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A’s will discuss long-term deal with Josh Reddick
About 10 days ago, the Athletics avoided an arbitration hearing with Josh Reddick by compromising at $6.575 million. Now that the outfielder’s 2016 salary is settled, both he and the club are ready to look further into the future.

According to John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group, extension talks with Reddick will commence shortly, and at the very least, there appears to be mutual interest in a long-term relationship. At the club’s weekend Fan Fest, Reddick told John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle that he was “thrilled” to hear the A’s wanted to keep him in Oakland beyond the 2016 season, his final year of arbitration. The question now is whether the sides can agree on dollars and years.

That last part could prove tricky, and not merely because the Athletics would have to devote a significant fraction of their constrained payroll to a non-star-level player. Reddick, who turns 29 on February 19th, peaked during his first season in Oakland, when he slugged 32 home runs—displaying the sort of prodigious power the Red Sox never expected when they shipped him west as part of a package for then-closer Andrew Bailey. Injuries have hindered Reddick since that breakout year, limiting him to 114 and 109 games, respectively, in 2013 and 2014. He was relatively healthy last season, appearing in 149 games, but while Reddick clubbed 20 homers and turned in a solid .287 TAv at the plate, his defensive metrics plunged virtually across the board. That’s big, if true, because the overall output was just 1.9 WARP, which would render Reddick more of a second-division regular than a cornerstone around whom the A’s could build their lineup.

But Reddick’s defense in 2015 presented a classic contradiction between the numbers and the eye test. Unperturbed by his career-worst -6.7 FRAA, rival managers and coaches declared Reddick a Gold Glove finalist, though the Angels’ Kole Calhoun eventually walked away with the award. Reddick, who took home the hardware in 2012, plays at full throttle, frequently appears on the highlight reel, and has a howitzer for an arm—all factors that could inflate his defensive reputation. But despite his injury history, it’s unlikely that his glovework could have eroded suddenly, and given that defense is a considerable component of Reddick’s overall value, the A’s appear confident that the metrics will bounce back to match the eye test, rather than the other way around.

Conflicting views on Reddick’s defense, though, aren’t the only potential obstacle to a long-term deal. The other major hurdle to finding a mutually agreeable price point is the market that Reddick would be entering if he hits free agency ahead of his age-30 season. Have a look at the outfielders whose contracts are up at the end of the year, and see how many of them you’d prefer to Reddick—presuming, in this case, that the statistical regression in his defense is just a blip. Even if Reddick’s former teammate, Yoenis Cespedes, opts out of his new deal with the Mets, a return to three-win production could make the A’s right fielder the third-best outfielder available.

Hence, the fate of Billy Beane’s extension talks with Reddick will depend in no small part on the extent to which Reddick is willing to bet on himself. The A’s have plenty of money to play with in future seasons, with just under $35 million in guaranteed payroll commitments for 2017, and virtually nothing on the books in 2019 and beyond. Arbitration raises for key players like Sonny Gray could eat into that, but a blank slate gives Beane and David Forst ample flexibility to pay Reddick if they so choose. The question is whether Reddick, who is represented by Sam and Seth Levinson of ACES, will decide to secure his future paychecks now or gamble on the opportunity to hit the market as a highly coveted commodity next winter.

Diamondbacks shopping Aaron Hill
The free-agent market for outfielders gradually awakened in recent weeks, with Cespedes’ agreement with the Mets taking the last top-tier option off the board. The infield market, on the other hand, is still in hibernation as February approaches.

The winter has been long and cold for second basemen and shortstops, most notably Howie Kendrick and Ian Desmond, both of whom are still searching for new homes months after they rejected qualifying offers from their previous employers. Kendrick could still return to L.A., with only a Chase Utley/Kike Hernandez timeshare ahead of him at the keystone, but Desmond has been supplanted in the nation’s capital and must look elsewhere for his next paycheck.

Rumors directly involving Kendrick and Desmond are few and far between, but one in which they were indirectly involved surfaced this weekend in the desert. Jon Heyman tweeted Sunday that the Diamondbacks—who were previously interested in Kendrick—are now hoping to export Aaron Hill. That would be tough under any circumstances, considering that Hill was worth just 0.7 WARP last year and is owed $12 million in 2016, but it’s an even stiffer challenge with multiple alternatives still available in free agency. The Dave Stewart-led Diamondbacks previously coughed up pitching prospect Touki Toussaint to shed Bronson Arroyo’s contract, but after thinning the farm system to acquire Shelby Miller, it’s unlikely they’d go that route again.

Even if Stewart does find a taker for Hill, it’s unclear whether Kendrick-to-Arizona would follow. FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal heard last week that the Diamondbacks are inclined to cling to the 39th-overall pick, since they’ll need to replenish their farm system in the wake of the Miller blockbuster. Kendrick’s appeal to Arizona would hinge on whether the Snakes’ faith in Chris Owings is legitimate or just a thinly veiled attempt to gain leverage in negotiations.

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My impression, watching Reddick over the course of 2015, was that his defense had definitely fallen off. In particular, vaunted throwing arm seemed to lack steam. Given his injury history, I assumed there was something nagging going on, but not something that would force him to sit. His defense is one of the things I'll be watching closely this year.