Athletics

Evaluating A's arbitration in 2018 MLB offseason: Khris Davis

Evaluating A's arbitration in 2018 MLB offseason: Khris Davis

(Over the next week, we will be examining each of the A's arbitration-eligible players to determine whether they will return in 2019.)

Khris Davis is the best power hitter in baseball. That's not an opinion. It's a fact.

Over the last three seasons, Davis leads all of MLB with 133 home runs. He led the league with 48 homers this past season and finished second with 123 RBI. It marked the third straight year he hit 40-plus home runs and drove in more than 100 runs.

Davis, 30, slashed .247/.326/.549 for the season. Incredibly, it was the fourth straight year he hit exactly .247.

Davis earned a team-high $10.5 million and is projected to get $18.1 million in arbitration, according to MLB Trade Rumors.

Why he might be a bargain

It's hard to call $18.1 million a bargain, but for Khris Davis, it probably is. Davis affects the A's lineup in a way that very few other hitters can. He changes the way other A's players are pitched and can change any game with one swing of the bat.

Davis has also been extremely durable during his three seasons in Oakland. He has missed just 32 games over the course of three years, playing in 150 games or more in all three seasons. Davis' power numbers have improved each year in Oakland, from 42 home runs and 102 RBI in 2016, to 43 homers and 110 RBI in 2017, to a career-high 48 round-trippers and 123 RBI in 2018.

Why he might be too pricey

It's honestly hard to even make this argument. I guess you could say $18.1 million is too much for a designated hitter who doesn't hit for a great average.

While it's obviously a lot of money, Davis has earned whatever he gets.

Verdict

Davis will be back in Oakland next season. Executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane has already said as much. The real question is whether the A's will lock him up past 2019.

Beyond his production on the field, Davis has become a leader in the clubhouse and a fan favorite. He truly loves playing in Oakland, and Oakland loves him.

Build an A's roster for less than Bryce Harper's projected 2019 salary

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NBC Sports Bay Area

Build an A's roster for less than Bryce Harper's projected 2019 salary

No one knows where Bryce Harper will end up next season, but one thing is for sure: He'll get paid. A lot. And that's an understatement.

Many have speculated Harper could sign for as much as $400 million over 10 years, translating to a whopping $40 million per season. By comparison, the A's entered 2018 with a $63 million payroll. For the entire team!

Just for fun, here's a breakdown of Oakland's starting lineup last season, with their combined salaries, courtesy of Spotrac.com:

Catcher: Jonathan Lucroy ($6.5 million)
First base: Matt Olson ($547,500)
Second base: Jed Lowrie ($6 million)
Shortstop: Marcus Semien ($3.125 million)
Third base: Matt Chapman ($547,500)
Left field: Nick Martini ($240,260)
Center field: Ramón Laureano ($172,870)
Right field: Stephen Piscotty ($1,333,333)
DH: Khris Davis ($10.5 million)
Starting pitcher: Sean Manaea ($550,000)

Total: $29,516,463

That's the A's entire starting lineup, plus their ace, for more than $10 million less than Harper's projected $40 million per season.

Let's keep going. Here are some other players you could add to an A's roster and still remain below $40 million:

Blake Treinen ($2.15 million)
Edwin Jackson ($1.5 million)
Trevor Cahill ($1.5 million)
Brett Anderson ($1.5 million)
Ryan Buchter ($555,000)
Chad Pinder ($550,000)
Mark Canha ($518,144)
Lou Trivino ($474,660)
Daniel Mengden ($418,048)
Dustin Fowler ($341,504)
Franklin Barreto ($263,700)
Frankie Montas ($208,030)
Chris Bassitt ($167,010)
J.B. Wendelken ($164,080)
Beau Taylor ($87,900)

Total: $39,914,539

To recap, that's an entire 25-man roster for less than the $40 million that Bryce Harper could earn next season:

Starting pitchers: Sean Manaea, Edwin Jackson, Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson, Daniel Mengden
Relief pitchers: Blake Treinen, Lou Trivino, J.B. Wendelken, Ryan Buchter, Frankie Montas, Chris Bassitt
Catchers: Jonathan Lucroy, Beau Taylor
Infielders: Matt Olson, Jed Lowrie, Marcus Semien, Matt Chapman, Franklin Barreto
Outfielders: Stephen Piscotty,  Ramón Laureano, Nick Martini, Mark Canha, Chad Pinder, Dustin Fowler
DH: Khris Davis

Unless  Harper can play every position simultaneously, à la Bugs Bunny, the A's appear to have the edge.

Editor's note: This week across the NBC Sports Regional Networks, we'll be taking an in-depth look at some of the top free agents in baseball. Monday is dedicated to Nationals slugger Bryce Harper.

Giants could use Harper money to fill numerous other needs
Phillies could use Harper's personality just as much as his big bat
Why Harper sacrificed home runs with Nationals to save his season
White Sox would have to pitch Harper on possibility of bright future
World champion Red Sox not a part of Harper's free-agent journey

MLB rumors: A's called CC Sabathia, could target Sonny Gray for pitching

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USATSI

MLB rumors: A's called CC Sabathia, could target Sonny Gray for pitching

The A's are desperate for help in their starting rotation headed into MLB free agency, and they reportedly tried to turn to a hometown kid to get some.

Oakland called Vallejo native CC Sabathia before he re-signed with the New York Yankees on a one-year, $8 million contract, according to FanCred's Jon Heyman. With Sabathia off the market, Heyman wrote that the A's are prepared to turn to another Yankee with Oakland ties: Sonny Gray.

Last month, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said the team entered the offseason "open-minded to a relocation" of Gray. The Yankees acquired Gray from the A's ahead of the trade deadline in 2017, in exchange for a package centered around outfielder Dustin Fowler and infielder Jorge Mateo.

Gray, 29, said playing for the Yankees was his dream, but the past year-and-a-half has been anything but that. In 41 appearances with New York, Gray is 15-16 with a 4.51 ERA and 1.50 WHIP. Gray particularly struggled at Yankee Stadium after the trade, posting a 6.55 ERA in 88 innings. In 107.2 innings away from Yankee Stadium, Gray posted a 2.84 ERA with the Bronx Bombers.

Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum is much friendlier to pitchers than Yankee Stadium is, as Gray can attest from his successful A's stint from 2013 to 2017. Considering that success (44-36 with a 3.42 ERA in 114 games) and how thin Oakland's rotation was down the stretch after a litany of injuries, it's easy to see why the A's might want to turn to a familiar face.

[ROSS: What A's can learn from previous MLB free agency bargains]

[SOURCE: A's hope to re-sign starting pitcher Edwin Jackson; four MLB teams also interested]