Athletics

With salary set to spike, could Khris Davis be in line for long-term extension?

With salary set to spike, could Khris Davis be in line for long-term extension?

A second consecutive 40-plus homer season has Khris Davis lined up for quite a hefty pay raise.

The web site mlbtraderumors.com on Monday unveiled its annual salary projections for players who are eligible for arbitration. It’s no surprise that Davis projects as the costliest of the eight A’s players due for arbitration this winter. Mlbtraderumors.com predicts Davis to pull down a whopping $11 million salary for 2018, which would more than double his 2017 figure of $5 million.

The A’s can absorb that number with no problem. They currently have just two players — outfielder Matt Joyce and reliever Santiago Casilla — with guaranteed contracts on the books for 2018, at a total cost of $12 million. Go ahead and throw in $6 million more for second baseman Jed Lowrie, as the A’s have been pretty clear they plan to exercise his $6 million club option.

With just $18 million essentially tied up right now, that gives Oakland plenty of financial flexibility to fit Davis in, even after factoring in the seven other arbitration-eligible players and salaries for pre-arbitration players.

“If it is (pricey), it is,” A’s general manager David Forst said last week of Davis’ potential salary. “I don’t think you could overstate the impact he has on the rest of the lineup.”

Forst and A’s vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane have made it clear they’re interested in eventually locking up the young cornerstone players who emerged over the past year or so (think Matt Chapman, Matt Olson, etc. …).

Some might wonder if a player such as Davis, 29, could be in line for a multi-year extension himself. With back-to-back years of 42 and 43 homers with 100-plus RBI, he’s certainly filled a glaring void for right-handed power that was left after the trades of Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Donaldson. And it’s reasonable to expect Davis could continue to do so for a few more seasons, given his age.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported during the summer that the A’s have, at one time or another, held exploratory talks with Davis and shortstop Marcus Semien about multi-year deals. In a late-September sit-down for the A’s Insider Podcast, Davis said he wasn’t aware of any current extension discussions between his camp and the team. Also keep in mind that his big 2017 season only drives the price up for any long-term deal.

But Beane and Forst made it clear during their season-ending press conference that they greatly value Davis’ impact on their lineup. Barring any roster moves that open up a full-time spot for him at designated hitter, they seem willing to live with the defensive shortcomings in left field that come with Davis’ subpar throwing arm. The upshot: Don’t anticipate reading Davis’ name in too many trade rumors this winter.

The A’s other arbitration-eligible players, with mlbtraderumors.com’s salary projections in parentheses, are Semien ($3.2 million), starter Kendall Graveman ($2.6 million), relievers Blake Treinen ($2.3 million), Chris Hatcher ($2.2 million) and Liam Hendriks ($1.9 million), catcher Josh Phegley ($1.1 million) and outfielder Jake Smolinski ($700,000).

Of that group, Semien, 27, could still merit consideration for an extension. When healthy, he provides an impact bat that could play well even if he were eventually bumped off of shortstop by one of Oakland’s up-and-coming prospects.

Graveman, 26, is a leader of the rotation, but his recent shoulder issues might give the A’s pause in locking him up.

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.

Despite stadium uncertainty, Beane stands by long-term plan for A's youngsters

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USATSI

Despite stadium uncertainty, Beane stands by long-term plan for A's youngsters

The deterioration of ballpark talks at the Peralta site won’t affect the A’s grand plan on the baseball side of things.

At least that’s what vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane told reporters Monday as the Winter Meetings opened in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

The A’s promoted a number of highly regarded minor leaguers last season who showed promise that they could be future foundation pieces. Along those lines, Beane and his staff planned to target some of those youngsters for long-term contract extensions, with an eye toward generating momentum as a new ballpark was built near downtown Oakland.

The A’s will still look to lock up some of those players, Beane said, even after last week’s news that the Peralta Community College District board halted negotiations for the team to build a new ballpark on land that sits near Laney College.

“I think it’s still a strategy we try to embark on,” Beane said of signing young players.

Consider third baseman Matt Chapman and first baseman Matt Olson, who both entrenched themselves last season as rookies, as two obvious candidates for long-term deals at some point. But they aren’t the only two.

When could the first deals come?

“Realistically, the sooner the better,” Beane said. “Certainly we’ve got between now and spring training to introduce the idea. But probably more sooner than later.”

It’s an uncertain time for this franchise. Will the A’s look elsewhere to build in Oakland? They don’t seem thrilled with the idea of revisiting the current Coliseum site or Howard Terminal as possible locations. Could majority owner John Fisher consider selling? And if so, does that open the door to the franchise leaving the Bay Area? It doesn’t seem any scenario should be counted out right now.

No one representing the club, including team president Dave Kaval, has spoken publicly about ballpark plans since the Peralta talks abruptly ended Wednesday.

As far as baseball operations go, it only makes sense to continue down the path that they recently committed to. The only bad course of action for the A’s is not to take any action at all.

Beane and general manager David Forst need to stay the course and continue their commitment to young players, crossing their fingers that the business side of the operation can pivot and find a new direction for building a ballpark.