As the Toronto Blue Jays continue to search for the missing pieces to their roster for the 2024 season after their recent signings of both Kevin Kiermaier and Isiah Kiner-Falefa, they have been recently rumoured to be pursuing a couple of players tied to the Cincinnati Reds organization. Those two players are second baseman Jonathan India and first baseman/designated hitter Joey Votto.
For India, he first bursted onto the scene for the Reds back in 2021 when he put together a strong rookie season in which he hit .269 with an .835 OPS, 98 runs scored, 34 doubles, 21 home runs, 69 RBI and 12 stolen bases. His impressive MLB debut netted him NL Rookie of the Year honours as a result.
However, India hasn’t been able to replicate the stellar numbers he had put up in 2021 in his subsequent years, with a slight regression across the board in terms of both his hitting and production. Not only that, he has suffered defensively as well, registering a combined -21 DRS in the past two seasons along with 19 total errors in 581 chances.
Sports Illustrated has recently indicated that the Jays were interested in trading for India, according to Bob Elliott. However, as cleverly noted earlier in an in-depth coverage by our very own Matthew Rowell, India was not the answer then and still isn’t the answer now for the Jays. Especially if the signing of Kiner-Falefa is more reflective of a Whit Merrifield replacement as opposed to a Matt Chapman substitute, then that certainly makes India an incompatible fit now with the current Jays team.
In the case for Votto, it just sounds like a dream come true to finally bring home one of Canada’s best to play for Canada’s team prior to his retirement. After all, Votto has been one of the country’s best athletes to have played the sport ever and have had his brilliance on full display for the past two decades. With a career batting average of .294 and OPS of .920 with 356 home runs and 1144 RBI over 17 MLB seasons, his prolific hitting and consistent run production had been among the league’s best during that time frame.
However, Votto has dropped off considerably in the past two seasons, with a batting average close to the Mendoza line and an OPS below .750. In addition, his usual strong plate discipline was faltering as well with an increasing strikeout-to-walk ratio in the past three seasons when compared to his 1:1 ratio earlier on in his career. His fielding is still somewhat respectable, but if the Jays intend to sign the Canadian veteran, it will be more for the DH role than first base a la Brandon Belt.
Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet had suggested that the Jays would be interested in Votto, amongst a list of other potential DH options. However, seeing his rapid regression in his past couple of years does not exude confidence that he can remain productive with the Jays at the brazen age of 40. As a result, as tempting as it may be, the Jays should avoid Votto at all costs. That is, unless they intend to sign him as a coach and not as a player, in which case he could make a great hitting coach with his exceptional plate discipline and approach over the years.
Overall, it is well-advised that the Jays steer clear of both Reds’ players if they hope to improve their roster for 2024. Otherwise, they may end up hindering it more than helping in the end.