Reds finalize mega-deal with former NL MVP

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Reds finalize mega-deal with former NL MVP

From Comcast SportsNet
CINCINNATI (AP) -- Joey Votto got a big payday by staying in a small market, agreeing to a 251.5 million, 12-year deal with the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday that is the longest guaranteed contract in major league history. The agreement adds 225 million over 10 years to his previous contract. The deal includes a club option for 2024, when the 2010 National League MVP turns 41. After watching NL Central rivals St. Louis and Milwaukee lose their first basemen to bigger markets, the Reds secured Votto with a package that easily eclipsed Ken Griffey Jr.'s 116.5 million, nine-year deal from 2000 as the largest in franchise history. In the majors, it trails only Alex Rodriguez's 275 million and 252 million deals, both over 10 years. "Is it risky?" said owner Bob Castellini, who sought a lot of outside advice before signing off on the deal. "No doubt. That's the environment we live in, especially as a small market. We feel Joe will be a cornerstone." It wasn't an easy decision for the 28-year-old Votto to make such a long-term commitment. He decided he had found contentment in Cincinnati, which took him in the second round of the 2002 amateur draft. "Maybe I could have found that elsewhere," Votto said. "Maybe not. But I like what I've got here." Under Castellini, the Reds have been trying to rebuild the franchise into a regular winner by developing players and holding onto them. Six of their nine starters on opening day have come through the farm system. Keeping Votto rather than letting him leave for a bigger market was considered a key. "It's hard to compete with the bigger markets," manager Dusty Baker said before a workout at Great American Ball Park. "You see those guys who have left - they couldn't come up with a deal - and they go to bigger markets like New York, L.A., Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, Anaheim. "It means a lot not only for the franchise but also for the city. It means kids can grow up emulating him and pretending to be Joey Votto." Albert Pujols helped St. Louis win the World Series, then got a 240 million, 10-year deal from the Angels in December. Prince Fielder led Milwaukee to the division title, but left for a 214 million, nine-year contract with the Tigers. The Reds have been trying to lock up the young core of their team for the past few years. Outfielder Jay Bruce received a six-year, 51 million deal after the 2010 season, when Cincinnati won the division but got swept in the playoffs by Philadelphia. Votto was offered a long-term deal then as well, but chose a 38 million, three-year contract instead. He said he's more willing to make a long-term commitment now, and joked his girlfriend probably was happy about that, too. Votto gets base salaries of 9.5 million this year and 17 million in 2013 under his previous agreement. The new deal includes salaries of 12 million in 2014, 14 million in 2015, 20 million in 2016, 22 million in 2017 and 25 million in each of the following six seasons. The Reds have a 20 million option for 2024 with a 7 million buyout. Votto's contract tops the 11 seasons Colorado gave Todd Helton in 2001, a deal that guaranteed him 151.45 million. It's an aggressive move for a small market franchise. Castellini said Votto's deal won't handcuff the franchise in keeping other players or Baker, who is entering the final year on his deal. "What we're doing will not be to the financial detriment to the makeup of our team in the future," he said. The Reds essentially kept their roster intact after their 2010 championship season and slipped back to third place last year. They changed strategies in the past offseason, trading for starter Mat Latos and reliever Sean Marshall while remaking their bench. Votto is the fulcrum of an offense that is one of the most productive in the NL, playing in one of its most homer-friendly ballparks. Votto batted .324 with 37 homers and 113 RBIs in 2010, and followed that by batting .309 with 29 homers, 103 RBIs and a career-high 40 doubles last year. His contract eclipses the deal that Griffey got to return to his hometown team in a trade with Seattle in 2000 as the richest in club history. Griffey was the face of the franchise then, even though much of his time in Cincinnati was spent recovering from injuries. Now, it's Votto's turn. "It means a lot to the city to have Joey as the face of the franchise," Baker said. "He's a very good role model for the task." Votto's shy personality came across during a news conference broadcast live to announce the deal. He practiced reading a statement beforehand, but acknowledged that he was nervous. When he stumbled over a word, he joked, "There was a typo right there." Finally, he put the paper aside and talked about how he'd react to the deal. "I always try to do my best," he said. "I can't promise you anything going forward. I can't promise you health or promise you production. I can promise you I'll do my best."

Michal Rozsival, Jordin Tootoo extensions give Blackhawks flexibility at expansion draft

Michal Rozsival, Jordin Tootoo extensions give Blackhawks flexibility at expansion draft

The Blackhawks agreed to one-year contract extensions with defenseman Michal Rozsival and forward Jordin Tootoo, the team announced Tuesday.

Rozsival's deal is worth $650,000 while Tootoo's deal carries a $700,000 cap hit, according to ESPN's Pierre LeBrun.

