Looking to help their depleted outfield, the Oakland A’s have signed free-agent outfielder Rajai Davis to a one-year, $6 million deal. It has been reported that the 36-year-old Davis has already passed his physical, and the reunion in Oakland is set. Davis was Oakland’s primary center fielder from 2008 to 2010, batting .287 with 159 runs during that span.
Davis batted .249 with 12 home runs last season with the Cleveland Indians and will forever be remembered for his dramatic game-tying home run off Aroldis Chapman in Game 7 of the World Series, helping send the game to extra innings and set up the finish of one of the greatest games in baseball history.
Aside from the memorable home run, Davis struggled in the 2016 postseason, with the World Series being the only playoff series in which Davis recorded a hit.
The Indians did not extend a qualifying offer to Davis, who will return to Oakland to provide a spark at the top of their lineup. Look for Davis to assume the leadoff role for Bob Melvin‘s club, in an attempt to create some more chaos on the basepaths. The A’s ranked 26th in baseball last season in stolen bases and 19th in stolen base percentage. Davis stole a league-high 43 bases in 2016 while being caught stealing just six times. His 43 steals at 36 years of age made him the fourth oldest player in baseball history to lead the league in steals.
While Davis will certainly help the A’s on the bases, it is hard to see how he will help boost the team at the plate. The A’s ranked 29th in baseball in wOBA last season, and a mediocre bat like Davis will hardly help Oakland climb out of the offensive cellar. The A’s also added outfielder Matt Joyce back in November, but it still won’t be enough to help a team that has suffered back-to-back 90-loss seasons and will be competing with the likes of the Rangers, Mariners, and Astros in the American League West.
Looking at the other end of the signing, the Indians used the bulk of their spending on slugger Edwin Encarnacion and will likely have Tyler Naquin take over center field duties in Cleveland. Davis was a temporary fix to take the place of the injured Michael Brantley, but with Brantley expected to return to the outfield in 2017, Davis would have likely been nothing more than a platoon outfielder and pinch runner in Cleveland. Now, Davis returns to his former team on the west coast, where Billy Beane will likely try to milk the veteran for every bit of value he can muster and look to shop him around for more youngsters next season.