Joey Votto not planning on guaranteed MLB role works out nicely for all involved

Cole Burston/GettyImages

“I’m very lucky,” Joey Votto exclaimed in a recent interview with The Athletic.

This is perhaps not the first thing you would have predicted he would say after accepting a minor league deal with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Yes, the great Joey Votto, probable Hall of Famer and the owner of a .409 career OBP, signed to what amounts to a tryout contract, one which will likely see him start the year riding the bus down in Triple-A. And yet, not only is he not upset by the prospect, as might be expected from a guy on the precipice of Cooperstown suddenly booted from the majors, but he seems to be embracing it. As he told The Athletic,

“It excites me to be in a hotel room in Florida, and to take a shuttle or an Uber to the ballpark and to be a minor-league player with an unknown number, just trying my very best to make a team. And it invigorates me. This is what I feel like I’ve been about, and it brings me great joy.”

For the Blue Jays, the situation could not have worked out much better. The signing of Votto provided a rare feel-good moment in an offseason mostly devoid of them – the Toronto boy and childhood Jays fan returned home – but his genuine pleasure in trying to earn a spot the hard way offers a key piece of the puzzle moving forward.

At the moment, it’s not entirely clear where he fits in the lineup, with Vlad Jr. and Justin Turner holding down the 1B/DH spots, and Daniel Vogelbach making a strong push for the ‘lefty slugger off the bench’ role. Unless Votto comes out and tears the cover off the ball in what remains of spring training, he will most likely be asked to begin the season down at Triple-A Buffalo. Earning it the hard way probably means biding his time until an injury hits the big club, or, maybe more likely, until the offense underperforms. In that case, what a luxury it would be for the 2024 Jays to have a future Hall of Famer waiting in the wings.

Of course, critics will point out that the 40-year-old Votto may not be much more than a minor leaguer at this point in his career. The past two seasons, he barely hit .200 with an OPS+ below 100 in 156 games sandwiched around a torn rotator cuff. And yet, over those 156 games, Votto hit 25 home runs, which would have put him second on the Blue Jays last year, one behind Vladdy’s 26. Go back one more year, and he hit 36 homers with a .375 OBP. Is it too much for Jays fans to harbor a faint hope that there’s still a little magic left in his bat?

What a story it would be, the hometown kid makes good, a fitting send off for perhaps the greatest Canadian baseball player ever. Get your ‘Joey Votto for Prime Minister’ signs ready. Or, you know, take a drive down to Buffalo and watch an all-time great play out the string.

Can Joey Votto provide a little magic to the 2024 Blue Jays, or is he finished? Let me know on the platform formerly known as Twitter – @WriteFieldDeep.