Analyzing the Fit For Joey Votto on the Toronto Blue Jays

The Toronto Blue Jays have added Canadian veteran Joey Votto as a non-roster invitee, with the slugger joining the team in Dunedin.

CLEVELAND, OHIO - SEPTEMBER 26, 2023: Joey Votto #19 of the Cincinnati Reds bats during the second inning against the Cleveland Guardians at Progressive Field on September 26, 2023 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images)

The Toronto Blue Jays have added a familiar face to the roster, as ESPN’s Buster Olney is reporting that the organization signed veteran first baseman Joey Votto to a non-roster invite deal. He will join the club in Dunedin for spring training.

Votto later confirmed the news on social media and Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith and Shi Davidi also reported that the Canadian slugger had been drawing interest from multiple teams prior to signing with Toronto and will receive $2 million if he makes the big league roster, with another $2 million in incentives on his current MiLB deal.

Hailing from Etobicoke, Ontario, Votto had spent his entire career with the Cincinnati Reds, a 17 year long endeavor that ended with the left-handed batter becoming a free agent this past offseason after the Reds declined his $20 million option for the 2024 campaign.

All winter, the 40-year-old has been posting on X and Instagram as he continued to search for a big league opportunity, training at the Pro Teach Baseball facility in Etobicoke, making the trek from Mississauga everyday to train.  

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A six-time All-Star and the 2010 NL MVP, Votto has been hampered by injuries over the past two campaigns, limiting him to just 530 at-bats and 156 games. During that time, the Canuck posted a .204/.317/.394 slash line with 25 home runs, 79 RBI, and hit to the tune of a .712 OPS and a 93 OPS+. The left-handed batter still had the power on display but was struggling to put the ball in play, striking out 159 times compared to 71 walks across the two seasons.

Joey Votto’s Road to the Blue Jays Opening Day roster

It’s a far cry from his career numbers, as the future Hall of Famer currently boasts a .294/.409/.511 slash line through 2056 games. Votto appears healthy this offseason and eager for a new opportunity with the Jays.

Fit wise, the veteran bat will be in tough to find a spot on the Blue Jays roster heading into the new season.

With the current roster setup, the Jays arguably only have one spot open on the bench and a multitude of internal options fighting for it, including Ernie Clement, Addison Barger, Orelvis Martinez, Spencer Horwitz, and fellow non-roster invitees Eduardo Escobar and Daniel Vogelbach.

Even if the Jays trade one of their roster mainstays or demote a player that has options (such as Santiago Espinal) to open up another roster spot, Votto is still behind the rest of the group in terms of getting ready for Opening Day on March 28th.

His biggest competition on the field will be Vogelbach, as the burly slugger fits the same mold that Votto is trying to fill – left-handed bat off the bench that can either pinch it or play first base/DH when needed.

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The former Mets DH is also having a strong spring, suiting up in six games for the Jays while going 3-for-14 in the batter’s box, all of which were extra-base hits (one double and two home runs over the right field wall). His first knock came off of Yankees right-hander Gerrit Cole while his second round-tripper was off Tigers southpaw reliever Andrew Chafin, a welcome surprise for a hitter that owns a lifetime .463 OPS and just six home runs off left-handed pitchers.

Off the field, the Votto signing is a major win for the public relations department. Blue Jays fans will always find a way to back Canadian players that don the Jays crest. Factor in that the player is Joey Votto, one of the most successful Canadian-born big leaguers in MLB history, and fans are already pushing for the guy to make the team even before his first spring training at-bat. Should he make the team, it will likely be one of the top selling Blue Jays jerseys of the year even if he plays in a limited role.

On paper, the Votto signing is a depth move that adds some more competition for a spot on a limited bench, with the hopes that the veteran hitter can shake off the injury bug and return to his power form. There is a chance that he won’t break camp with the club given the logjam of players fighting for a spot but its another bat in the mix that fills a void on the bench should he regain his pre-injury form.

In reality, signing Votto is a big win for the Blue Jays fans who now have another Canadian to root for on his hometown team and a chance for fans to see one of the countries best players potentially finish his career North of the border.