The Oakland A’s and slugger Khris Davis have reportedly been in talks about a one-year contract extension that would buy out Davis’ final year of arbitration in 2019. While this is a smart, safe move on the team’s part, a much smarter and bolder move that would benefit both parties (and the A’s fans) would be to sign Davis to a multi-year deal that takes him into his free agency years.
Either way, signing him now instead of waiting until the offseason is a smart idea. These are the always frugal A’s we are talking about and a one-year extension guarantees his salary now, as opposed to risking going into a potential arbitration hearing — where his homers and RBI are worth more than their weight in gold. Waiting until November could result in an untenable arbitration payday, and do they really want to suffer the embarrassment of non-tendering a 40 home run hitter?
The A’s lost in arbitration to Davis in 2017 and he was awarded a $5 million raise. Last year they avoided a hearing and gave him a $5.5 million raise. Right now Davis is on pace to hit 40-plus home runs for the third straight season. Since joining the A’s in 2016 Davis has hit 92 home runs, more than any player in the league, meaning he would likely be looking at making upwards of $16 million next season. That’s a lot for one year, especially for a designated hitter.
A longer term deal of, say, three years at roughly $12-13 million a year, would be beneficial to both the player and the team for a number of reasons. On the surface it seems like such a contract wouldn’t benefit Davis, but remember he will currently be 32 years old when he enters free agency. If the past two offseasons (most glaringly this past one) are any indication, teams are not shelling out the big bucks for players over 30 — especially ones who don’t play in the field, even if they have a track record of hitting 30-40 home runs a season.
Players are not going to get the kind of contract that Hanley Ramirez got from the Boston Red Sox in November 2014 going into his age 31 season. Ramirez was signed to a four-year, $88 million deal to be their DH. That just isn’t happening anymore. Despite his offensive prowess, Davis is not going to make $22 million a year. If he and the A’s don’t sign a deal that guarantees him a solid salary into his free agent years, he may end up signing for much less as a free agent.
His most likely comps are probably Jay Bruce (3/$39M) and Mark Trumbo (3/$37M), as sluggers of similar ages. However, it could get even worse — Logan Morrison, for example, hit 38 homers for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2017 and opted to test the waters of free agency. He ended up signing a one-year deal with the Minnesota Twins (with a team option for a second year) for $5.5 million. Plus, Morrison is only 30 and can play at both first base and in the outfield. Making slightly less than his likely arbitration figure but having it guaranteed over three years is a much better bet for Davis than opting for free agency and possibly ending up back at the much lower salary point where he started with the A’s in 2016.
Of course the A’s would have to agree to at least a two but more likely three year deal — but they absolutely should! Davis has become a huge fan favorite and not for the reasons you would think. It’s not just the homers, which obviously are a draw, but it’s his attitude towards Oakland as a whole.
He actually wants to live and play in Oakland. He’s stated it publicly in the Player’s Tribune, recently to the press, and most expressively in a piece he wrote for MLB.com.
I’ve loved Oakland since Day 1. There’s lot of history here, and I can tell you firsthand there is a lot is going on and a lot more than meets the eye. It’s a fun and eclectic place, but it’s a really humble city at heart.
It’s complex and I think I’m complex, but at the same time, we are all trying to just keep it easy, laid back and trying to be cool in any situation. It’s hard-working and a little under the radar, which is fine, too. We know who we are here.
This is a very interesting fan base, too. They’ve always got my back. And to the Coliseum drummers out there each game -- there’s more than one -- I want them to know I enjoy them thoroughly. I think it puts pressure on the other team and it helps me focus.
There have been numerous players over the years who refused to play in Oakland. Although Matt Holliday did briefly play in Oakland, he had a no-trade clause in his most recent contract with the New York Yankees and there was only one team on it. Yep! You guessed it (as if you didn’t already know!), the A’s.
Marcell Ozuna recently became famous and very much hated in Oakland after being traded in January from the sinking ship that is the Miami Marlins to the St. Louis Cardinals.
“When I heard they tried to trade me to the Oakland A’s, I say ... [shakes head in disgust] ... God please leave me over here,” Ozuna told the press in St. Louis. ’ Then I heard they traded me to the Cardinals, and I said, ‘OK, thanks.’ ”
Yet Davis wants to stay. Offering him a three-year deal worth about $13 million a year would easily fit the A’s payroll and would allow Davis a sense of job security. Sure, there’s a chance his production will go down or he could be injured. Yet for a player recently referred to, here on Athletics Nation by Tim Eckert-Fong, as “the most Oakland player to ever Oakland,” it’s worth the gamble. He nailed Davis in just a partial sentence, and it was the most perfect description of Davis I’d ever read. Even if you had only heard he liked the city and hadn’t read some of the other wonderful things he has said about the city, the team, the fans, and manager Bob Melvin, you’d have to agree.
If there were ever a player to take a chance on, Khris Davis is the one! He’s proven his ability to hit the ball out of the yard, which is surprising considering his relatively small frame. He’s proven his loyalty to the team and he’s proven it to the people of Oakland and of the entire East Bay as well. There’s a lot to be said about him and his character.
He could end up being the perfect veteran for the Athletics as they continue to build their already strong core of young players. He may not hit 40 homers every year of this currently imaginary contract but it’s hard to believe that the team wouldn’t be guaranteed at least some production out of him. Besides, every team needs a veteran to guide the youngsters, be a voice of reason and, in Davis’ case, show them why Oakland is a wonderful place to be. And although there are lots of prospects still coming up through the farm, they tend more toward speed and athleticism than Khrush’s raw power.
The A’s need to broaden their thinking and look ahead. Sure, they could bring in any veteran at some point and they might anyway. But could they bring in anyone like Khris Davis, with an elite skill and a love for an often unloved town? I seriously doubt it.
What should the A’s do with Khris Davis?
This poll is closed
Do nothing, go to arbitration again next winter
Buy out his 2019 now (1-year extension)
Buy out free agent years now (2-3 year extension)