The Cincinnati Reds finally began to reap the benefits of their youth movement in 2023, when they spent much of the summer competing for a playoff spot before coming up short in the final week of the season. The outlier to the Reds youth movement was franchise legend Joey Votto, who completed his 17th season in the MLB, all of which have come with Cincinnati.
While Votto's skills have certainly declined, as evidenced by his 2023 numbers (.202 BA, 14 HR, 38 RBI, .747 OPS), he still played a valuable role for the Reds, both on the field and in the clubhouse. Despite that, the Reds had a decision to make on Votto's contract, and they have opted to decline his $20 million option, instead paying a $7 million buyout fee that makes Votto a free agent.
Now, Votta has cleared out his entire Instagram feed, seemingly to remove any mention of the Reds.
Does this signal that Votto is going to sign with a different team after 17 years with the Reds? Not necessarily, but that's the most likely scenario.
Votto could technically still return to the Reds in a bench role, but Cincinnati likely doesn't want him back as they continue to build around their young up-and-coming players. While it would be very cool to see Votto finish his career where he started, it looks like if he wants to continue his career, it's going to be with another team.
Anything can happen in free agency, but Votto's path out of Cincinnati has been cleared, and it will be interesting to see what the future holds for him now that he's a free agent.