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Revisiting Khris Davis contract extension talks

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The A’s should obviously extend him, so what salary terms make sense?

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Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The topic of signing Khris Davis to a contract extension is not a new one around the Oakland A’s fanbase. However, it came up again on Saturday, when insider Jon Morosi mentioned that the two sides had “been in contact recently” on the matter, so it’s time for our periodic check-in.

Khrush has spent the last three years establishing himself as a star in Oakland. Statistically he’s not the team’s very best player, which would be Matt Chapman right now, but he provides strong production and does so on an extremely consistent basis. His area of expertise is homers and he’s one of only 25 players in MLB history ever to hit 40+ dingers in three straight seasons, earning him the distinctions as both the most prolific HR hitter and the best DH in the sport today. His 48 long balls last season (six of them outright game-winners) were fourth-most in A’s franchise history, and only Jimmie Foxx and Mark McGwire have ever hit more.

The case for re-signing Khrush goes as such.

  • Normally a small-budget team like the A’s would be wise to avoid a big financial commitment to a one-dimensional DH.
  • However, this particular player happens to fit beautifully into this particular contending roster, and the rest of the current young core around him is cheap for a couple more years.
  • He’s so elite at what he does best that even a superior value play for a more efficiently priced hitter would still almost certainly represent a downgrade on the field, at a moment when each extra win is of paramount importance. And yet at the same time, the 31-year-old is flawed enough that he’s affordable and won’t require a nine-figure mega-contract.
  • On top of all that, he’s a refreshingly humble star who has repeatedly stated that he loves Oakland and wants to stay here long-term (and really seems to mean it).

A’s fans overwhelmingly want Khrush to stay, the player himself couldn’t be any more clear that he wants to stick around, and the team has shown obvious interest. On top of that, over the last couple years the A’s have publicly expressed a desire to begin keeping some of their stars, and evolving from their reputation of letting them all walk away for bigger money elsewhere. So, with all that in mind, what will it take to make this no-brainer move a reality?

We’ve been talking about this on Athletics Nation for a while now. Back in July 2017 I advocated giving him 3yr/$40M (for the 2018-20 seasons), and in July 2018 I still advocated around the same terms or maybe slightly more (for the 2019-21 seasons). Many members of the community have suggested going even higher than that, both in regard to a fourth year and/or a higher annual salary.

In real life, this winter he entered his final year of arbitration and his price tag settled at $16.5 million, a record high for any player in A’s history. However, this a rare case where the arbitration process actually overvalued a player compared with the open market, and both sides seem to understand that. In February, Khrush himself openly suggested going as low as $10 million per year, though that idea was immediately walked back in the press the next day.

In that last link (a couple weeks ago), Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle presented 3yr/$45 million as a starting point for an extension. On Saturday, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic touched on the subject, and used Aaron Hicks as a value comp (Hicks makes up for his fewer homers with more OBP, better defense, and being two years younger). Hicks recently signed a long-term deal with the Yankees for 7yr/$70M, or $10 million annually over an unusually long commitment; Rosenthal pegs Khrush at “slightly higher AAV than Hicks on a two- or three-year deal,” which could be interpreted as 3yr/$36-42M.

One final wild card to consider in all of this: The league and the players are discussing rule changes, and one of the proposals on the table is adding the designated hitter to the NL. That could potentially raise Khrush’s value if it means twice as many teams become interested in his services as a DH. However, for what it’s worth, this definitely won’t happen until at least 2020, and personally I’m guessing it could take even longer; I’ll be surprised if it happens in time to affect an upcoming Khrush extension in any way.

And that brings us up to speed! My opinion hasn’t really changed, and I still advocate a deal around 3yr/$44M, which encompasses his existing 2019 arby salary and then two free agent years at $14M per. If it pushed up toward $50 million then I’d still go for it, which matches my mid-2018 suggestion of 3yr/$40-50M.

What do you think? Let’s excitedly dream in the comments!