Major league teams in need of a slugging first baseman may have to work hard to develop one themselves. There aren't going to be many good ones available over the next couple of offseasons.
Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto was set to become a free agent after the 2013 season. Two weeks ago, he told CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman that his preference was for his next contract to be a very long-term one. He wanted nine or 10 years, like the deals Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder received in free agency this past winter.
But would Votto get such a deal with the Reds? Pondering that question led us to list five teams that might try to pursue Votto when he becomes a free agent. Each club has a glaring need at the position and shown a willingness to pay for top free agents. (Even if, as in the case of the Baltimore Orioles, no one wants their money.)
Apparently, those five teams—and any other looking for a big bat at first base—will have to look elsewhere.
MLB Trade Rumors is reporting that the Reds and Votto are close to agreeing on a contract extension that could be worth more than $200 million. Exact terms of the deal are not yet known. We'll update this post with those details as they become available.
But that dollar figure would put Votto in line with the $214 million Fielder got from the Detroit Tigers and the $240 million the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim trucked up to Pujols. Votto insisted he wanted to stay in Cincinnati, and the Reds are going to make that an easy decision for him.
With Votto now reportedly off the market for 2014, who are some of the first basemen that teams will be left with over the next two offseasons?
First, let's point out the potential winner of the 2013 free agent market: Mike Napoli.
Napoli is now primarily a catcher and would be one of the top available. But he may want to separate himself from Miguel Montero and Brian McCann and go for bigger money as a first baseman.
Other 2013 free agent first basemen include Lance Berkman, Adam LaRoche, James Loney and approximately 10 other players who look like bench players at best.
Who's the winner of the 2014 first baseman class? Come on down, Kendrys Morales.
Morales has to prove he's fully recovered from that broken ankle suffered in 2010, but a 30-year-old slugger with a 30-homer, 100-RBI season on his resume could end up with a nice paycheck.
How much competition will Morales face? Adam Lind might give him a run. He's the same age and has 30-homer power. But can he hit for a high average? Michael Morse is another possibility, but he also has to prove that his breakout 2011 wasn't a fluke. Mark Reynolds provides a 30-homer bat, but all those strikeouts will keep him from a big contract.
Otherwise, Paul Konerko has talked about retiring after his contract expires. Besides, he'll be 38 by then. And will Justin Morneau have recovered from his concussion issues by then?
No one's going to argue with Votto taking the deal that the Reds are reportedly giving him. He now has the security of a mega contract, regardless of how he performs the next two seasons. But it certainly would've been intriguing to see how much the Dodgers, Marlins, Blue Jays or White Sox might have offered in a fierce bidding war for Votto's services.
Alas, those four clubs and any others looking for a cornerstone first baseman will have to pick from scraps during what will be two cold upcoming winters.