Joey Votto has been the best hitter in the National League for nearly a decade, only to have those efforts mostly squandered by weak supporting casts. If he keeps posting MVP-caliber numbers, the next six seasons guaranteed at $25 million a pop will look like a spectacular bargain, even as he hits his 40th birthday at deal’s end. The Reds have shown no interest in trading their franchise player; you have to wonder how long that’ll last, given the annual scarcity of elite bats on the open market, and Cincinnati’s pressing need for young talent.
That talent dearth looks especially stark on the pitching side. Would-be top pitching prospects like Robert Stephenson and Cody Reed have thus far failed to make a dent at the major league level. The team’s surprise breakout star this year was Luis Castillo, the 24-year-old right-hander who fires a high-90s fastball that generates lots of whiffs and groundballs, and helped him net a stellar 98 strikeouts and a 3.12 ERA in 89 ⅓ innings in 2017. Even if Castillo translates those results into a full season’s worth of work, he’ll still need rotation running mates for the Reds to get off the mat. Top 2017 draft pick Hunter Greene is a rare talent who’s also probably three to five years away from making an impact at the highest level. After Greene, you’ve got intriguing mid-rotation-type prospects like right-hander Tyler Mahle, but not necessarily a stable of future aces, coming up through the system.