The offseason kicked off with word from Billy Beane that an extension for Josh Reddick was not out of the question.
Beane says firmly that Reddick is back next year and a candidate for a contract extension.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) October 5, 2015
More than the front office wanting an extension, Reddick wants to stay in Oakland, telling the San Francisco Chronicle, "This team gave me a shot and I've succeeded here. I hope it's the rare occasion where I stick around and get the kind of extension very few players ever get here." So after he gets an estimated $7 million at arbitration for 2016, according to Matt Swartz at MLB Trade Rumors, what would an extension cost?
To begin, we need to figure out the range of what sort of contract Josh Reddick could be looking at if he went all the way to free agency at the end of the 2016 season. To do that, let's take a look at outfielders who reached free agency the same way he would, immediately after the end of his arbitration years (abbreviations and WAR figures are from FanGraphs. "Off" and "Def" are offensive and defensive runs above average):
|Notable outfielders reaching free agency for the first time after accruing 6+ years service time, 2011-15, career statistics to the point of free agency|
|Justin Upton||28||2015||26.5||3.6||2016: ???||1184||4934||190||694||616||115||121||150.5||-51.3|
|Josh Hamilton||32||2012||24.5||4.4||2013: 5/$113MM||Full||737||3151||161||471||553||43||135||151.7||-19.1|
|Shin-Soo Choo||31||2013||24.4||5.5||2014: 7/$140MM||10 clubs||853||3677||104||497||427||105||135||165.6||-50.1|
|Hunter Pence||30||2013||23.9||5.5||2014: 5/$90MM||Full||1056||4474||165||566||615||89||120||110.9||-19.4|
|Jacoby Ellsbury||30||2013||23.4||5.6||2014: 7/$153MM + club option||Full||715||3204||65||476||314||241||109||69.7||47.8|
|Melvin Upton||28||2012||22.3||3.3||2013: 5/$75.25MM||966||4063||118||539||447||232||107||65.5||16.5|
|Michael Bourn||30||2012||20.1||6.2||2013: 4/$48MM + vesting option||871||3366||22||459||215||276||92||23.5||65.3|
|Austin Jackson||29||2015||18.1||2.3||2016: ???||860||3757||55||522||296||106||102||24.9||23.0|
|Josh Reddick||30||2015||14.6||???||2017: ???||671||2495||86||310||309||33||105||31.2||23.8|
|Angel Pagan||31||2012||14.6||4.7||2013: 4/$40MM||695||2653||41||358||265||124||104||43.8||14.2|
|Colby Rasmus||28||2014||14.2||0.9||2015: 1/$8MM||793||3039||116||409||352||28||103||30.2||6.9|
|Josh Willingham||33||2011||13.5||3.4||2012: 3/$21MM||799||3166||132||389||434||29||122||86.6||-55.7|
|Ryan Ludwick||31||2011||12.6||2.6||2012: 1/$2.5MM + mutual option||790||2974||117||366||450||17||111||46.2||-15.7|
|Dexter Fowler||30||2015||12.6||3.2||2016: ???||939||3830||65||539||291||114||107||51.1||-52.1|
|Drew Stubbs||31||2015||11.6||-0.1||2016: ???||842||3049||89||431||276||152||90||3.6||11.4|
|David Murphy||32||2013||10.3||0.3||2014: 2/$12MM + club option||$100K||849||2994||86||362||364||52||103||11.9||-12.5|
In this chart, Reddick has one more season to show his value to prospective teams.
What would be the most Reddick could earn if he had a perfect season with no injuries, putting up around 5 or 6 fWAR? I call that the Michael Bourn scenario. Bourn amassed 20.1 fWAR when he reached free agency after the 2012 season, and had 6.2 fWAR in his walk year. His reward was a four-year, $48 million contract with a vesting option for a fifth year if he has 550 plate appearances in his fourth year. By the time Reddick hits free agency after 2016, that will have been three years ago, so maybe bump that up to four years and $64 million with such an option.
What would be the least Reddick could earn if he had a poor but decently healthy season, putting up 1 fWAR? Reddick could be looking at a one-year contract to try to rebuild his value like Colby Rasmus, where he got $8 million after following a 5 WAR season in 2013 with a 1 WAR walk year in 2014.
