- By Gary Schatz Contributing Writer
Who is that fat man on first base?
Reds first baseman Joey Votto thought more of him was better.
“I tried to get fatter (over the offseason) and I succeeded at that apparently,” Votto said after taking his physical on Sunday as position players reported for spring training. “We did all the tests and I’m fatter.”
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The five-time All Star spent more time away from the game during the offseason. And who could blame him?
Last season Votto played in all 162 games. Over the last three seasons, he’s played in 478 of the Reds; 486 games.
“ I just tried to spend as much time as I could with people I care about,” said Votto, who finished two points behind Giancarlo Stanton for the Most Valuable Player award.
“I wanted to take as much time away as I could and just relax. I felt like I needed it.”
Votto also talked about the current and future state of the Reds rebuild. Cincinnati has finished last in the National League Central three straight seasons with 98, 94 and 94 losses.
“It’s been on my mind that we’re starting to get to the point where people are tired of this stretch of ball,” Votto said. “I think something has to start changing and going in a different direction. I’m going to do my part to aid that change.”
“We definitely have to get better collectively,” Votto added. “Guys need to get better, guys need to grow, guys need to come out of nowhere. We need lots of help all the way around. Hopefully, that happens sooner than later. I think there is potentially a light at the end of the tunnel. More importantly I hope it happens where it’s sustainable. We need guys who can really, really play. I think that can happen. I want to be part of a team that expects to be good for a three- to five-year stretch.”
Votto, 34, hit .320 last season, six points off his career-high. He added 36 home runs, one short of his career-high, and drove in 100 runs for the third time in 10 big-league seasons.
“I’m always thinking about getting better. It’s tough because even if I’d have won that award (MVP), it still would have felt awkward because we had such a down year last year. For me, always want to do my job and play as well as I can. It is much better going home at the end of the day knowing that you contributed to winning baseball.”
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Votto signed a 10-year contract in 2012 through the 2023 season with an club option for 2024. He will be 40 when the contract runs out.
Many big name free agents such as Jake Arrieta, Mike Moustakas and Carlos Gonzalez are still on the market.
The Reds avoided big name free agents, signing a pair of veteran relief pitchers in David Hernandez and Jared Hughes. The Reds lost starting shortstop Zack Cozart to free agency.
“I think they (Reds’ front office) made the right moves,” Votto said. “Signing a free agent for more that three years … I think Zack Cozart is a perfect example. I think they didn’t want to go past the three-year number with him. They didn’t want to make a commitment and risk that one or two of those years not being competitive and burning the money just for signing sake.”
Votto believes that the Reds may get to the point like Milwaukee, who signed outfielder Lorenzo Cain and offered Yu Darvish a five-year contract in an attempt to compete faster. The Cubs signed Darvish last week.
“At some point, we’ll probably do something like that,” Votto said. “I can’t speak for the business side of things because it’s not my place.”