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 ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. 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|
|Player||Earliest FA||Player||Earliest FA||Player||Earliest FA|
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|
|Position Players||Coco Crisp||$11,000,000||Buyout||Contract|
|Pre-arb Position players||$1,030,000||$3,657,500||Minimum|
|Starting Pitchers||Rich Hill||$6,000,000||FA||Contract|
|Relief Pitchers||Ryan Madson||$7,000,000||$7,500,000||$7,500,000||Contract|
|Sam Fuld (cut 45 days pay)||$473,360|
|Coco Crisp (Buyout)||$750,000|
|Jed Lowrie (Buyout)||$1,000,000|
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.