We've analyzed the trade, learned about who Khris Davis is, and pondered his interesting attributes. Khris Davis's acquisition has some other meaning for the franchise.
The A's mitigate their risk...maybe
Judging risk in baseball players is a difficult task, judging the risk of prospects is doubly so. Losing Jacob Nottingham hurts, as he's a valuable prospect with a high ceiling. Bubba Derby is no slouch himself, although he's more of an unknown even after an impressive debut campaign.
It's no secret the Cal League is a hitters' paradise and we've seen numerous prospects struggle upon promotion from Stockton. Nottingham is young enough where a bad AA campaign won't ruin his career, but his trade value could plummet with a rough 2016. We've been over the risks involved with Notthingham, but one we haven't considered much is the potential for his value to be delayed past the A's window of contention. Catcher's often progress at a slower rate than other positions and while Nottingham is very young, it might take him a few tries at either or both of AA and AAA. There's no telling exactly when Nottingham's window would be and the A's cashed in on his value before the possibility of that becoming a problem became a potential reality.
Of course, Davis could get injured or suck and be equally worthless in a years time. But it's a much better bet that a guy who has basically been league average for three straight years (assuming full playing time) will continue to be at least league average and hold that value. Davis's floor seems to be what the A's acquired so if the A's go and do A's things and eventually look to move Davis, his value should be around where it is now, with fewer years of team control.
Two Canhas is better than one
Khris Davis is similar to Mark Canha in a lot of ways and further, he's emblematic of the roster as a whole. Both players could easily break out to the next level, as could a Billy Burns, a Marcus Semien, a Chris Bassitt, and many more. It's foolish to count on Canha to breakout, but doubling your bet with Davis makes it all the more likely you have an unexpected star on your roster. Both Davis and Canha should have a floor around league average so if neither progresses from 2015, you've still got solid ballplayers on your squad. Baseball often doesn't go according to plan, but the A's still did a good job with theirs.
Might we eventually have a real first baseman?
Here's a list of guys who have played 20+ games at first in the past few seasons: Ike Davis, Brandon Moss, Alberto Callaspo, Nate Freiman, Daric Barton, Stephen Vogt, Chris Carter, Kila Ka'aihue. Of those, only Moss was actually good and even he spent much of his time in the outfield. Vogt is a good player but his numbers at first have been underwhelming.
It's unclear how exactly playing time will be distributed among all the high ceiling guys on the A's 40 man, but a new left fielder likely signifies more time for Mark Canha at first or DH. See Jeremy's post for more info on Canha! With Yonder Alonso in the mix, the A's should commit most of the at bats to one of those two guys which should yield at least league average play. When Alonso eventually becomes a free agent or is moved, first would theoretically fall to Canha. The stability of a real first baseman would be a welcome site for many A's fans who had to endure the Alberto Callaspo disaster.
Billy Burns' defense is a big story in 2016
Reviews are mixed on Burns' defense but one thing is certain: he is miles from his defensive ceiling. Khris Davis's average left field defense isn't a big change for the Athletics as both Mark Canha and Coco Crisp were projected to provide average-ish defense as well. But Davis is now a fixture in left and we know what we're getting.
It's unclear how exactly how much of an impact an elite defender can have on the players around him, but there's no doubt it can help hide a team's defensive shortcomings. If Burns can take another step defensively next season it will elevate the outfield play.
Based on Davis and Burns spray charts, the two guys should flag down most everything in the perilous left center gap. If Burns can utilize his speed to flag down the balls that would have fallen between center and left in 2015, look out. We might have an above average outfield defense in a heartbeat. Greater range will also help mask both player's below average arms. Runners tagging up isn't ideal, but it's a lot better than a runner taking two bases on a base hit.
On the flip side, Davis's offense will elevate the whole lineup and take some pressure of Burns, who we are all at least a little afraid will turn into a pumpkin in 2016. Should Burns elevate his defense, he could be come a valuable, Juan Lagares-esque asset with just his glove if his offense takes a step back.
The A's don't have a catching prospect, and that's OK
Catchers are notorious for developing a little differently than other position players. Sure, there are true catcher prospects that have come through and become stars like a Joe Mauer or Matt Wieters. The A's have seen their share of solid prospects becoming regulars a la Kurt Suzuki or Derrick Norris. But there are also a lot of wayward path, diamond in the rough types like a Stephen Vogt or Josh Phegley. The top catcher last season was Buster Posey but following him were former non-prospects Francisco Cervelli and Russell Martin. Turns out catching and blocking 80-100 mph missiles isn't easy, nor good for you as none of the top 6 rated catchers (per fWAR) caught more than 120 games last season. We've seen numerous catchers move off the position before their 30's and lots of playing time is given to guys who weren't highly touted prospects.
This isn't to say having prospects that are catchers isn't important: many of the top guys were highly rated. But finding catchers is often an unpredictable event and it's not the first time the A's haven't had a major catcher prospect in the system. The A's will need to find potential replacements for Vogt and Phegley, but the fact that there's not a catcher in the system shouldn't be a huge concern just yet.