Free Agent Signing Should Prompt Reds To Move Votto Down In The Batting Order
Reds Should Deal With Votto As They Did With Brandon Phillips
Now Cincinnati has truly strengthened its lineup, signing infielder Mike Moustakas to a team record free agent contract. However, there is a practical way the Reds can get even stronger, without adding as much as one "Red" can't to the payroll.
All it would take is for manager David Bell to show some backbone, which might hurt the feelings of the former All-Star who has been the face of the franchise for almost a decade. To get the most out of his projected lineup in 2020, Bell must move Joey Votto to the lower part of the batting order.
According to most baseball sources, Votto is projected to hit second in the order, the same spot he has occupied during the past few seasons. Managers from Dusty Baker to Bryan Price to David Bell have cited the rationale of hitting him near the top of the order, primarily his high batting average as well as his on base percentage.
Well, those statistics can no longer provide justification for Votto being so near the top of the order, so it is time for a change. The batting average of the 36 year old first baseman has plummeted sixty points over the past two seasons, while his on base percentage has dropped to just about the league average.
Since new acquisition Moustakas bats from the left,as does Votto, it makes sense to separate them in the order. Cincinnati's best hitter, third baseman Eugenio Suarez, fits perfectly in the third hole in front of Moustakas.
As part of that alteration, Cincinnati should move current leadoff hitter Jesse Winker to the two hole. After all, the outfielder is not the team's best option at leadoff, and hitting directly in front of two proven sluggers like Suarez and Moustakas would certainly allow him to see better pitches.
That move helps strengthen the Reds in at least two ways, the first of which moves Votto toward the bottom of the order. At the same time, the switch allows center fielder Nick Senzel to be the leadoff hitter.
The right handed hitting rookie batted .277 as a leadoff hitter last season, only one percentage point below Winker from the same slot. More important is the fact that Senzel stole a team leading fourteen bases, while Winker did not swipe even a single bag all season.
The minor shakeup would give the Reds righty-lefty combinations throughout the lineup, starting with Sensel followed by Winker, Suarez and Moustakas. Aristedes Aquino with his tremendous power would hit fifth, and Votto would fit nicely into the sixth slot.
It is very likely that Votto would resent the decision, but Cincinnati must not worry about upsetting a highly paid player who is past his prime. After all, the front office had no qualms about upsetting another highly paid All-Star just a few years ago.
Brandon Phillips was one of the most popular players in Great American Ball Park, yet that did not prevent the rebuilding Reds from benching him in favor of younger players. Keep in mind, too, that Phillips actually was coming off a decent year at the plate, batting .281 with double figures in home runs.
Those stats could be recited to perhaps placate Votto, whose batting average last season was .261. At least Votto will still be in the lineup, instead of headed to the bench like Phillips was in 2017.