The Oakland A’s have signed slugger Khris Davis to a contract extension through 2021, the team announced Thursday. The contract will pay him $16.75 million in both 2020 and 2021, reports Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle, which is similar to the $16.5 million he’s already making in 2019.
It’s not often that the A’s commit to keeping a star player into his free agent years, but that’s exactly what they’ve done here. Davis would have hit the open market this winter, but instead he’ll stick around through age 33. In doing so, he will break his own record for highest salary by an A’s player, which he set this year.
The topic of an extension for Davis dates back to mid-2017, and in the time since he has remained consistent both in his on-field production and also in his outspoken desire to stay in Oakland. That combination has made him one of the biggest fan favorites in recent memory, on top of being one of the centerpieces of a contending roster.
”Oakland has been a special place for me since I arrived,” said Davis via the A’s press release. “I love playing here in front of our fans, and my teammates make this feel, like a family. I never hid the fact that I wanted to stay in Oakland because that is how I feel and I’m glad that I can continue to call the city of Oakland my baseball home. This team has a bright future, and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.”
On the field, Davis is hands-down the best home run hitter in the sport right now. Since arriving in Oakland in 2016, he leads the majors with 143 dingers, which is 19 more than runner-up Giancarlo Stanton. He’s one of only 25 players in history to hit 40 homers in three straight seasons, and the only active one to have done it besides Nelson Cruz — and given his MLB-leading 10 taters already this year, just 21 games into the campaign, he’s well on the way to a fourth time. He doesn’t play defense, but he did win the Edgar Martinez Award for Best Designated Hitter last summer after leading the bigs with 48 jacks.
Khrush, 2016-19: .247/.322/.539, 130 wRC+, 143 HR, 8.9% BB, 27.7% Ks
Note: If you’re into RBI, then his 253 since 2017 are tops in MLB, and his 355 since 2016 trail only Nolan Arenado.
Davis doesn’t hit for a high batting average, as he’s uncannily sat at exactly .247 for the last four seasons, and he doesn’t get on base that much or provide defensive value. But he has as much power as anyone in baseball, and that elite skill has made him a great overall hitter and thus a reliably productive player — and he’s gotten better every year since arriving in Oakland. He’s also developing a reputation for hitting his long balls when they count, with six outright game-winners last season (including a couple memorable comebacks) and already one this year.
Finally! A’s fans have been waiting a long time for this — both in the sense of keeping Khrush specifically, and also seeing the team pay for someone at all.
The Oakland faithful has watched star after star walk away in free agency, or be traded away just before that point. There’s usually sound logic behind it, and often it even turns out to be the right call long-term. But still, the constant turnover is a drag and makes it difficult to get too attached to your favorite players.
This move doesn’t end all that on its own, but it’s a notable departure from the norm and a huge step in the right direction. It’s only two extra years, so it’s not any kind of mega-long-term deal, but the salaries are hefty enough to make it a significant commitment. It’s similar in spirit to the two-year extension they gave Coco Crisp in 2014, but for 50% more guaranteed money.
As for Khrush himself, he provided the perfect opportunity for the A’s to make good on their stated desire to start paying to keep some of their stars. He’s an excellent player, his production is as consistent and reliable as anyone in the game, and he loves the town of Oakland like few athletes seem to. On top of that, as a 31-year-old with a one-dimensional skill set, he’s just flawed enough to be attainable without promising a half-decade or a nine-figure outlay. He’s right in the sweet spot of what the A’s can afford.
The timing magnified the necessity of the move. They’re coming off a 97-win season, hopefully at the beginning of a long contention window, so this is the time to spend if ever there was one. And off the field, they’re currently trying to reengage a long-jaded fanbase as they work toward building a new stadium, and paying to keep a popular star is the single most important thing they could have done in that endeavor. This was a crucial investment in both the current roster and the long-term brand.
Given all that, it would have been especially disappointing to see this one get away, bordering on downright unacceptable. The A’s fear long contracts more than big salaries, and this opportunity only required the latter for a player who fits both the roster and the town perfectly. It’s only the first step in changing the club’s turnstile reputation, but they got it done.
The short duration of this contract is particularly important, because it means this shouldn’t get in the way of any efforts to keep Matt Chapman or Matt Olson. Those stars are scheduled to hit arbitration entering 2021, which means they won’t start getting seriously expensive until 2022 when Khrush comes off the books. There will be other financial needs between now and then, but this move itself won’t affect the ability to keep the young core long-term.
As for the terms of the deal, which is effectively 3yr/$50M if you include his existing 2019 salary, it’s precisely in line with what I’ve been suggesting for years. In mid-2017, I offered 3yr/$40M (for 2018-20), and it turns out he’ll get just shy of $44M for those years. In mid-2018, I said three years and between $40-50 million (for 2019-21), and this past March I doubled down on that $40-50M range while picking $44M as my target point. It turned out at the highest end of my guess, but I was right on with the length and darn close on the salary. Gonna take a moment to pat myself on the back.
This is a huge move for the A’s and their fans, and we’ll surely be talking about it more in the coming days. For now, let’s bask in the rare glory of knowing one of our favorite players is sticking around for a while. The team really needed to get this done, and they rose to the task.
Congrats to Khrush, and thank you to the A’s for making lots of fans happy today!