Examining Josh Reddick's value to the Astros moving forward

Astros Josh Reddick
Reddick has made some big plays with his glove. Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Josh Reddick signed a 4-year, $52M contract with the Houston Astros prior to the 2017 offseason. At the time, it was the biggest free agent commitment that Jeff Luhnow had ever made. Believe it or not, it is actually the largest free agent guarantee that Luhnow ever made as GM. Michael Brantley and Carlos Beltran garnered higher AAV's than Reddick, but they were shorter term deals with $16M and $30M in overall payout. Other large contracts on the Astros, like Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke, and Jose Altuve, were either acquired via trade or done as extensions.

Four years down the road, Reddick faces free agency again. Reddick has just over nine years of service time, which means he'll undoubtedly seek a contract somewhere in 2021 to accrue 10 years of service time and pick up the benefits that come with that distinction. Reddick clearly isn't in line for a similar deal to what he signed in late 2016 as a player entering his age-30 season, but is there value left in the tank?

Hard Hit % - 29.3%

Barrel % - 4.8%

K % - 20%

BB % - 9.5%

Chase % - 25.7%

Judging off of the numbers, it seems Reddick had a change in approach at the plate. His 20% K% was an 8% increase from last season. His BB% increased by 3%, his chase % decreased 4%, his swing % decreased 4.6%, and his launch angle increased 3.5°. Aside from BB%, all the numbers referenced were either career highs or lows.

What do those numbers say about his approach? Reddick presumably came into 2020 trying to keyhole for pitches in a particular location and do significant damage with those pitches. The problem? He did the least amount of damage he ever had.

Reddick had a barrel % of 4.8%, which was 1.4% better than 2019. Unfortunately, 4.8% still isn't very good, as it's only in the 24th percentile of MLB. To be clear, you can still be a good hitter with that low of a barrel %, but it's tough to barrel the ball that inconsistently while striking out 20% of the time.

Relying solely on broadcast video, it's tough to see if Reddick had a swing path change. It's likely that if there were more publicly available data (through things like Blast Motion, Trackman, Rapsodo) that his swing path would be working a little more uphill in 2020.

Similar to Brantley, there're signs of aging with Reddick as well. His 17.4% whiff % against fastballs was the worst it's been since 2012, and it was 6% worse than in 2019. Reddick's .263 AVG against fastballs was .046 worse than it was last year, and his .254 xBA against fastballs was the worst it's been in the Statcast era (2015-present day).

It's a similar story with his slugging statistics. While Reddick's .430 SLG against fastballs was actually the best it's been since 2017, remember he made an approach change with doing more damage on these pitches in mind. However, the numbers suggest he got lucky, as his .382 xSLG is the worst it's been in the Statcast era.

The story continues away from the plate as well. In 2017, Reddick had an average sprint speed of 27.8 ft/s, ran a 4.20 from home-to-first, and was ranked in the 71st percentile in MLB in sprint speed. Now, Reddick has an average sprint speed of 26.2 ft/s, ran a 4.47 from home-to-first, and ranked in the 34th percentile in MLB in sprint speed.

Reddick has even declined defensively, which is where he provided the most value anyways when he first signed with the Astros. In 2017, Reddick had a UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) of 2.1, a DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) of 8, and an OAA (Outs Above Average, which is essentially an indicator of range) of 4. He was even better in that particular category in 2018, when he had 8.

In 2020, while it was a shortened season with less defensive opportunities, he had a UZR of -7.8, a DRS of -3, and an OAA of -5. His average jump on the baseball was 2.7 feet below average.

All-in-all, it tells the story of a player who is past his prime and is clearly on the downturn of his career. He certainly is not a starting outfielder on a contending team. The book on his Astros career isn't completely closed, as they could bring him back for cheap if they lose both Springer and Brantley and aren't intrigued with any other free agent options. Otherwise, Reddick will likely be heading to a rebuilding team in need of a veteran presence while he chases that 10th year of service time.

This is part three of an offseason series. You can also read part one on George Springer and part two on Michael Brantley.

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