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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.”