Athletics

Why A's Bob Melvin, Billy Beane believe Khris Davis will bounce back

Why A's Bob Melvin, Billy Beane believe Khris Davis will bounce back

OAKLAND -- For all of the positive developments in the A's 2019 season, there still is one giant unsolved mystery.

What in the world happened to Khris Davis?

After recording at least 40 home runs and 100 RBI in each of his first three seasons with the A's, while incredibly batting .247 all three years, Davis plummeted back to earth this year. The 31-year-old slashed just .220/.293/.387, all career-worsts, with only 23 homers and 73 RBI.

"I know it was frustrating for Khris," A's executive vice president Billy Beane said. "I think he probably put a lot of pressure on himself. Khris takes a lot of pride in his role on the team and being that guy who's the 40-homer, middle-of-the-lineup guy. I think he was trying to find the answer as much as anybody, and it certainly wasn't for a lack of effort on his part or the coaching staff's.

"But we expect him to come back next year and return to his annual 40-homer, .247 (batting average)."

Davis actually got off to a tremendous start this season, batting .265 with 10 home runs and 19 RBI in his first 17 games. A week later, he signed a two-year, $33.5 million contract extension. That's when everything started to go wrong.

In his next 14 games, Davis failed to hit a home run, batting a lowly .189 during that stretch. Then on May 5, he collided with the left-field side wall in Pittsburgh, suffering a left hip contusion. From that point on, Davis hit 13 long balls in his final 97 games.

"The injury kind of sidetracked him," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "He wasn't injured at the end of the year. For a guy that's used to being 'the guy' and is consistent at .247 with 40-something home runs and 100 RBI, it's hard. It's hard. You can get down on yourself and you can lose confidence.

"And then when it continues, it starts to snowball on you a little bit, and I think that was the case with him."

The question now is whether Davis can find a way to revert to the Khris Davis of old. Both Melvin and Beane are confident that he can and will.

"I expect him to come back and produce like he always has, and I know he expects the same thing," Melvin said. "Sometimes you just need a little bit of distance from a difficult year. When you look at the back of a baseball card, there's always going to be a year -- your worst year is going to be on there.

"He's been so consistent for us that it stands out, but I think he and we expect him to come back and do the things he has in the past."

Beane is on the same page as his manager regarding Davis' future, too.

[RELATED: Why A's will win World Series within next three seasons]

"He'll come back and he should be healthier. He had some little injuries at the beginning of the year that possibly could've been a factor. He hasn't used that as an excuse, to his credit. But they were there. He had the collision with the wall in Pittsburgh and then other issues as well. Again, he didn't use it as an excuse, but it's quite possible that there were some things that happened as a result of those injuries that messed with his mechanics a little bit.

"But he's got the offseason to forget about it and come back like we know he can."

MLB free agency: Five infielders A's could target this offseason

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MLB free agency: Five infielders A's could target this offseason

The A's infield appears mostly set for the 2020 season, but there are still questions to answer at second base and behind the plate. Oakland could choose to bring back Jurickson Profar and Josh Phegley, or they could instead turn to the free agent market at those positions.

With that in mind, here are five infielders the A's could target in free agency:

Stephen Vogt - C

We know that the A's have already reached out to their former catcher to discuss a reunion. Vogt is coming off a strong season with the Giants, slashing .263/.314/.490 with 10 home runs, 24 doubles, and 40 RBI in 99 games.

The 35-year-old is still extremely popular in the A's organization and among Oakland fans. He would be an excellent mentor for young Sean Murphy, with the two forming a potent platoon behind the plate.

Vogt figures to earn a raise from this year's league-minimum salary of $555K but should still be affordable for the A's, if they choose to move on from Phegley.

Jason Castro - C

Castro represents another left-handed bat to platoon with Murphy behind the plate. The 32-year-old is a Castro Valley native and played his college baseball at Stanford.

Castro posted a .232/.332/.435 slash line with the Twins this season, blasting 13 homers and 30 RBI in 79 games. He is also one of the better defensive catchers in the league, particularly when it comes to pitch framing.

Castro earned $8 million this year in the final season of his three-year contract with Minnesota. He almost certainly won't get that much money in his next contract, though he may still be more expensive than Vogt.

