Newest member of the Blue Jays has the chance to surprise, but expectations should be kept low

Joey Votto's homecoming is exciting, but fans should temper their expectations for the aging star.

Any offense the Toronto Blue Jays get from Joey Votto this season is a bonus
Any offense the Toronto Blue Jays get from Joey Votto this season is a bonus / Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports
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The news of Joey Votto's signing with the Toronto Blue Jays is undoubtedly exciting for fans of Canada's team. Even though it's a minor league contract, just the thought of the possibility of seeing arguably the best ball player to hail from the great white north is enough to get the juices flowing.

Unfortunately, there won't be a homecoming quite yet. Despite answering his hilarious pleas on social media, the Blue Jays have Votto in camp as a non-roster invitee and little hope of a realistic shot at making the Opening Day roster. He'll begin the season a couple of hours down the road in Buffalo with the Triple-A Bisons. While seeing him suit up for the Blue Jays, his hometown team, will be a spectacle in and of itself, the best thing we, as fans, can do is to keep the expectations in check.

Joey Votto has been playing baseball for a long time

This isn't your grandparents' Joey Votto. Okay, he hasn't been playing that long, but my goodness, it certainly feels like it, doesn’t it? This isn't even the six-time All-Star and 2010 MVP version of Joey Votto, who dominated MLB pitchers for much of his 17-year career with the Cincinnati Reds.

He has been a shell of himself since tearing his left rotator cuff in 2022. Even leading up to the injury, the Richview Collegiate Institute alumni struggled for most of that 2022 season. Although you may remember his last trip to Toronto.

Despite his legendary career, even Votto considers himself a minor league player at this point, according to MLB.com's Keegan Matheson. While he has a journey ahead of him to get a shot in the big leagues again, the 40-year-old still thinks he has something to offer, telling The Athletic's C. Trent Rosecrans, “I think I can still bang” (subscription required).

He played almost a full season between 2022 and 2023, appearing in 156 games with 618 plate appearances. He batted .204 with a .711 OPS and 25 home runs. With a 95 wRC+, he was below league average, but considering how banged up he was, there's still promise — but it comes with a catch.

When he made it back into the Reds lineup last season, he had to sell out to get to fastballs, which he did phenomenally. However, sliders, changeups, and curveballs all got the better of him.

Pitch

BA

SLG

Whiff%

Run Value

Four-seam

.276

.672

21.5%

8

Sinker

.333

.519

17.3%

1

Slider

.097

.194

45.0%

-4

Changeup

.121

.121

40.0%

-5

Curveball

.050

.200

39.6%

-1

Can Votto return to (some of) his former glory?

The question remains: now that Votto is fully healthy and recovered, is his bat fast enough to keep up to minor league, let alone major league, pitching?

Before the last two seasons slightly tarnished his stats, Votto put up staggering numbers for the Reds from 2007 to 2021. He was a career .302 hitter, with a .416 on-base and .520 slugging percentage in 1,900 games. He amassed 331 home runs while earning 1,294 walks with his keen eye at the plate. His 15.9 percent walk rate is the third-best over those 15 seasons. He had an 18.2 percent strikeout rate, but that jumped to 25.8 percent between 2022 and 2023.

If and when he makes the trip up the QEW to Rogers Centre for his long-awaited Blue Jays debut, the first time he steps on that field will undoubtedly be a moment of moments for Canadian baseball. At the end of the day, any production the team gets from his bat is an absolute bonus this season. Although the team will, at the very least, make some extra revenue from Votto jersey sales.

So, where should we set our expectations? At this point, the best course of action is to enjoy the moment if and when we get the chance to see him don a Blue Jays uniform. We're all pulling for him, but any offense Votto adds to the lineup is a bonus for the Blue Jays and the fans.