Athletics right fielder Josh Reddick tells MLB.com’s Jon Morosi that he’s not aware of any substantive extension talks that took place between his agents, Seth and Sam Levinson of ACES, and the team during Spring Training.
That doesn’t mean no talks took place at all, though, as Reddick told his agents that he himself didn’t want to be involved in the process unless a deal became close. “I’ve told [my agents], ’I don’t want to even get a phone call if we don’t think it’s the right deal for me,'” he said. “They understand that. They’re right on the same page with me. The A’s told me they still wanted me, and they want it to be at the right price, and that was obviously great to hear.” Reddick, though, is a free agent at season’s end, and the tight-budgeted A’s could very well have a hard time retaining him if he reaches the open market. Reddick was said to have placed an end-of-Spring-Training deadline on contract talks, though a report from late March indicated that talks could potentially continue into the season if they show “sufficient promise of completion.” That’s similar to the thinking we heard from Adrian Beltre’s camp, and Beltre indeed agreed to a new two-year deal following Opening Day (despite having set an end-of-spring deadline himself).
Interestingly, Morosi focuses in on the fact that Reddick is a longtime favorite of Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, and Reddick himself confirmed as much. “[Epstein] told me he would never trade me, either,” Reddick tells Morosi. “Then he left — and I got traded [to Oakland, in December 2011]. I think I was Ben Cherington’s first or second move after he took over.” Morosi notes that Epstein was the Sox’ GM when Reddick was drafted and adds that it’s conceivable that Chicago could seek a corner outfielder this summer on the trade market following Kyle Schwarber’s season-ending injury.
Of course, it should also be noted that it’s still rather early in the season, and the Athletics are sporting an 11-11 record in a tightly contested AL West. In order for a trade of Reddick to even be considered a plausible scenario, Oakland would have to fall behind in the standings by a fairly wide margin, as he’s an easy candidate to receive a qualifying offer following the year. Beyond that, the Cubs have Jorge Soler as an option to pick up the slack in Schwarber’s absence. While Soler is struggling at the moment, he’s also enjoying a career-best walk rate and a career-low strikeout rate; at least some portion of his struggles can be attributed to a .205 average on balls in play, though Soler’s line-drive and hard-contact rates are somewhat diminished this season. It’s certainly plausible that the former top prospect, still just 24 years of age, could turn things around at the plate in short order. Suffice it to say, quite a bit would need to transpire over the coming months for a trade scenario to play out.
The likelier scenario, as it stands, seems to me to be that Reddick rejects a qualifying offer and tests the open market in what will be a weak crop of free agents. He’ll play this season at age 29 and is off to a strong start, batting .282/.352/.474 with four homers (including the base hit he collected just minutes ago as I was writing this). With the exception of a down year in 2013, Reddick has been a decidedly above-average bat with the A’s, and he’s posted a cumulative .269/.328/.450 slash since the opening of the 2014 campaign. Those numbers, of course, are suppressed to some extent by the cavernous dimensions of O.Co Coliseum, and context-neutral stats like OPS+ and wRC+ feel that Reddick has been 16 to 18 percent better than the league average hitter. While he struggles against left-handed pitching, he’s a strong bat against righties with an excellent glove in right field, per Defensive Runs Saved (+51 for his career).
Those skills, combined with his age and the aforementioned thin crop of free agents landed Reddick sixth on the first installment of MLBTR’s 2017 free agent power rankings, with Tim Dierkes writing that Reddick could be a sneaky candidate for a $100MM contract. I’d agree with that assessment and may even be higher on his chances at that nine-figure threshold than Tim, assuming Reddick is able to approximate his 2015 production. Reddick is, in many regards, a similar player to Jason Heyward and Alex Gordon, though he’s three years older than Heyward and three years younger than Gordon. That skill set has proven to reward free agents handsomely, positioning Reddick for a hefty contract if he continues his recent success.