing first base at the end of last summer and it is unclear if he will start the 2024 season in the big leagues.

All of this could lead to the Brewers signing a low cost veteran player to begin the year at first base. Votto's projected market value is just slightly under what Tellez may make, but it is possible that the free agent market may not yield him that amount.

Performance-wise, Votto is two years out from a MVP caliber season. In 2021, he belted 36 home runs, had 99 RBI, and a .938 OPS. He struggled in both 2022 and 2023, but by the time he was healthy last year he was immediately thrust into a playoff race. Encouragingly, he did display good power last summer as he hit 14 home runs in just 65 games played.

At American Family Field, Votto has historically had a ton of success. Over 111 games, he has a .978 OPS along with 24 home runs and 73 RBI. His .533 slugging percentage in Milwaukee could be of great benefit to the Brewers considering they struggled to hit extra base hits a season ago.

In the past, Milwaukee has not been afraid to sign former division rivals. They signed Andrew McCutchen to a friendly contract in 2022 and now they could consider targeting Joey Votto. Perhaps history repeats itself this offseason.