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Potential free agent target: Josh Reddick

The Royals have shown interest before, could they be interested again?

Texas Rangers v Houston Astros Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

The Royals have been looking to add another left-handed bat to the lineup, but with free agents like Michael Brantley, Joc Pederson, and Kyle Schwarber having signed, the pickings are getting slim. The Royals may have to turn to a cheaper option, hoping to get a player who can provide the on-base abilities they have been seeking. One such hitter may be Josh Reddick.

Reddick has enjoyed a 12-year career with the Red Sox, Athletics, Dodgers, and Astros, winning a Gold Glove in 2012, and hitting .263/.322/.428. The Royals have been interested in him before, asking for him as a return for David DeJesus way back when a prospect with the Red Sox in 2011. More recently, they pursued him as a free agent in 2016 before he signed a four-year deal with the Astros.

Reddick had a big first year with the Astros in 2017, when he hit .314/.363/.484 and was worth 4.5 WAR, according to Baseball-Reference. He also had enormous splits that season, hitting .344 at home and .288 on the road, and we now know that the Astros had an electronic sign-stealing system at home that season. There is some evidence that Reddick participated far less than other hitters, and his walk and strikeout rates actually worsened in 2017 compared to his prior seasons. Still, the taint of the cheating will haunt his career.

Reddick’s offensive numbers declined quickly following that season. In 2018, his batting average fell 70 points, much of that from a huge decline in BABIP. He did improve his walk rate to go over 10 percent for the second time in his career, and his 17 home runs were the third-highest total of his career. Still, his line of .242/.318/.400 was below league average, with a 99 wRC+.

His batting average rose again in 2019, but his walk rate dropped to a career-low 6.5 percent. His on-base percentage and slugging percentage were nearly identical to his 2018 numbers, but his league and ballpark-adjusted numbers showed a decline, to a 94 wRC+. His walk numbers rebounded last year, but overall his offense declined even further, with a line of .245/.316/.378 and just four home runs in 56 games.

Reddick has some decent on-base numbers, posting a career walk rate of 8.2 percent. Of the 60 left-handed-hitting outfielders with at least 500 plate appearances since 2017, Reddick ranks 27th in on-base percentage at .331, ahead of fellow free agents Joc Pederson, Jackie Bradley, Jr., and Brian Goodwin. He also doesn’t strike out much, with a career rate of 16.1 percent, although that spiked to 20 percent in last year’s shortened season.

Reddick has won a Gold Glove and was a finalist as recently as 2019, but his defensive metrics have been poor the last few years. Of the 47 qualified outfielders since 2017, Reddick ranks 40th in UZR. He has a good arm, and can look good defensively by the eye test at times with good intensity.

Reddick does not have much of a platoon split in his career, and in fact, has hit lefties better than righties in each of the last three seasons. At this point in his career, Reddick is likely looking for a one-year deal worth around $3-5 million. He has been part of some winning organizations and seems to take a professional approach to the game. The Royals will have to ask whether his declining skills will continue in 2021, or whether they can get one more good year out of the veteran.