CINCINNATI -- The Reds' Hot Stove season usually includes annual speculation of whether first baseman Joey Votto and his large contract will be traded. While there are likely clubs -- namely Votto's hometown Blue Jays -- that wouldn't mind having him in their lineup for the right price, his departure is unlikely.
Votto, 33, has seven guaranteed years and $179 million remaining on the 10-year contract extension he signed in 2012. He also has a full no-trade clause.
"I certainly haven't had any discussions with him about [waiving the no-trade]," Reds general manager Dick Williams told MLB Network last week at the General Managers Meetings. "When you have a player of that caliber, there's always going to be that speculation and the questions out there in the industry. I can just tell you right now, I'm really comfortable with him in our lineup. I'm very happy with the contract we've got with him. He performed as well as he has in a long time, in recent years. I see him being at the center of our lineup and a guy we could really build around."
Despite a slow start where he was batting .213 as of May 31, Votto rallied and returned to his perch among the game's best hitters. Overall, he batted .326/.434/.550 with 29 home runs and 97 RBIs. Batting .408 after the All-Star break, he became the first player since Ichiro Suzuki in 2004 to bat .400 in the second half, and that performance certainly raised his value.
A year ago during the offseason, the Reds informed their front office counterparts that they would listen on any deal for any of their pricey veteran players. Since the 2015 non-waiver Trade Deadline, rebuilding Cincinnati parted with talent like Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, Todd Frazier, Aroldis Chapman and Jay Bruce. This winter, there is a possibility that shortstop Zack Cozart and second baseman Brandon Phillips could also be dealt.
There were reports that the Reds and Toronto had opened talks in the summer of 2015 about Votto, but they never gained momentum. The Blue Jays are facing the potential of losing two of their best power hitters in free agents Jose Bautista and ex-Red Edwin Encarnacion.
Votto made no public comments this season about a potential trade, but last winter made it clear he had no interest in playing somewhere else. He wanted to be around when the Reds have a chance to contend again.
"I just absolutely love playing here," Votto said during Redsfest 2015. "I really like where I live. I like my team and my job. I like the location of the ballpark and the fans and the clubhouse and the uniform and the number on my back -- all the littlest things that people take for granted are very comfortable to me and something I look forward to. I don't think of myself as anything other than a Cincinnati Red. It's one of the really cool things about having a no-trade clause."
Although Votto is not known as a textbook clubhouse leader, his work ethic influenced the young clubhouse positively. He was also willing to help some players with their hitting, including Billy Hamilton. All signs are pointing to him continuing to contribute and lead for Cincinnati in 2017, and beyond.
Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.