Houston Astros outfielder Josh Reddick is playing for his next contract in 2020.
Most of the talk in Houston this upcoming offseason will be centered around Astros outfielder George Springer’s first foray into free agency. The team will certainly make an attempt to bring him back, and fellow outfielder Michael Brantley’s case will be one to watch as well. But what of their third free agent outfielder, Josh Reddick?
The Astros signed Reddick to a four-year, $52 million deal in advance of the 2017 season. It paid off handsomely in the first year as he hit .314/.363/.484 and helped the team to its first World Series championship. He provided a solid bat, strong defense and the kind of veteran presence the team needed.
The defense and the veteran presence have remained, but his bat has cooled over the past two seasons. He hit only .242/.318/.400 in 2018 and .275/.319/.409 in 2019, providing below average offensive production in both years according to the adjusted OPS metric. As he enters the final year of his deal, Reddick is looking to turn back the clock.
He’ll be in a battle with youngster Kyle Tucker, although they should both get plenty of playing time while Yordan Alvarez is out. When Alvarez presumably returns, however, manager Dusty Baker will have to figure out how to allocate playing time in right field. Between Reddick and Tucker, whomever plays better will probably get more time.
Second Free Agency Run
Free agency was good to Reddick the last time, but it won’t be quite so lucrative this time around. He’ll play the 2021 season at age 34, so even if his bat shows signs of life this year, he won’t come close to matching the payday the Astros gave him. In fact, it’s unlikely he’ll even get half of that.
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To his credit, Reddick realizes this and said he’s expecting a one or two-year deal in free agency. “Obviously, nobody’s looking for that 34-year-old guy who may or may not be fading out,” he said. This season will be a good barometer as to whether he’s actually fading out.
He’s a fan favorite in Houston, and we can’t rule out the possibility that he could return. The Astros are unlikely to be able to afford to bring both Springer and Brantley back next season, so the presumption is that Tucker will have an inside track to a starting job at one of the outfield corners.
Let’s assume they bring back Springer. The team could deploy him in right, put Myles Straw in center and Tucker in left. They could then bring back Reddick to serve as a fourth outfielder, which he would probably be open to if he can’t find a starting job somewhere. How he plays this season will go a long way toward determining whether a starting job is offered to him.
If his offensive production is more in line with what it’s been the past two seasons, the Astros might be able to get him back on a one-year deal for around $5 million or so. If he hits well, he might get some two-year offers that would price him out of the team’s range. Regardless of how it goes, we’re just hoping for the best for a player who’s given a great deal to this team.