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Reddick Extension: Just Don’t Say “Poor Us”

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New York Yankees v Oakland Athletics
“OW! OK, no hitchhiking for a month.”
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

There are legitimate reasons for the A’s front office to tread carefully around a multi-year, multi-million dollar extension for Josh Reddick. Reddick has had difficulty staying on the field, even if his latest injury was the flukiest of flukes. Fangraphs seems to think that Reddick’s defense is on a steep decline, even if the Eyeball Scout has seen a slight decline not as dramatic as the current metrics are “seeing”.

A 6-year deal would be out of the question, as would a deal asking the A’s to allocate $20M each season. However, with news coming down that Reddick is seeking 4 years at around $15M per year, is that still too big a stretch on the A’s budget for them to do?

Absolutely not. The A’s problem lately is not that they are poor, it’s that they have done such a poor job of allocating their available resources. Please tell me they aren’t going to allow Coco Crisp’s 2017 option to vest (550 PAs or 130 games, which he is currently on pace to hit), while trading Reddick instead of agreeing to an extension.

How much is $60M to the A’s? How much is $15M/year? Let’s look at three transactions, none of which needed the benefit of hindsight to criticize.

- The A’s committed $30M over 3 years to a slow DH, Billy Butler, rather than trusting that they could cobble together comparable production for league minimum. The shrewd A’s teams of yore saw Mark Canha, the clever platoon of Max Muncy and Jake Smolinski, and young sluggers such as Ryon Healy and Renato Nuñez, as the types of players who could, for a whole lot less, give you solid DH production in seasons like 2015, 2016, and 2017. And they have some defensive value, and they can run a bit.

- Oakland committed $10M over 2 years to a middle reliever, John Axford, despite his career 4.37 BB/9IP that foretold he would be no better than cheap incumbent Fernando Rodriguez. As volatile as relievers are, it is usually not wise to commit too much to any one reliever anyway, since they are equally likely to go all Ryan Dull on you or to go all Liam Hendriks. Hendriks is bad but he’s dirt cheap; Axford is not especially good and he costs 10x as much.

- Coco Crisp is one of my favorite A’s and I will always have a special place in my heart for him (and in my backyard, where his gnome lives just underneath the bird bath). However, once Crisp plays in 129 games this season a midnight abduction is totally on the table. Next year Crisp will be 37, with a chronic degenerative neck condition. Even in this “bounce back season” he is batting all of .236/.295/.415 and is a mere shell of his former self in the outfield. His $22M, 2-year extension for his age 35-36 seasons was already a mistake with or without the $13M vesting option.

I have to think the A’s won’t actually bring Coco back for $13M next season (if the option doesn’t vest there is a $0.75M buyout), but just looking at commitments for 3 years to a DH, 2 years to a middle reliever, and 2 years to a chronically-disabled 35 year old, here’s what you get:

$62M committed, $21M in 2015, $26M in 2016, $15M in 2017.

Now ask yourself whether it’s that the A’s can’t afford to budget $15M/year for 4 years to keep a 30-33 year old Josh Reddick as an anchor to what the A’s hope will be a seriously competitive team at least from 2018-20 — or whether they can well afford it if they will just stop making such obviously foolish commitments to players no one else wants to consider at those prices, or in some cases at all.

So A’s, if you don’t think Reddick can stay on the field or if you don’t believe in his defense going forward, that’s one thing. But if you say “Poor us, we’re poor!” no you’re not. You just need to remember how to spend the money you have, and it’s not the way you’ve been doing it lately.