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01/17/11 9:10 PM EST

Votto focused on next three years with Reds

NL MVP says new contract has nothing to do with free agency

CINCINNATI -- Joey Votto's new contract ended the winter-long concerns about how his short-term future with the Reds would pan out. It did little to alleviate the worries about the long-term prospects of the National League Most Valuable Player staying in Cincinnati.

Votto had his three-year, $38 million deal become official on Monday. The first baseman and the club reached an agreement on Sunday, as first reported by MLB.com.

The deal covers all three of Votto's would-be arbitration years but still enables him to reach free agency for the first time after the 2013 season on schedule. If he continues on his current pace of production, he could become priced higher than a small-market team like the Reds can afford.

Votto, 27, hoped people would not read too much into that fact.

"I think it gives me the opportunity to avoid arbitration and also just concentrate on playing the next three years," Votto said on a conference call with reporters. "It has absolutely nothing to do with getting to free agency or anything like that. Although a lot of people would interpret it that way, I can't imagine playing for another team right now."

Talks about Votto's contract began in early December during the Winter Meetings. Unlike the six-year, $51 million deal signed by teammate Jay Bruce, Votto and agent Dan Lozano never sought a contract longer than three years.

"I wasn't privy to all of that information, but I do know we concluded that the best move was three years," Votto said. "I felt like one, two or three would have been fine either way. I wanted three and I think the team wanted three. I think this worked out well for me."

"We discussed it but couldn't come to terms on anything that made sense long term," Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said. "Our main concern was to avoid arbitration, and we'll see what happens three years from now."

Jocketty did not rule out revisiting a contract extension with Votto during the next three years.

Votto finished second in the NL with a .324 average and was third in both home runs, with 37, and RBIs, with 113 -- all career highs. He led the league in on-base percentage and slugging percentage and posted a 1.024 OPS. He was also tied for fourth with 106 runs scored, was sixth with 177 hits and fifth with 91 walks.

That made Votto a lopsided winner of the MVP race as he secured 31 of 32 first-place votes to capture the trophy for the first time in his young career.

Votto made $525,000 last season while helping the Reds win the NL Central crown. While the free-agency question will likely remain, the club got one very important item answered -- cost certainty with a marquee player whose price would have surely increased in a big way over the next three years via the process of repeated negotiations.

"I think it's a good contract for the club and a good contract for Joey," Jocketty said. "With a guy of his ability going year-to-year, you never know the cost. It certainly gives him great financial security and a chance to get another contract for whatever the market is in those days."

The Reds still have three players eligible for arbitration in pitchers Edinson Volquez, Johnny Cueto and Bill Bray. Teams are scheduled to exchange figures with their arbitration players on Tuesday. It's also possible they could get multiyear deals.

"We're still working to try and get those done before we give the numbers," Jocketty said. "We'll do some more meeting about it tonight and work some more [Tuesday]."

While the Reds have maintained a relatively low profile in transactions this winter, they have been making major expenditures to retain their own players. In December, pitcher Bronson Arroyo was given a three-year contract worth $35 million and an arbitration-eligible Bruce signed his multiyear deal.

"I think it worked out really well for the Reds and Jay. He had a good year last year and he seems to keep getting better," Votto said. "I think it was a good thing they got Bronson Arroyo. It was a fair deal on both sides. I think we'll continue to get the guys and move forward. Last year was a step in the right direction. We were such a young team."

Bruce and his agent had maintained they wanted to secure a long-term contract and took less money for the security of staying. The Reds were early in expressing their desire to give Votto a multiyear deal also, but as early as December, he expressed apprehension to signing an extremely long contract.

"I don't know as far as beyond three years," Votto said on Dec. 4. "I think it's a real unfair question to ask. This is not me saying I don't want to be here. But last year was a difficult year for me. This year was a better year for me. It's really hard for me to think three years ahead, five years ahead, seven years ahead or 10 years ahead.

"When [Troy] Tulowitzki signed that 10-year contract [with the Rockies], I was blown away. I can't imagine seeing myself 10 years from now saying, 'I want to be here.' It's an overwhelming thing to ask a young person like myself and say, 'Here's a lot of money. Be happy with this over 10 years, deal with it.'"

So for now, everyone appears happy to have the next three years taken care of.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com Read his blog, Mark My Word and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.