Once Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto agreed to terms with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the assumption was that the floodgates would open and the remaining free agents on the market would begin to sign new contracts at a record pace.
Well that certainly hasn't happened to the extent everyone expected. With Ohtani and Yamamoto now off the market, the best hitter (Cody Bellinger) and pitcher (Blake Snell) remain unsigned. To call it a long, drawn out winter would be an understatement.
Though the San Diego Padres haven't been linked to many free agents this offseason, one such player appears to be closer to signing. Joey Votto is said to be on the Los Angeles Angels' radar. Are the Padres in on Votto as well? If he signs elsewhere, will the Friars then turn their attention to Brandon Belt?
Padres Rumors: San Diego stuck in Joey Votto-Brandon Belt waiting game
The Padres have been said to be on the lookout for a left-handed hitting first baseman who can also act as the team's designated hitter. That perfectly describes both Votto and Belt. Votto, of course, spent his entire career with the Cincinnati Reds, but his $20 million team option was not picked up. Votto is currently a free agent for the first time in his career.
Votto, who was coming off shoulder surgery in 2022, hit just .202/.314/.433 with 14 homers, 38 RBI, and an OPS+ of 99 last season. For his career, however, Votto has a slash line of .294/.409/.511 and is sitting on 356 round-trippers.
Belt, who struggled with the San Francisco Giants in 2022, had a bounce-back year with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2023. In 103 games, Belt hit .254/.369/.490 with 19 home runs, 43 RBI and a 136 OPS+.
Both Votto and Belt offer what the Friars are said to targeting in free agency, but is one waiting for the other to blink first? Votto is five years older than Belt, but has an MVP, six All-Star apperances, and a likely spot in Cooperstown on his résumé. Belt is a former All-Star in his own right and two-time World Series Champion.
Belt spoke about possibly retiring following the Blue Jays' final game of 2023. Votto, on the other hand, has made it clear that he wants to play in 2024. Either player would bring the desired qualifications to the Padres' 2024 roster. But with San Diego's mindful spending this offseason, president of baseball operations A.J. Preller may take whichever player comes with a discount.