Eric Sogard - 2B

Sogard spent his first six major league seasons in Oakland, where he became a fan favorite, thanks in part to his distinctive "Nerd Power" glasses. This season, Sogard reminded us that Nerd Power can also translate to some serious production on the field.

The 33-year-old enjoyed the best season of his career, slashing .290/.353/.457 with 13 home runs, 23 doubles, and 40 RBI in 110 games between Toronto and Tampa Bay. If the A's choose to trade or non-tender Profar, Sogard could take over the starting second baseman job and add a much-needed left-handed bat to the lineup.

Sogard earned just $555K this year and will get a significant raise in free agency. However, he could still cost less than Profar's projected $5.8 million in arbitration.

Jason Kipnis - 2B 

Kipnis has spent his entire nine-year career with the Indians, slashing .261/.333/.417. This past season, those numbers dipped a bit to .245/.304/.410, but he still notched 17 homers, 23 doubles, and 65 RBI in 121 games.

The 32-year-old should still have some productive seasons in front of him and, like Sogard, he would provide another left-handed bat in the A's lineup, if Oakland decides to move on from Profar.

Kipnis just completed a six-year, $52.5 million deal with Cleveland but figures to come a bit cheaper now. The A's might even be able to snag him on a one-year contract.

[RELATED: Five relievers A's could target]

Ben Zobrist - 2B

Zobrist is 38 years old but can still swing the bat when healthy. The former A has a career slash line of .266/.357/.426 in 14 seasons, the last four coming with the Cubs.

Zobrist only played in 47 games this year due to personal issues, but in 2018, he hit .305/.378/.440 with nine home runs, 28 doubles, and 58 RBI in 139 games. The switch-hitter could provide the A's with an additional left-handed bat against right-handed pitching.

Zobrist earned $12.5 million this year in the final season of a four-year, $56 million deal with Chicago. With his age and uncertainty, he could be available for fairly cheap.
 

Ex-A's catcher Bruce Maxwell details mental toll of kneeling in HEADSTRONG

Ex-A's catcher Bruce Maxwell details mental toll of kneeling in HEADSTRONG

"It made me feel a little lost in the world."

Former A's catcher Bruce Maxwell made history on Sept. 23, 2017, by being the first MLB player to kneel during the national anthem in protest of racial inequality and police brutality. 

He detailed that day to NBC Sports Bay Area/California in NBC Sports' documentary, "HEADSTRONG: Mental Health and Sports."

"When I got to the field, I immediately walked into my manager's office -- had a sit down with him and our GM in private, told them what I was going to do, told them how I was going to go about it -- told them my plan, reasons, and shed a few tears because it's a heartfelt subject for me ... " 

Maxwell knew the backlash he would receive, he just wasn't prepared for the magnitude of it. He received death threats -- and still does to this day.

"The fact that somebody actually took the time to find out what school my sister coached basketball at in Texas, somebody took the time to find out where my mother lived," he explained. 

Maxwell then admitted he rarely left home when he headed back to Arizona following the event. 

"I was miserable," he said. 

He didn't want to do anything. Not exercise, not even talking to his parents.

"At that moment in time, I was standing for something way bigger than myself," Maxwell explained.

Just a few weeks later, the 28-year-old made headlines once again when he was arrested at his home in Scottsdale, Ariz. and charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and disorderly conduct after he allegedly pointed a gun at a food delivery worker.

Maxwell told NBC Sports Bay Area/California he was in a certain mental state, and in addition to what was currently going on, he felt he needed to grab his gun in order to protect himself.

"I'm in my house, I'm defending myself, just in case this happens to be one of these crazy-ass people that are sending me threats," Maxwell said

He didn't feel like himself. Not even like a human being, he explained.

[RELATED: Marcus Semien shares mental health journey]

But now, he's freely talking about it and wants to leave his mark on the world with more than just what's going on between the foul lines.

You can watch all of the "HEADSTRONG: Mental Health and Sports" vignettes right here. The full documentary will play all month on NBC Sports Bay Area and NBC Sports California.

Check our channel listings page for times and dates.