A year ago, there were three MVP-candidate first basemen in the National League Central.

Now there's one.

The Cardinals didn't keep Albert Pujols. The Brewers couldn't keep Prince Fielder.

The Reds are keeping Joey Votto.

There were plenty of predictions that they wouldn't, especially after people saw the money that Pujols and Fielder got as free agents. Votto wasn't eligible for free agency until after the 2013 season, but there were plenty of people suggesting that the new Dodger owners would come up with big bucks for him, or that the Blue Jays would break their five-year contract limit to sign the Canadian-born star.

Instead, he has a deal to stay in Cincinnati, which tells you three things:

-- Votto truly does like it there, as he told CBSSports.com colleague Jon Heyman a couple of weeks ago. Those who know him have always said that his personality is better-suited to a smaller market.

-- The Reds can come up with money when they want to. The Votto deal is huge, 10 years for $225 million. So much for the idea that the Pujols and Fielder deals would put Votto out of the Reds' range. Baseball is such a lucrative business now that even small-market teams like the Reds can afford big deals, when they want to. They're getting this one done without allowing Votto to get within a year of free agency, which is the best (only?) way for a smaller-market team to get a big star signed.

-- If you're a team still looking for a star first baseman, good luck. Think of the first basemen who have signed long-term deals in just the last 4 1/2 years: Mark Teixeira, Ryan Howard, Adrian Gonzalez, Pujols, Fielder and now Votto. Add in Miguel Cabrera, if you want, even though he's now a third baseman. He's signed through 2015.

Last December, after the Angels signed Pujols, a Dodgers official suggested that his team needed to get Fielder. He gave several reasons, but one of them was that no one like that was going to be available on the free-agent market over the next few years.

What about Votto, I asked.

"You don't know if he would want to handle Hollywood, or if he could," the official said. "You know Prince could."

Votto always seemed like more of a Cincinnati guy, but there were other teams besides the Dodgers that could have tempted him. The Blue Jays, Rangers, Orioles and Nationals were all teams that could be in the market for an MVP-candidate first baseman.

There's one left in the National League Central. But now he's not leaving.