In the first Lukewarm Stove of the season (all the way back on April 29!), Brett discussed an unexpected, but plausible trade rumor involving left-handed corner outfielder Josh Reddick and the Chicago Cubs.
At the time, the connection was loose (the Cubs could be in the market for a left handed corner outfielder in the wake of Kyle Schwarber’s injury) and at least partially due to the former Boston connection between Reddick and Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein.
Since then, of course, things have died down. The Cubs acquired a left-handed hitting outfielder in Chris Coghlan from the A’s, called up prospects Albert Almora Jr. and Willson Contreras to help out in the outfield, and got improved performances from Jorge Soler. In addition, Reddick broke his thumb sliding into second base and missed just shy of six weeks from May 19 through June 28. Put differently, there was no reason to believe a Reddick-Cubs trade was likely.
It’s still probably not that likely, but circumstances have changed, and the Cubs are still coming up for mention in connection with Reddick.
As we know, the Cubs currently have three outfielders on the disabled list (Coghlan, Soler and Dexter Fowler) two of whom are capable of hitting from the left side. In addition, Contreras’ time in left field has waned as his starts behind the plate have increased, and Albert Almora Jr. is a right-handed, light-hitting (for now) defensively-oriented center fielder more than anything else. The Cubs have gotten by – especially with Javy Baez’s ability to switch between second and third base, pushing Kris Bryant and Ben Zobrist out to the corners on occasion – but, it is at least arguable that a need has reappeared.
To that end, Reddick has returned from his injury and Susan Slusser reports that the A’s and the impending free agent have not resumed extension talks, leading Slusser to suggest the odds of a trade are increasing. She mentions that the Royals are following him closely, but other teams, including the Cubs, have scouted him.
Reddick is just one plate appearance shy of 50 since coming back from the broken thumb. Unfortunately, those 50 plate appearances haven’t been great. After a hot start to the season (.322/.394/.466 – .363 wOBA), Reddick has fallen into a bit of a funk since returning. In his short time back, he’s has slashed just .205/.286/.295, with a .261 wOBA. Although, he is still walking at a nice clip (10.2%) and is essentially never striking out (6.1%), his uncharacteristically low .220 BABIPis crippling his production.
Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s really been the bad luck type of BABIP. In those 50 plate appearances (compared to the start of the season) Reddick is hitting far fewer line drives (-12.8% points), far more fly balls (+16.5% points) and far more infield fly balls (+10% points), while trading in a lot of hard contact (-9.2% points) for soft contact (+9.2% points). As we’ve seen a number of times with a number of hitters, Reddick’s impressive ability to put the bat on the ball right now is actually hurting more than helping.
But I suppose we should be more fair than that. He is returning from an injury and 50 plate appearances is hardly a significant sample size. So let’s pretend that we expect Reddick, 29, to return to his early season form for a moment. Does he still make sense for the Cubs?
Eh. Yes and no, but mostly, probably no.
Reddick could certainly help out a Cubs team that genuinely needs some (especially left-handed) outfield depth right now, but I can’t imagine they’ll be the most interested or aggressive suitor out there.
Fowler is out, yes, but he will return soon. Soler and Coghlan may not have an immediate timetable, but both were playing well before their injuries, and each of Ben Zobrist, Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras and Albert Almora Jr. can and have helped out successfully in their absence.
That said, there is a legitimate connection with the Cubs front office, and they have been notorious for going out and getting someone they like, while dealing with the fallout later. I’m just not sure that’s a compelling enough reason to believe they’d outbid other possible trade partners. I can imagine teams with far less outfield depth than the Cubs reaching deep and paying more for Reddick’s services than the Cubs would be willing to match.
But given the A’s current standings (15.5 games out), Reddick’s expiring contract, and Billy Beane’s knowledge of asset maximization, I’d say Reddick is not long for Oakland. Whether he ends up in Chicago remains to be seen, but it feels unlikely. Still, it’s an interesting story to follow, particularly when paired with the possible movement of other tradable assets in Oakland.
Brett Taylor contributed to this post.