Khris Davis’ Extension Benefits Him, the Oakland Athletics, and MLB

On Thursday afternoon, the Oakland Athletics and designated hitter/outfielder Khris Davis agreed to a two-year, $33.5 million extension. The deal keeps the right-hander in the Bay Area through 2021. Meanwhile, Davis agreeing to the extension benefits his image, the A’s, and Major League Baseball.

Before inking an extension, Davis was in line to be one of the premier free agents on the open market after 2019. One could argue that the average annual salary of $16.75 million he agreed to is below what his market value would have been. Had a big-market American League team — who could’ve utilized him as their DH — or National League team — who could’ve started him in their outfield and had him pinch hit late in games he didn’t start — signed him, chances are Davis could’ve commanded a contract along the lines of $20 million per season for twice the amount of years he re-upped with the A’s.

Davis is a walking model of consistency at the plate. He has hit .247 from 2015 to 2018 while totaling 42-plus home runs and 102-plus RBIs in each of the last three seasons. He’s off to an electric start this season, hitting (ironically) .247 while totaling 10 home runs and 20 RBIs. The 31-year-old is one of the most dangerous hitters in MLB. He has a level, compact swing, is a threat to send a fastball 4oo+ feet the opposite direction, and an irreplaceable figure in manager Bob Melvin‘s lineup.

Third baseman Eric Chavez‘s six-year, $66 million deal is the most expensive contract the A’s have dished out in their franchise’s existence. Their most recent big splash was signing Yoenis Cespedes to a four-year, $52 million deal in 2012. This past offseason they lost infielder Jed Lowrie, catcher Jonathan Lucroy, and right-hander Trevor Cahill to free agency, and it was a major blow for the organization. Lowrie was arguably the A’s best hitter in 2018, as he hit .267 while totaling a career-high 23 home runs and 99 RBIs; Lucroy was a vital reason for their pitching staff’s consistency; Cahill was a steady force on the rubber every fifth day, recording a 3.76 ERA.

The contract extension agreed on by the A's and Khris Davis greatly benefits both sides, and also strengthens @MLB's ability to market the Bay Area club.Click To Tweet

As you would expect, there was fear that Davis would be the next big name, or starting fixture, to depart from Oakland. Instead, he stayed with the team that he became a force with — and likely at a discount. With the amount of money that players are rewarded with in 2019, it would’ve made financial sense for Davis to test free-agent waters. On the other hand, maybe he was content with his life in Oakland, the organization, and wanted to choose familiarity over the unknown. And now he can be viewed as a star who took less to stay with his team.

Now, do the A’s have a roster that can compete for the playoffs? Perhaps, but they don’t have a reliable starting rotation. After losing Cahill to the rival Los Angeles Angels in free agency, left-hander Sean Manaea to a shoulder injury, and re-signing Edwin Jackson last week, but having him pitch in the minors, there are gaping holes in their rotation.

Mike Fiers is a proven commodity, but off to a rough start in 2019; when healthy, Brett Anderson can give the A’s length, but hasn’t been able to sustain a high level of performance; Marco Estrada has struggled mightily in recent memory; Frankie Montas owns an impressive 2.70 ERA and 0.94 WHIP through four outings, but even if his hot start leads to a big season, it’s not going to be enough to propel Oakland back to the playoffs.

If the A’s want to get back to the playoffs in 2019, they need their roster’s strengths to take things to the next level, or, at least, continue to perform at a high level, their offense in particular — which Davis is a driving force of.

Now, the A’s bullpen is also a potent bunch given the presence of stud closer Blake Treinen, Lou Trivino, Joakim Soria, and Fernando Rodney, among others. Given the team’s thin rotation, their bullpen is going to have a larger workload this season making it likely that they won’t be as lockdown as they were in 2018.

With the likes of Davis, budding star third baseman Matt Chapman, Stephen Piscotty, Marcus Semien, Jurickson Profar, Kendrys Morales, and, when healthy, Matt Olson in place, the A’s have an offense that can do damage. Last season they were fourth in MLB in runs (813), seventh in hits (1,407), third in home runs (227), fourth in total bases (2,450), fourth in slugging (.439), and fifth in OPS (.764). Granted those figures were with Lowrie and Lucroy, the additions of Profar and Morales should be able to offset the preceding duo’s production.

Then there’s the MLB aspect of Davis’ deal. Your initial thought is probably how in the world is a quiet star like Davis staying put in Oakland a big deal for MLB? Well, outside of Moneyball, what else is this franchise known for? The A’s have endured three playoff droughts this century which featured three, six, and four-year absences from October baseball.

When Oakland hasn’t been in the playoff mix, there has been little to nothing to keep tabs on. Seriously, it’s a black hole when the playoffs aren’t on the table. Heck, their underwhelming 11-11 start is barely getting any attention because they don’t have any headline-grabbing stars. Concurrently, the slow starts of the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees have been central talking points in the sport. The only way the A’s get national attention is if they have a season like they did in 2018, where they finished with 97 wins and appeared in the AL Wild Card Game.

Davis is one of the premier power hitters in the sport, part of Oakland’s identity, and keeps a strong lineup intact — giving the franchise something to pride itself on. Having a talking point surrounding the franchise, outside of their front office, is ideal for MLB. In this case, that is their offense. Plus, his continued presence keeps competitive balance in the AL West, a division that includes the contending-Houston Astros, Los Angeles Angels, Seattle Mariners, and Texas Rangers.

Davis enhanced his image by staying in Oakland, it boosts the A’s playoff aspirations moving forward, and MLB keeps a respectable team in the city. Everybody wins.

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