That's a pretty big range for Reddick's future livelihood, and also a big range for the A's to consider in offering an extension to Reddick. But there are a few other data points to consider. Let's look at extensions given to outfielders with a year to go before their team's control expires:
|Notable outfielders receiving extensions one year before reaching free agency for first time, 2011-15 + Josh Reddick, career statistics up to the final year of arbitration|
|Brett Gardner||30||2013||18.3||3.4||2015: 4/$52MM + club option||620||2228||23||338||177||161||101||36.2||64.9|
|Josh Reddick||29||2015||14.6||3.0||2017: ???||671||2495||86||310||309||33||105||31.2||23.8|
|Andre Ethier||30||2011||14.4||3.0||2013: 5/$82MM + vesting option||854||3365||109||420||446||19||124||98.2||-63.3|
|Carlos Gomez||28||2012||9.5||3.0||2014: 3/$21MM||676||2130||44||291||198||130||79||-33.2||56.1|
|Carlos Quentin||29||2011||7.2||2.5||2013: 3/$27MM + club option||Full||616||2432||121||321||383||16||118||50.7||-61.6|
Andre Ethier is closest in WAR, perhaps, though he had the benefit of being continuously on the major league roster since his call up in 2006, and his contributions came primarily from his hitting ability. Ethier's extension actually came in June of 2012, following the closure of the sale of the Dodgers from the McCourts to the Guggenheim group that was eager to spend. Ethier had gotten off to a hot start too, with a 135 wRC+ in April and 176 in May.
Brett Gardner is in many ways closer to Reddick's career path in that Gardner has had his share of injuries, including an elbow injury that resulted in a surgery that caused him to miss most of the 2012 season, meaning they both have a similar number of games played and similar career trajectories. Gardner came back from his injury and was moved from left field to center field, but UZR suggests he had only average range as a center fielder instead of the other worldly range he had as a left fielder before the elbow surgery.
So with Gardner, you have a pretty good hitting outfielder that went from having amazing defense to just average defense (at least by the advanced metrics). With Reddick, the same, but with fewer stolen bases.
Timing an extension
There are two pieces of information that I think Reddick and the A's will wait for before getting serious about any extension talks. The first will be what Austin Jackson receives in free agency. Jackson is a year younger and his offensive production appears to be on the decline, but he fills in the middle case missing in my comparisons to the walk years for Michael Bourn and Colby Rasmus.
The second will be what Colby Rasmus gets a year after posting a good year at the plate while trying to recover value. Even if Reddick were to put up a poor 2016 like Rasmus' 2014, what could he net if he puts up a good season on a pillow contract? This will fill in what he'd be looking at near the bottom end of what he could earn in the future.
If both of those players sign early on, an extension announcement before FanFest in January (like with Coco Crisp) would not be impossible. The A's have also announced recent extensions in late April (Sean Doolittle).
Just make a guess
If an extension is agreed to before we get too far into the 2016 season, my guess is a four-year extension (2017-20) with $50 million guaranteed and a club or vesting option based on plate appearances for a fifth year. Future payroll has the room for it if only because the A's will have to maneuver for another outfielder to replace Reddick otherwise.
Prospect Matt Olson spent a lot of time in the outfield in Double-A in 2015, and he should be competing for an outfield spot by 2017, if not sooner, which would make the outfield look like this, before we get into any other free agent signings or trades this year:
|LF||Sam Fuld||Matt Olson||Matt Olson||Matt Olson|
|CF||Billy Burns||Billy Burns||Billy Burns||Billy Burns|
|RF||Josh Reddick||Josh Reddick||Josh Reddick||Josh Reddick|
|OF4||Coco Crisp||Jake Smolinski||Jake Smolinski||Jake Smolinski|
|OF5||Jake Smolinski||Tyler Ladendorf||Tyler Ladendorf||Tyler Ladendorf|
|OF6||Mark Canha||Mark Canha||Mark Canha||Mark Canha|
|Prospect||Matt Olson||Jaycob Brugman||Skye Bolt||Skye Bolt|
|Prospect||Jaycob Brugman||Jaycob Brugman||Jaycob Brugman|
This configuration would suggest that if the A's do seek a different left fielder than Sam Fuld, they would be looking for a shorter term deal to serve as a bridge to Matt Olson (or Mark Canha with Matt Olson at first base). If the A's end up making a move for a right fielder in the longer term, say three years or more, they may be making a choice on which outfielder to trade to make room for Matt Olson as soon as he's ready for The Show.