The news of Ryan Kalish‘s most recent setback was met with moans, groans and a lot of cries for Josh Reddick. But while it’s easy for us all to start playing the role of Monday morning quarterback, we’d be wise to pump the brakes on the Reddick lovefest.
Kalish and Reddick will forever be linked because of the Red Sox’ decision to trade away Reddick — rather than Kalish — as part of the deal that netted reliever Andrew Bailey. That decision now looks like an ill-fated one given Reddick’s offensive output for the AL West-winning A’s last season, Bailey’s lack of impact for the Sox thus far and Kalish’s unclear future. Let’s keep in mind that hindsight always has been and always will be 20/20, though, and we therefore shouldn’t split hairs over the perceived Kalish-Reddick toss-up for a number of reasons.
First of all, there’s this notion that A’s general manager Billy Beane would have simply taken either Reddick or Kalish in the deal for Bailey. While certainly possible, this logic rules out the possibility that Oakland actually valued Reddick more than Kalish, in which case Boston needed to part ways with Reddick in order to obtain Bailey. And sure, we can sit here and criticize the idea of bringing in Bailey, whose 2012 season was marred by an injury, but that voice of skepticism is undoubtedly louder now than it was a year ago, when Bailey was considered quite the catch for the closer-less Sox.
Then, there’s the assumption that Reddick would have produced at the same level last season even if he was still a member of the Red Sox. Again, this is absolutely possible, but it’s also possible that the sporadic playing time Reddick inevitably would have received in Boston would have led to numbers more in line with the .248 average and .290 on-base percentage he posted in 375 at-bats over parts of three seasons with the Red Sox. Players, for a number of reasons, sometimes perform better following a change of scenery, so it isn’t as simple as saying Reddick would have provided the Red Sox with 32 home runs and 85 RBIs.
The biggest reason everyone should cool it on the Reddick talk, however, is that while the A’s outfielder put together a rather unexpectedly nice year for an improbable division champ, he actually tailed off toward the end of the season, leaving some question as to whether he’ll sustain a high level of success going forward. In fact, Reddick was quite overrated.
The 32 home runs and 85 RBIs are sexy figures. The home-run total would have been tops on the Red Sox, while the 85 RBIs would have been second only to Adrian Gonzalez, who posted 86 RBIs in 123 games with Boston. But just as we shouldn’t discredit those stats, we also shouldn’t turn a blind eye to the less-than-impressive areas of Reddick’s offensive game.
Reddick hit just .242, posted an on-base percentage of .305 and struck out 151 times in 2012. That on-base percentage was the eighth-worst among major league outfielders who qualified, and the 25-year-old’s production actually dropped off significantly as the season went on. Reddick’s average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS dropped each month for the final three-plus months of the season, and he finished the year hitting a putrid .164 with a .214 on-base percentage, .295 slugging percentage and .509 OPS in 131 plate appearances in 31 September/October games. Overall, he hit .215 with a .256 on-base percentage in 73 second-half contests.
Perhaps we’re nitpicking a bit when looking at Reddick’s late-season drop-off. After all, Reddick earned a Gold Glove, Kalish didn’t do anything of note and Bailey struggled upon returning from a thumb injury. But acting as if Reddick would be some sort of savior requires not only forgetting the Red Sox’ situation at the time they traded Reddick, but also overvaluing the A’s outfielder.
Unless Kalish can battle his way back or Bailey can prove to be the All-Star pitcher he once was with Oakland, Reddick will always be viewed as the guy that got away. Just remember that Reddick’s production away from Boston looks much better because of the unfortunate sequence of events that have plagued the Red Sox over the past 13 months.
Just as time could heal the wounds of Bailey and Kalish, it could also heal the wounds of those Red Sox fans still clamoring for Reddick in the wake of yet another piece of unfortunate injury news.
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Josh Reddick photo (right) via Flickr/Keith Allison