What is a Votto Worth?


There has been a lot of talk recently about whether Joey Votto is available in a trade, and if so what kind of package it would take to get him.

Some bloggers have been saying that a player of Votto’s caliber would demand multiple all-stars in a trade.  Others argue for much less.  But they rarely give benchmarks for these opinions.

Seems to me that the best indicator of Votto’s trade value is the Adrian Gonzalez deal in December 2010.

  • A-Gone was 28 in Dec10.  Votto will be 28 in Dec11
  •  At the time of the trade, AG’s WAR for the two previous seasons totaled 13.0.  Votto’s WAR for 2010-11 totals 12.4.
  • Both play 1B.  Both healthy.  Both not baseball jerks.
  • SanD made the trade because they could not afford to resign AG with their payroll limitations.  Cinci may well have the same problem with Votto.

The “discount” inherent in their remaining contracts was also similar.  Assume that their fair market value is around $20 million per year (based on players like Howard, Cabrera and AG’s own extension).  At the time AG was traded, he had one year left on his contract at roughly $6 million.  So he was a “bargain” by roughly $14 million ($20M - $6M).  Votto has two years left on his contract at $9 million and $17 million, for a combined “bargain” of $11M + $3M = $14 million.

If you accept the similarity, let’s look at the AG trade. 

San Diego got SP Casey Kelly, 1B Anthony Rizzo and OF Reymond Fuentes, plus a player to be named later (who turned out to be Eric Patterson).  In February, 2011 (only two months after the trade) Baseball America published their list of the 100 best prospects in baseball.  On that list, Kelly was 31st, Rizzo 75th, and Fuentes not listed.  Kelly was Boston’s top prospect, Rizzo 3rd, and Fuentes 6th.

 A decent haul, but not as spectacular as some are proposing for Votto. 

Now for the obligatory Jays discussion <grin>

If you accept that the AG trade was fair, and that it sets the standard for a Votto trade – how would this translate into a Jays deal?  Well, on the Baseball America midseason updated top 50 prospects list, Travis D’Arnaud is ranked # 29.  And based on the February 2011 list (the latest available for players ranked 51-100) Deck McGuire was ranked # 95.  Presumably Deck would be ranked higher now, if only because several of the players above him have now graduated to the Majors.  For the third player, Toronto’s 6th ranked prospect was Asher Wojciechowski.

D’Arnaud + McGuire + Woj for one discounted year of Votto plus one year at almost fair market value?  Maybe replace McGuire with Drabek, if you think that Deck’s 3.02 ERA in the minors in 2011 would have hurt his ranking? 

* * * 

 As a postscript – there are other “rental” deals that support this comparison.  Seattle getting Cliff Lee for one season at $9 million for Phillippe Aumont, Juan Ramirez and Tyson Gillies, at a time when the only one of the three ranked in the top 100 prospects was Aumont at #93?  Hunter Pence for Jarred Cosart (Baseball America ranked 43), Jonathan Singleton (ranked 41) and Josh Zeid (not in top 100)?

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