MLB Rumors: Joey Votto, Blue Jays Agree to $2M Non-Roster Contract for 2024 Season | News, Scores, Highlights, Stats, and Rumors

CINCINNATI, OHIO - SEPTEMBER 10: Joey Votto #19 of the Cincinnati Reds runs the bases during a game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Great American Ball Park on September 10, 2023 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Cincinnati Reds/Getty Images)

Emilee Chinn/Cincinnati Reds/Getty Images

Veteran first baseman Joey Votto agreed to a non-roster invite with the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday, according to ESPN’s Buster Olney.

Joey Votto @JoeyVotto

I am excited about the opportunity to work my way back to the Major Leagues. It’s even sweeter to attempt this while wearing the uniform of my hometown team, the Toronto Blue Jays. <a href=””></a>

Keegan Matheson of noted the deal is for $2 million and can feature an additional $2 million in incentives.

The Cincinnati Reds set the stage for the six-time All-Star to play for a different team when they declined his $20 million club option for 2024, citing the fact they “cannot commit to the playing time Joey deserves.”

Cincinnati Reds @Reds

The <a href=”;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#Reds</a> today declined the 2024 club option on the contract of 1B Joey Votto. <a href=”″></a>

That rationale seemingly shut the door on a reunion between the two sides for a lower salary than his club option would’ve paid out.

For his part, Votto said on The Dan Patrick Show in October he intended to keep playing for “at least one more year.” His mindset was independent of whatever the Reds ultimately decided.

It wasn’t hard to see why Cincinnati preferred to move on from one of the greatest hitters in franchise history.

Votto performed as you’d expect most players who turned 40 in September would. In 65 games, he had a .202/.314/.433 slash line and finished with 14 home runs, 38 RBI and a 99 OPS+.

His 2023 debut was delayed until mid-June as he continued to recover from offseason shoulder surgery. Immediately after returning, the 2010 National League MVP rolled back the years. He hit three homers and drove in seven runs in his first four games back.

Votto was unable to sustain that, and his performance dovetailed with that of the Reds to some degree. Cincinnati was nine games over .500 coming out of the All-Star break and looked like a playoff contender. The team wound up 82-80 and two games out of a wild-card berth.

The Blue Jays will have manageable expectations when it comes to the surefire Hall of Famer.

Perhaps Votto’s production will improve as long as he avoids the shoulder trouble that dogged him over the past two seasons. But his walk rate has declined each year since 2021, and his strikeout rate has climbed well above his career average during that time.

It’s a typical trend for most aging sluggers. When they fail to get on base as frequently as they once did, they compensate by taking bigger swings, which causes the strikeouts to pile up. Toward the end of his run with the Los Angeles Angels, Albert Pujols remained a threat to hit 20 home runs but saw his on-base percentage regularly fall below .300.

In the case of Votto, it speaks to his impressive longevity that he could put in one of the worst years of his career and still basically be a league-average hitter.

If he can carry that over into 2024, this will be a worthwhile move for Toronto.

If nothing else, the upcoming season will be a great celebration of Canadian baseball.

Once he became a free agent, Toronto was one of the more logical landing spots for Votto, who’s a native of the city. The team also stood to benefit from adding some punch behind Vladimir Guerrero Jr. between the first base and designated hitter slots in the lineup.

Brandon Belt performed well in the role in 2023 but is currently a free agent. Now, the Blue Jays will hope Votto can repeat that success.

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