Athletics

A's agree to one-year deal with OF Rajai Davis

A's agree to one-year deal with OF Rajai Davis

The dawn of a new year has brought the A’s a new center fielder.

Free agent Rajai Davis has agreed to a one-year contract, the A's announced Tuesday evening. The deal is worth $6 million, a source with knowledge of the situation confirmed to CSN California. This will be Davis’ second stint in green and gold. He spent 2008-10 with the A’s, stealing a career-high 50 bases in 2010.

Presumably, he’ll slot in as the everyday center fielder and quite possibly will also be the primary leadoff hitter for manager Bob Melvin. The A’s have needs at both spots.

At age 36, he remains one of the American League’s fastest players and stole a league-high 43 bases last season. But he also hit one of the most memorable homers in recent postseason memory in the World Series with the Indians, lining a game-tying two-run blast off the Cubs’ Aroldis Chapman, though Chicago eventually won the game and the title.

Davis slashed .249/.306/.388 last season. He drew just 33 walks and is no on-base machine, as indicated by his career .314 OBP. But he remains a big threat on the bases, and the A’s couldn’t afford to be too choosy given their need in center and the lack of quality options still available on the free agent market.

They talked to the Kansas City Royals last month about a trade for Jarrod Dyson but that never came to fruition. Davis is an affordable, short-term answer, but the A’s still lack a long-term solution for center field. Given that, they could continue pursuing a younger player for the position via trade.

With Davis added to the current roster makeup, a potential starting outfield could have him in center, flanked by Khris Davis in left and Matt Joyce and/or Mark Canha in right. Khris Davis also figures to get time at DH. Still in the outfield mix are Jake Smolinski and Brett Eibner, who split center field last season after the trades of Billy Burns and Coco Crisp.

To make room for Davis on the 40-man roster, the A's designated infielder Max Muncy for assignment.

News of the agreement between Davis and the A's was first reported by Yahoo!'s Jeff Passan.

Ozuna trade to Cardinals could help A's land outfielder they covet

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AP

Ozuna trade to Cardinals could help A's land outfielder they covet

The Cardinals’ reported acquisition of Marcell Ozuna from the Marlins could pave the way for the A’s acquiring fellow outfielder Stephen Piscotty from St. Louis.

It’s easy to connect those dots as the third and final full day of the Winter Meetings unfold. Several outlets have reported that the Cardinals have agreed to terms to acquire Ozuna from Miami, with a physical being the only thing keeping it from becoming official.

The St. Louis Dispatch mentioned Wednesday morning the idea of that trade possibly facilitating a Piscotty deal to Oakland. Acquiring Ozuna certainly would give St. Louis an outfield surplus. The A’s are known to have been targeting Piscotty since well before the Winter Meetings began. He would fit the bill as the right-handed hitting corner outfielder they desire.

Even better for Oakland, Piscotty is young — he turns 27 next month — and is under team control for the next six years. He’s owed $29.5 million over the next five seasons, a figure the A’s could easily absorb, with a club option for 2023 attached.

Piscotty attended Amador Valley High in Pleasanton and then played at Stanford. As the St. Louis Post Dispatch reported, a trade to Oakland also would bring Piscotty closer to his mother, who was diagnosed with ALS earlier this year.

Should the A’s not be able to get Piscotty, they could look elsewhere on the trade market or scan the free agent market, which they’ve expressed a willingness to do.

A's trade former 2B prospect Joey Wendle, who never got a chance to blossom

A's trade former 2B prospect Joey Wendle, who never got a chance to blossom

The A’s swung a trade on the first day of the Winter Meetings, but it wasn’t the type of swap that’s been anticipated.

Oakland dealt second baseman Joey Wendle to the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday for a player to be named later or cash considerations. The storyline for the rest of the week is whether the A’s complete a deal for their biggest target— a right-handed hitting corner outfielder.

They weren’t involved in heavy dialogue Monday as the four-day Winter Meetings opened at the Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Orlando, Fla. But they’re on the lookout for an outfielder that will allow them to shift Khris Davis from left field to designated hitter.

Billy Beane, the A’s head of baseball operations, reiterated to reporters that the team ideally wants to acquire an outfielder who’s under team control for multiple years. The Cardinals’ Stephen Piscotty fits that bill and is known to be a primary target, but the A’s have been linked to others too, including Miami’s Marcell Ozuna.

If a trade doesn’t pan out, Beane didn’t rule out the possibility of signing a free agent outfielder, but the focus is trading for one who’s signed to an affordable contract. Beyond that, the A’s seek a left-handed reliever to continue fortifying a bullpen they’ve already added to this offseason.

“We were pretty specific with who and what we want, whether it be a free agent or a trade,” Beane said of the team’s approach to the meetings. “There’s a few free agents we have interest in, a trade here and there. And if we don’t get them, we’ll just wait for the offseason” to continue.

Wendle, who saw slices of big league time in 2016 and 2017, was originally acquired from Cleveland for Brandon Moss during the 2014 Winter Meetings. He drew some comparisons to Mark Ellis for both his style of play and work ethic but found himself blocked at second base despite an impressive big league debut in September 2016.

He hit .260 that month in 28 games, and though that average doesn’t stand out, he impressed defensively and proved to be a spark plug hitting leadoff, drawing praise from manager Bob Melvin. But a shoulder injury cost the 27-year-old Wendle valuable time in spring training last season and extended into the regular season. It didn’t help his cause that Chad Pinder emerged as a second base option and valuable utility man, and that Franklin Barreto — the A’s top-rated prospect — also arrived on the big league scene for stretches.

In addition, the A’s think highly of another up-and-coming second base prospect, Max Schrock. Acquired from Washington for reliever Marc Rzepczynski in August 2016, the 23-year-old Schrock opened the eyes of Melvin’s staff last spring and hit .321 for Double-A Midland in 2017.

Jed Lowrie, of course, is the A’s veteran incumbent at second base but is a logical trade candidate at any point given Barreto’s inevitable full-time arrival in the majors.