The move gives the Blackhawks two players eligible to be exposed during this summer's expansion draft.

NHL teams must expose two forwards and one defenseman that have played at least 40 games in 2015-16 or more than 70 in 2016-17, and they must be under contract in 2017-18.

[MORE: The Blackhawks' 9-1 February by the numbers]

Rozsival and Tootoo meet those requirements, which means the Blackhawks can now protect Ryan Hartman, who is also eligible.

They are allowed to protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender or eight skaters (regardless of position) and one goaltender. 

Rozsival, 38, has one goal and one assist in 16 games this season, often serving as the team's extra defenseman. Tootoo, 34, has no points in 36 games.

NFL Scouting Combine represents opportunities — good and bad — for Bears

NFL Scouting Combine represents opportunities — good and bad — for Bears

The NFL Scouting Combine convening this week in Indianapolis isn't really the high point of pre-draft assessing being done by NFL teams. Those evaluations have been going on for many, many months — on college campuses, at bowl games — and will go on with Pro Days and selected visits to team headquarters.
 
But what it does represent is two things: a chance for teams to probe for detailed medical information on some 300 potential draftees, and a case study in savvy brand marketing by the NFL that has become its own hot-stove league on steroids (hopefully not literally for any of the participants).
 
Covering the event 25 years ago, representatives of the three Chicago-area newspapers comprised one of the two largest media contingents (the other being New York's) going about the business of football reporting after the sport had largely moved off the sports-front with the wrap-up of the Super Bowl. No TV, no internet, and the Combine operators really didn't want media around for what was set up as a purely team-centric.
 
Now the NFL has created a media event that keeps it in news prominence at what had always been a dormant calendar nadir for pro football, with not only some 1,000 media members and outlets welcome, but also with fans able to attend events like the 225-pound bench press and 40-yard dashes, whose results were once something that reporters dug around for as news scoops.
 
But beyond the observed events, including group media interviews for the majority of athletes, individual draft stocks will be affected by vertical jumps, cone drills and such. And by interviews with individual teams, which are still private. (For now. Somehow, it's not beyond imagination that someday even those will be televised, in an NFL guise of "transparency" or something, but that's for another time.)
 
Strengths, weaknesses and the QB conundrum
 
One annual refrain are the assessments of the overall draft class, what positions are its deepest, its weakest, an evaluation that carries some weight because invitees to the Combine include underclassmen, which the Senior Bowl does not.
 
But a danger within the process is exactly that — the "weight" assigned to results, particularly the on-field ones. On-field evaluations are the best indicators, but the right on-field ones were there on playing fields and now tape, not inside Lucas Oil Stadium this week.

[RELATED - Which direction will Bears go at pick No. 3?]
 
Combine performance has affected drafts rightly and wrongly over the years.
 
ProFootballTalk.com's Mike Florio has made an excellent case for players declining that test for reasons of confidentiality. And frankly, if teams have a problem with a player declining the test, then teams and the NFL need to do a better job of keeping the results in-house, particularly given that correlations between the Wonderlic and NFL success are questionable at best.
 
But some player or players will move up or slip down on draft boards because of drill work. That may be unfortunate for the player, and for the teams.
 
QB or not QB
 
It is at this point that the Combine becomes increasingly relevant to the Bears, or at least to those trying to discern what realistic chances exist for the Bears to address their well-documented areas of need (quarterback, tight end, cornerback, safety).
 
An inherent problem at this stage is the difficulty in arriving at a right decision, particularly at the paramount position. NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock did some checking that illustrates the issue.
 
Between 2007-14, teams selected 21 quarterbacks in the first round. Nine of them are no longer even in the league, and only a handful have achieved something close to the coveted "franchise" distinction: Matt Ryan in Atlanta, Matthew Stafford in Detroit, Carolina's Cam Newton, Andrew Luck in Indianapolis and Joe Flacco in Baltimore. Only Flacco has won a Super Bowl.
 
"It gives a pretty good feel for the 'hit' rate of franchise quarterbacks in the first round," Mayock said on Monday.
 
"My message to NFL teams is, 'you've got to keep trying, keep on swinging.'"
 
Whether the Bears take a swing at a franchise quarterback at No. 3 is still many weeks off. But Mayock didn't endorse making that swing at that point.
 
"I don't have any quarterbacks anywhere near the Top 10," Mayock said. "That doesn't mean I think there's no talent there, because I think there are four quarterbacks that have first-round talent. In my order I had for my initial Top 5, it was [DeShone] Kizer, [Deshaun] Watson, [Mitch] Trubisky, [Patrick] Mahomes. All four of them have holes in their games.
 
"I don't think any of them are ready to start Week 1."
 
More to come over the next week. Make that "weeks."