Will the Rangers make a run at Chris Davis?

Back on July 30, 2011, the Texas Rangers sent Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter to the Baltimore Orioles for Koji Uehara. At the time, Davis was beginning to be viewed as a bit of a bust. The first baseman had always shown prodigious power in the Texas system, but was still failing to put it all together at the big-league level.

After being drafted in the fifth round out of Navarro College, the Texas native quickly climbed the Rangers’ ranks. He hit 37 home runs and drove in 120 in 2007, his second professional season. Davis struck out only 154 times in 133 games that year while batting .295 with a .943 OPS. The next year, Davis reached Triple-A for the first time, and was batting .333 with 23 home runs, 73 RBIs, and a 1.029 OPS in 77 minor league games at the time of his call-up to the big club.

Davis was impressive upon reaching the Major Leagues. In his 80-game audition over the final months of the 2008 season, Davis batted .285 with 17 homers and 55 knocked in. It was all downhill from there, however. Davis could not crack .250 and struck out 150 times in 113 games when handed a starting job in 2009. In 45 games in 2010, Davis fell below the Mendoza line and hit only one solitary home run. By the time the Rangers parted ways with Davis in 2011, he had hit only four home runs over his final 196 at-bats and had struck out in 64 of them.

Obviously, things got a whole heck of a lot better for Chris Davis after being traded to the Orioles. In his 617 games in Baltimore, Chris turned back into Crush and hit 161 home runs, leading the league twice. He homered once every 21 at-bats with Texas, but turned on the power to the tune of a homer every 14 at-bats following the trade. Strikeouts are still a slight bother with Davis, but can be overlooked as his OPS climbs to .900.

The list of teams who are interested in Davis is still quite nebulous. The Orioles have made him their number-one priority this offseason. The Toronto Blue Jays have surprisingly emerged as a contender, though how serious they are is unknown. The Los Angeles Angels need left-handed power, and the Houston Astros just released Chris Carter. Until further notice, it should be assumed that Davis will land with an American League team, as it is unclear which National League team will be comfortable with committing to him as a long-term fielder. Designated hitter seems to be in his future no matter how athletic he is at this moment.

Could a reunion with the team that drafted him be a legitimate possibility for Davis?

The Rangers are now working on a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates to move Mitch Moreland, the incumbent first baseman. Current super prospect Joey Gallo, a new-and-improved version of Davis in the raw power/strikeout department, does not have a clearly-defined position. The team’s current depth chart lists him at third base, first base, left field, and right field. Basically, all of the positions typically reserved for big, lumbering guys who are not the best fielders are in play for Gallo next year. Third base is obviously out, as Adrian Beltre just keeps ticking. Gallo will probably play first base or outfield in the long run.

If Moreland is traded, the Rangers can go one of two ways. The team can re-sign Mike Napoli or pursue a big name like Chris Davis. Napoli, of course, could still return for a bench role even if a big name is signed. Trading a quality player like Moreland to hand an aging Napoli an everyday job just does not seem like the ultimate end game for the Rangers.

Davis also has the ability to play some outfield, so could fill in there if Josh Hamilton, Gallo, and Shin-Soo Choo cannot hack it in the corner outfield positions. The Rangers currently have only $120.2 million committed to the 2016 payroll, and clearly stated their intentions to build a winner by trading for Cole Hamels at the trade deadline. Davis should be affordable if ownership is willing to take on one more expensive, but potentially extremely impactful bat. Instead of having Gallo at first, the Rangers can scrap the Josh Hamilton experiment in left field. The Angels gave the former MVP to Texas as a gift, but that does not mean the team needs to keep playing an injury-prone ex-star who has clearly lost most of his best abilities as a hitter.

When the Rangers traded Chris Davis away, he was a hitter who had totally lost confidence in his power stroke. It did not take  long for him to find the swing that had begun to elude him with the Orioles. Baltimore is not a team unfamiliar with trading away a failed prospect only to see him go from “struggles-to-throw-strikes” Jake Arrieta to “best-pitcher-in-the-league” Jake Arrieta. The Orioles have no chance now to correct their mistake, but the Rangers do. Now may be the time for Chris Davis to return to his home state and a ballpark that should serve as a very nice launching pad for the remainder of his career.

2 Responses

  1. Clifford

    “Davis also has the ability to play some outfield, so could fill in there if Josh Hamilton, Gallo, and Shin-Soo Choo cannot hack it in the corner outfield positions…”

    That was a curious remark…Shin-Soo Choo has already shown that he can play a corner outfield position capably enough to justify keeping his bat in the lineup everyday, hasn’t he?? That by itself means that Chris Davis has just two slots available to him if the Rangers are smart enough to sign him: First base (assuming the Rangers are willing to cut their losses and part ways once and for all with that over-rated tease Mitch Moreland) and Francisco couldn’t have won without them—and left field, assuming that Gallo makes the cut this Spring and his coach slots him in right field.

    The way I see it, the Rangers not only traded a local boy who had 40(+) homers written all over him, (Chris Davis) but exchanged him for two pitchers they didn’t even keep. So they essentially gave Davis away for nothing. I know that Chris struck out an alarming number of times, but so did Bobby Bonds and Dave Kingman in their day…

    Let’s see if Texas can bring the local boy home now that Baltimore’s hitting coaches were able to bring something out of him that the Rangers’ coaching staff couldn’t when Chris was here the first time around…

    End,
    Clifford
    Santa Monica

    Reply
    • Joshua Sadlock

      I am sure Choo will remain in the lineup if they are able to sign Davis. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why the Rangers would keep going with an obviously declining Hamilton when Gallo can play left field. This is a team, after all, that let Mike Napoli put on an outfielder’s glove last season. If you can get pitching for Moreland, pull the trigger, sign Davis, let Gallo play left. The only question mark is whether or not Davis wants to go back to an organization that gave up on him. He does seem like the type of player who needs to be in a setting where he feels comfortable.

      Reply

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