Joey Votto is no longer a Cincinnati Red.
The club declined to pick up the former National League MVP’s $20 million option, opting for a $7 million buyout, possibly ending Votto’s 17-year stint with the franchise.
Votto, 40, will now enter free agency for the first time in his potential Hall of Fame career.
“For 17 seasons, Joey has been the heart of Reds baseball as a Most Valuable Player, All-Star and respected clubhouse leader. His contributions to our team and his extraordinary generosity toward those in need, throughout our region and beyond, cannot be measured,” Reds president of baseball operations Nick Krall said in a statement, according to The Athletic.
“At this point of the off-season, based on our current roster and projected plans for 2024, as an organization we cannot commit to the playing time Joey deserves. He forever will be part of the Reds’ family, and at the appropriate time we will thank and honor him as one of the greatest baseball players of this or any generation.”
Votto is still eligible to re-sign with the Reds, although, as Krall indicated, it may not come with as much playing time or money as he could get elsewhere.
On the Dan Patrick Show in October, Votto said that he wanted to play “at least one more year” and that “as far as being retired, [he’s] not retired quite yet,” per MLB.com.
The first baseman had previously told USA Today’s Bob Nightengale that he hoped to remain with the Reds in 2024.
Votto played in just 65 games this season after missing time with a shoulder injury.
He still managed to be a roughly league-average hitter when on the field, posting a 99 wRC+ with a .747 OPS, 14 home runs and 38 RBIs.
“The last couple years were crummy,” Votto added in the Dan Patrick Show appearance. “I wasn’t healthy for two years, so I’d like to play well. It’s not the taste I want to leave in my mouth.”
If this is it for him in Cincinnati, Votto finishes his Reds career as one of the greatest players in team history.
Votto is top-five all-time in Reds franchise history in home runs, RBIs, runs, OPS, walks and hits, among other categories.
Votto was drafted by Cincinnati in the second round of the 2002 MLB Draft, making his debut in September 2007.
He finished second in the NL Rookie of the Year voting the following year after hitting 24 home runs with a .874 OPS during his first full season.
A six-time All-Star, Votto won the 2010 NL MVP and finished top ten in the voting five other times.
This story originally appeared on NYPost