News broke this morning that Joey Votto is hitting the shelf for 3-4 weeks with a knee injury. The timing couldn't have been any better for the Pirates and any other contender in the NL Central. In terms of production value the Reds roster is actually fairly similar to the Pirates in the aggregate. Short of Votto the Reds have just one player (Brandon Phillips) with a WAR value above 2 and just three other position players with 250 or more plate appereances that have even a positive WAR value (Cozart, Bruce and Stubbs). For the Reds losing by far their most value player and one of the few guys on the roster producing positive results is a huge blow.
The Pirates are in a somewhat similiar situation. Short of McCutchen, Walker and Alvarez are the only players on the roster with a WAR value of at least two. After that, McGahee is the only other player that has produced positive results with 250 PA's or more.Obviously this gives the Pirates and Cardinals, and to some extent the Brewers a real chance to hone in on a playoff spot as it will be impossible for the Reds to replace Votto completely. While they do have some options at first, mainly utility man Todd Frazier, this is likely to cost them at least a few wins over the next month. The Pirates could make this injury a several win swing if they can make the right trade now to take advantage of a Votto-less Reds team.
As for what this means to McCutchen's MVP chances, Votto's injury will make it extremely difficult for him to make up the loss in his counting stats that most voters tend to lean on. David Wright would be the next player to garner serious MVP votes but his plate production hardly holds a candle to 'Cutch's. After that, who's left? Braun? I doubt the voters would be warm to idea of granting him another MVP award after embarrasing the voters by testing positive weeks after winning last years, though truthfully he is having another stellar season. Carlos Ruiz, Michael Bourn, Carlos Gonzalez, Matt Holliday and Giancarlo Stanton are all within striking distance but even with killer second halves it will be difficult to catch McCutchen completely. Make no mistake, Votto was Frazier to 'Cutch's Ali, and this injury puts him firmly in the drivers seat and makes the NL MVP his to lose.