Khris Davis

A's slugger Khris Davis: 'I don’t want to label myself a DH'

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USATSI

A's slugger Khris Davis: 'I don’t want to label myself a DH'

If Khris Davis becomes more designated hitter than left fielder, and clearly that’s the A’s plan, Davis stresses that he’ll accept the role.

That doesn’t mean he’ll be satisfied with it.

“I’m gonna do my job the best I can,” Davis told NBC Sports California by phone Monday. “Whatever they ask me to do, whatever they feel is good for the ball club, I’ll do what it takes. (But) I don’t want to label myself as a DH. … I won’t settle for it. It’s not my goal to be a designated hitter.” Davis spent his first two seasons with Oakland serving as the regular left fielder, and in the process became just the second player in franchise history to post back-to-back 40-homer seasons. But when the A’s traded Ryon Healy to the Seattle Mariners on Nov. 15, it signaled a switch for their most dangerous hitter.

The plan is to shift Davis to DH, Healy’s old spot, with the A’s on the hunt for another right-handed hitting corner outfielder who presumably can soak up the majority of innings in left. They could also shift Matt Joyce to left if they added someone who’s more suited for right field.

Does this plan make baseball sense? Absolutely.

It’s no secret that Davis’ subpar throwing arm can make him a liability defensively. He opened up about the mental challenges he’s encountered with his throwing in a candid story for The Players Tribune back in August.

But Davis also puts in lots of extra time working on his throwing, during spring training and before games during the regular season. It’s important to him to be a well-rounded, complete player. He calls it “a trap” to be pigeon-holed as a designated hitter.

“I’m gonna go out there and play for my team,” Davis said. “At the same time I want to play defense too and be the best player I can.”

Some of Davis’ career numbers actually are better when he’s DH’ing, though it’s a small sample size. He’s batting .271 in 92 games as a DH compared to .243 in 482 games in left field. His on-base percentage is better (.326 to .317) as is his slugging percentage (.554 to .502) when he’s a DH.

But there’s a benefit for him playing left.

“I can kind of forget about my at-bats when I can go play defense,” he said. “Playing defense, it’s good for my mind. It offers a release.”

That’s the balancing act for the A’s — weighing the benefits of adding better outfield defense with making sure their top run producer maintains his comfort zone at the plate.

General manager David Forst, addressing reporters after the Healy trade, said he anticipates a smooth transition to DH for Davis.

“We were pretty clear that part of trading Ryon was to allow Khris to be in the DH spot more often, and he’s been great about it,” Forst said. “He and (manager) Bob (Melvin) talked a lot during the season when he did DH. It wasn’t something he had any issues with.

“We’ve had guys in the past that didn’t like DH’ing. They had a hard time finding their rhythm. But Khris, I think, is so locked into his offensive game and his offensive routine, it’s not something he’s ever had problems with.”

As things stand with the outfield mix now, Joyce and Chad Pinder could form a platoon in right. Boog Powell and Dustin Fowler (who’s rehabbing from knee surgery) will battle for center field, with Pinder also an option there. Mark Canha remains in the fold, along with the potential right-handed hitting left fielder the A’s seek. Jake Smolinski also will return after avoiding arbitration Monday and agreeing to a one-year $775,000 deal, mlbtraderumors.com reported.

Oakland typically keeps a maximum of five outfielders.

 

Ryon Healy trade has domino effect

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AP

Ryon Healy trade has domino effect

The A’s wasted no time making their first major move of the offseason, and it has a domino effect on how their 2018 lineup will take shape.

The trade of young slugger Ryon Healy to the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday paves the way for left fielder Khris Davis to start getting heavy at-bats as the designated hitter, the spot left vacant by Healy.

It also points to another move the A’s want to pull off — acquiring a right-handed hitting corner outfielder who presumably can eat up those defensive innings that Davis spends as the DH.

It’s a series of moves that isn’t all that surprising given the A’s roster makeup right now. Healy, who hit .282 with 38 homers in 221 games over his first two big league seasons, is capable of playing either first or third base. But Matt Olson and Matt Chapman secured those spots, respectively, with their solid showings as rookies last season.

“We’ve obviously talked a lot since the end of the season about adding to the bullpen,” A’s general manager David Forst said on a conference call Wednesday night. “At the same time, with the emergence of Matt and Matt, on the corners, maybe Ryon needed to be somebody we might have to move ...”

It makes sense for Oakland to find a way to shift Davis from being the everyday left fielder while still keeping his 40-homer bat in the lineup. Opponents have routinely taken extra bases the past two seasons on Davis’ throwing arm, and whether they add a newcomer to play left or shift Joyce or someone else there, chances are they can benefit from better defense in left.

The A’s also feel they got an important chip back from Seattle to help bolster a bullpen that ranked 13th in the American League last season with a 4.57 ERA. They received right-hander Emilio Pagan (along with minor league shortstop Alexander Campos), and figure that the 26-year-old Pagan is someone the A’s have pegged to be an immediate contributor in their ‘pen.

A 10th round draft pick in 2013, Pagan made his big league debut in 2017 and posted a 3.22 ERA over 34 games spread over four stints with Seattle. He endured a rocky first couple of outings but, after being called up for good in the second half, eventually worked his way into a late-inning setup role. Pagan struck out 56 and walked just eight in 50 1/3 innings, numbers that surely popped out to Oakland’s front office.

He’ll likely be called upon in middle relief to help set the table for Chris Hatcher and closer Blake Treinen, as the bullpen currently looks.

Campos, just 17, spent this past season in the Dominican Summer League, and Forst said the A’s were eyeing Campos last summer when they eventually traded Yonder Alonso to the Mariners. Oakland wound up getting center fielder Boog Powell back in that deal.

Did the A’s rake in enough for Healy? As with all trades, it will take time to judge. But it’s fair to say that Healy’s departure will be felt in a clubhouse that is characterized by the emergence of many young position players, and he was a part of that group. In fact, when Healy was called up in July 2016 — knocking Danny Valencia out as the regular third baseman — he became the first of several promising position-player prospects to establish himself in Oakland’s lineup.

He rented a house in the East Bay and eventually took in Chapman, Olson and Chad Pinder as roommates. There’s a fiery side to Healy’s on-field personality that was a positive for the A’s, and watching him play Oakland as a member of an AL West rival will make for entertaining theatre.

Another storyline is how Davis takes to being a regular DH. Forst praised Davis’ approach to his game and doesn’t anticipate any problems, adding that the A’s still want to get Davis some time in the outfield.

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.