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Khris Davis trade to Oakland A's answers one question about the future outfield

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Acquiring Khris Davis from the Milwaukee Brewers settles one piece of a potentially expensive 2017 outfield puzzle, and he's got plenty to contribute for 2016 too.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

To pick an emoticon for the future of the Oakland Athletics outfield after the 2016 season before acquiring Khris Davis from the Milwaukee Brewers for prospects Jacob Nottingham and Bubba Derby, I'll go with ¯\_()_/¯. While acquiring Davis and the four years he will be under Oakland's control helps, there are still questions to be addressed in the years to come.

Projected A's outfield after Khris Davis trade
40-man LF CF RF
Player Earliest FA Player Earliest FA Player Earliest FA
Davis 2020 Burns 2021 Reddick 2017
Crisp 2017 Fuld 2017 Fuld 2017
Canha 2021 Crisp 2017 Smolinski 2021
Fuld 2017 Ladendorf 2022 Lambo 2021
Smolinski 2021
Lambo 2021
Prospects LF CF RF
Player Projected Player Projected Player Projected
Olson mid-2016 Barreto mid-2017 Olson mid-2016
Barreto mid-2017 Barreto mid-2017

In 2016, Davis taking over the bulk of left field plate appearances may limit Mark Canha's playing time, though I have few doubts that manager Bob Melvin will find ways to get Canha into the lineup most days. It will probably help if the A's can somehow move Billy Butler and at least some of his salary off the roster, as Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports suggested the A's are trying to do.

What the A's need by 2017 is a fourth outfielder capable of playing center field and a starting right fielder after Oakland's outfield depth disappears when Coco Crisp, Josh Reddick, and Sam Fuld all hit free agency. Jake Smolinski and Andrew Lambo deserve chances at the major league level, and the A's could strike gold with them, but I'm not going to rely on that. The development of top prospect Franklin Barreto at both shortstop and center field could also relieve things, but if he sticks at shortstop his role will be to take over for Marcus Semien in two or three years.

If they need outfielders in free agency after 2016, payroll might be pretty tight if they keep to the mid-$80 to low-$90 million range:

Oakland A's 25-man and contracted players payroll projection
Player 2016 2017 2018 Type
Position Players Coco Crisp $11,000,000 Buyout Contract
Billy Butler $10,000,000 $10,000,000 FA Contract
Jed Lowrie $7,500,000 $6,500,000 Buyout Contract
Josh Reddick $6,575,000 FA Arbitration
Danny Valencia $3,150,000 $6,000,000 FA Arbitration
Yonder Alonso $2,650,000 $4,000,000 FA Arbitration
Eric Sogard $1,500,000 $2,500,000 FA Arbitration
Khris Davis $507,500 $4,000,000 $7,000,000 Arbitration
Stephen Vogt $507,500 $3,000,000 $6,000,000 Arbitration
Billy Burns $507,500 $515,000 $3,000,000 Arbitration
Mark Canha $507,500 $515,000 $3,000,000 Arbitration
Marcus Semien $507,500 $515,000 $3,000,000 Arbitration
Josh Phegley $507,500 $515,000 $3,000,000 Arbitration
Pre-arb Position players $1,030,000 $3,657,500 Minimum
Starting Pitchers Rich Hill $6,000,000 FA Contract
Henderson Alvarez $4,250,000 $7,000,000 FA Arbitration
Jarrod Parker $850,000 $1,500,000 $2,500,000 Arbitration
Sonny Gray $507,500 $5,000,000 $10,000,000 Arbitration
Jesse Hahn $507,500 $515,000 $2,000,000 Arbitration
Kendall Graveman $507,500 $515,000 $2,000,000 Arbitration
Chris Bassitt $507,500 $515,000 $2,000,000 Arbitration
Relief Pitchers Ryan Madson $7,000,000 $7,500,000 $7,500,000 Contract
Sean Doolittle $1,580,000 $2,630,000 $4,350,000 Contract
Liam Hendriks $507,500 $1,500,000 $2,500,000 Arbitration
John Axford $5,000,000 $5,000,000 FA Contract
Felix Doubront $2,000,000 $3,000,000 FA Arbitration
Fernando Rodriguez $1,300,000 $2,000,000 FA Arbitration
Marc Rzepczynski $2,950,000 FA Arbitration
Pre-arb relievers $515,000 $2,090,000 Minimum
Sam Fuld (cut 45 days pay) $473,360
Coco Crisp (Buyout) $750,000
Jed Lowrie (Buyout) $1,000,000
September callups $1,000,000 $1,200,000 $1,200,000
GRAND TOTAL $80,360,860 $78,230,000 $65,797,500

Between Matt Olson, Chad Pinder, Renato Nunez, Joey Wendle, and Rangel Ravelo, there's more than an entire infield at the Triple-A level that could replace every major league infielder between the lines. Only Marcus Semien is earning the minimum, and an exit strategy that calls up those prospects and trades away (or at worst non-tender) the arbitration-eligible or contracted infielders would open up $16 million or so of payroll (bolded in the table). That's enough payroll space for a Josh Reddick extension with room to spare.

So it helps that the A's only need to replace one starter instead of two now. It helps that Mark Canha could be ready to step in as the everyday first baseman once Yonder Alonso's time in Oakland is up, whether it's by trade at this year's trade deadline or next offseason. The Khris Davis acquisition kicks off the 2017 plan, and he's got something to contribute to 2016 too.