Josh Reddick is hitting his way into a big free agent contract in 2017
Josh Reddick is currently on pace to have the best season of his career. Not only that, it is a contract year for the Athletics’ right fielder. He will be a free agent following the conclusion of the season and it’s possible he will end the season on a different team.
Reddick has said that “no substantive extension talks” took place between his agents, Sam and Seth Levinson, and the Oakland Athletics during the spring. He gave the A’s word that he didn’t want to negotiate during the season and has since let his agents know that he doesn’t even want “get a phone call (during the regular season) if we don’t think it’s the right deal for me.”
The A’s have said they would like to retain Reddick but apparently have made no real effort to talk with his agents. If they had, Reddick would have already received that phone call.
The A’s had the fifth lowest Opening Day payroll and it’s unlikely they will be able to afford the right fielder once he hits free agency, suggesting that a trade is on the horizon.
Reddick’s having such a good season that his name has already surfaced in trade rumors linking him to both Chicago ballclubs, according to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Slusser also says that if Reddick is not traded, the A’s may extend a qualifying offer to the right fielder.
Last season qualifying offers were $15.8 million (qualifying offers are only one-year deals) and that price will go up for the upcoming free agent class. Most players, however, do not accept the offers because they can find multi-year deals that give them job security and most of the time a higher paycheck. There is also the fact that no one on the Athletics makes anywhere near $20 million per season.
If Reddick continues playing at his current level; he is leading the team in batting average (.317) and on-base percentage (.376) and RBI (17), he’ll be able to command a nice contract in what will be a thin free agent market for outfielders.
He recently made headlines for tying the A’s club record for consecutive hits, hitting in eight consecutive at-bats. Beyond that Reddick, who won a Gold Glove in 2012, is excellent defensively in right field and will not be overlooked by teams who need an upgrade in their outfield for the 2017 season.
Reddick’s main competition in free agency will likely be 35-year-old Jose Bautista, who would be a better fit for an American League team looking for a designated hitter than an outfielder, along with Houston Astros’ outfielders Carlos Gomez and Colby Rasmus.
Gomez is a year older than the 29-year-old Reddick and has not gotten off to a good start this season. Rasmus, whose value increased when he hit 25 homers and drove in 61 runs last season, hasn’t always put up such high numbers in during his eight-year career in the big leagues.
While it’s unlikely that any outfielder will be offered a $100 million contract like the ones that were almost commonplace this past offseason, Reddick stands to get a deal for more years and more money than the Athletics would be able to pay.
The A’s would be compensated with a first-round draft pick if they were to keep Reddick the full season and extend him a one-year qualifying offer, but could probably get more of a return if they trade him prior to the August 1 non-waiver trade deadline.
Still, there are even more variables seemingly in play surrounding Reddick’s potential trade. Will the 14-19 A’s turn things around and become contenders, in which case Reddick would almost be guaranteed to remain an Athletic until the end of the season?
There are the recent struggles of the A’s top starter Sonny Gray to take into consideration. Should Gray’s command continue to decline and his ERA to rise, there is every possibility that the Athletics could trade Gray while he still could be seen as valuable to teams needing a starting pitcher.
What Gray’s performance has to do with Reddick’s may seem somewhat strange, but one could deduce that the Athletics were planning to lock up the 26-year-old Gray for the long-term and let Reddick go, at least prior to the season. They haven’t engaged in talks with Reddick’s agents and have turned their Triple-A first baseman Matt Olson into a right fielder.
Olson has some pop in his bat and has taken to his new position well defensively at Triple-A Nashville, that he has played 22 of Nashville’s 37 games this season in right field, while only playing six at first base. This could suggest that the A’s are grooming Olson to take over for Reddick.
However, as in Gray’s case, things in the game of baseball can change quickly. Despite having a very good spring Olson is currently batting just .167 with three home runs and is tied for fourth on the Nashville Sounds with 10 RBI which is yet another piece of the puzzle the A’s will have to take into consideration.
Of course this is all hypothetical, but poor play by both players could change the A’s potential plans for all three players.
Still, as previously noted, things in baseball can change almost overnight. The team could go from third to first in a week or fall to the cellar of the AL West in that same span. It’s also especially difficult to predict what A’s vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane and general manager David Forst are going to do next.
There is one thing regarding Reddick, however, that can be counted on. If he does continue the high level of play he has shown so far in April and May, he will have the chance to be one of, if not the most, coveted outfielders at both the trade deadline and/or on the free agent market at the season’s end.