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Nelson Cruz Signs With Twins — Did He Set Market For Khris Davis?

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Texas Rangers v Seattle Mariners
Cruz control.
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In some ways Nelson Cruz is a lot like Khris Davis, and in other ways the two are very different. So it’s hard to say how much Cruz just established the market for the A’s DH as the two sides are, hopefully, considering an extension to keep Davis in green and gold beyond 2019.

Cruz’ deal will pay him $14M in 2019 with a club option for 2020 for $12M or a $300K buyout, far less than the “3/$45M or 4/$60M” commonly bandied about on AN when pondering a Khrush extension.

Key Similarities:

Both Cruz and Davis are listed as outfielders, but because of Khris’ arm and Cruz’ legs both are significant liabilities in the field. Really, they are DHs pure and simple.

Though they come at their numbers in sightly different ways, Cruz’ and Davis’ current level of production are quite similar: in 2018, Cruz put up a 134 wRC+, Davis 135 wRC+. So if you’re focusing on age, it’s worth noting that each is currently producing nearly identically at this stage of his career.

Key Differences:

How the two sluggers arrive at their wRC+ numbers are not quite the same. Cruz (.256/.342/.509 with 37 HR in 2018, .274/.342/.518 career) offers more OBP in his profile while Davis .247/.326/.549 with 48 HR in 2018, .248/.320/.519 career) provides more raw power.

While the two DHs are putting up comparable stats right now, their ages are strikingly different. Cruz is entering his age 39 season (though he won’t turn 39 until July), Davis his age 31 season (he turned 31 this past week). So if you’re wondering who may “fall off a cliff,” Cruz is the more likely candidate — probably why he could only command a 1 year + 1 option year” deal.

If you ask Steamer, Cruz is poised to replicate more of his 2018 season than Davis is poised to replicate his. Perhaps this is partly a function of Cruz having a larger body of work on which to base predictions, but nonetheless here are Steamer’s projections:

Cruz, 2019: .272/.353/.513 (132 wRC+)
Davis, 2019: .240/.323/.500 (123 wRC+)

Then again, any projection system that doesn’t have Khris Davis batting exactly .247 has virtually no credibility.

Summary:

In Cruz you have a DH in his late 30s who offers strong OBP skills and favorable 2019 projections. In Davis you have a DH in his early 30s who offers elite HR power and less favorable 2019 projections. Both are coming off of seasons in which they were 34%-35% above league average in offensive production, yielding near identical WAR (Davis 2.6, Cruz 2.5).

Cruz just signed a deal that is worth an average of $13M/year if his option is picked up and which tops out at 2 years. Where does that leave Davis in his negotiations with Oakland? Does his age give him enough leverage that a $15M/year deal is realistic? Or do the relative pros and cons between the two DHs offset one another to whether Cruz’ AAVs are around where Davis can figure to be if he tests free agency?

Cruz’ deal does make me wonder if 3/$42M or 4/$56M is more where the two sides could meet for a Davis extension. Perhaps even 3/$42M (reflecting Cruz’ AAV for his guaranteed year) or 4/$52M (reflecting Cruz’ AAV if his option is picked up). Wherever the sweet spot lies, it’s probably within the A’s budget going forward. Here’s hoping Cruz’ deal helps to get a Davis extension done before the A’s slugger’s arbitration hearing.

Poll

How do you see Khris Davis’ contract playing out?

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    A 4/$60M extension
    (115 votes)
  • 13%
    A 4$56M extension
    (172 votes)
  • 11%
    A 4/$52M extension
    (149 votes)
  • 23%
    A 3/$45M extension
    (302 votes)
  • 18%
    A 3/$42 extension
    (232 votes)
  • 6%
    A 3/$39M extension
    (80 votes)
  • 11%
    A’s go to arbitration with him in 2018 and 2019, then let him walk
    (150 votes)
  • 5%
    A’s trade or non-tender him after 2019
    (76 votes)
1276 votes total Vote Now