Having added some speed to their lineup, the A’s would like to complement it with some thump.
While discussing the signing of center fielder and potential leadoff man Rajai Davis, Oakland general manager David Forst said Wednesday that he hopes to keep adding to the offense, preferably in the form of a right-handed hitter.
“I think we’re looking sort of all over,” Forst said on a media conference call. “We could probably use a right-handed bat, as reports (have suggested). We’re certainly looking at right-handed hitters, but I think we have a handful of spots we could put guys right now.”
A morning report from Fan Rag’s Jon Heyman suggested the A’s have interest in free agent slugger Mark Trumbo, who led the majors with 47 home runs last season. Whether he’s a real possibility remains to be seen — the Baltimore Orioles are interested in re-signing him and the Colorado Rockies have also been linked to Trumbo, who can play first base, both corner outfield spots or serve as designated hitter.
But the upshot here is that the A’s are looking to keep upgrading offensively, and a right-handed power bat remains on their wish list after they missed out on Edwin Encarnacion. A surprising number of free agent right-handed sluggers remain on the market for this deep into the offseason, including Trumbo, Mike Napoli (who’s been linked to the Texas Rangers), Chris Carter and outfielder Jose Bautista.
All but Bautista are best suited for first base/DH type roles. As the roster currently stands, Oakland could conceivably look to add either a first baseman or corner outfielder who also could see some DH duty. Second base also remains somewhat of a concern, A’s officials have said, because of inexperience and health issues with veteran Jed Lowrie.
Addressing the idea of adding another veteran to a club that seems to be building around younger players, Forst said: “I think what’s important to remember is that part of developing players is making sure they’re ready when they get here, and not forcing them to the major leagues too soon.”
Center field is one area the A’s no longer have to worry about after signing Davis to a one-year $6 million contract, which was finalized Tuesday. Forst said the A’s examined both the trade and free agent markets for center fielders and eventually came back to Davis, who they know well from his three-year stint with Oakland from 2008-10.
Forst confirmed Davis will be the primary center fielder and is likely to hit atop the batting order. At age 36, he remains one of the majors’ fastest players and led the American League with 43 steals in 2016. The A’s believe his speed still benefits him greatly in center too. But Forst also mentioned Davis’ positive clubhouse demeanor and personality as a selling point in bringing him back.
That’s no small detail for a club that suffered from poor clubhouse vibes over the past two seasons, culminating with a fight between teammates Billy Butler and Danny Valencia last season. Butler, a free agent signee, was released in September with one year left on his contract, and Valencia was traded to Seattle in November. “Part of the challenge of free agency is bringing in a new personality and guys you’re not as familiar with,” Forst said. “We were able to eliminate that variable, bring someone in that’s a great person and will influence the clubhouse positively as well as what he does on the field. It’s a big part of the equation. I spent time with him yesterday. He looks great and is excited to be back here.”
Davis, who slashed .249/.306/.388 with the Cleveland Indians last year, said the Bay Area is a great and comfortable fit for his family.
“This is the place where I really established myself as a big leaguer,” he said Wednesday.
He also likes this A’s team, despite the assumptions that Oakland will be challenged to contend in 2017.
“Before I went to Cleveland, they were a .500 team. Then we won the Central and went on to Game 7 of the World Series.”
That’s where Davis took center stage, hitting a two-run game-tying homer in Game 7 off the Cubs’ Aroldis Chapman.
Forst said he was home with his young son, “begging him to go to sleep,” when Davis mashed that memorable blast.
“It’s one of those moments in World Series history I think everyone will remember,” Forst said. “The sheer surprise of it. You didn’t expect Raj to be the guy to hit a homer. I asked him a little at lunch about the experience, and he just said what an amazing ride the World Series was.”