It was coming to an end. It was Feb. 12, 2016, and the bulk of the 2015-2016 offseason had passed, with many baseball fans excited for the start of Spring Training with pitchers and catchers reporting.
Billy Beane and company in the Athletics’ front office were not done making the final tweaks to their roster going into this season.
Fast forward six months, and here’s outfielder Khris Davis, on Aug. 14, hitting his 30th home run of the season. Looking back at it now, the move for Davis could pay dividends for the Athletics for many seasons to come.
Back on Feb. 12, the Athletics acquired outfielder Khris Davis from the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for two minor league prospects: Jacob Nottingham and Bowdien Derby.
At the time of the trade, I wrote:
“By adding Davis, the Athletics demonstrated their willingness to aim for contention in 2016. … He boosts the middle of their order, while also deepening their outfield.”
Davis has been all that and more for the Athletics this season, hitting .255/.295/.517 with the 30 home runs and 75 runs batted in. He’s posted a 116 wRC+, and coming into Sunday, he had been worth 1.3 Wins Above Replacement (FanGraphs). He struggles on the bases and in the field, but his power is real, with a .262 isolated power this season.
I will say, however, that Davis does not come without his flaws, even offensively. He strikes out a lot and does not walk often, but in a league where right-handed power is rare, some of those flaws can be overlooked to an extent.
Even when looking at the Brewers’ return, the addition of Davis looks even more promising for the Athletics down the road.
Nottingham, a catcher, is a legit prospect. He ranks 15th on the Brewers’ Top-30 prospect list (MLB.com) but is only hitting .236/.296/.337 in 390 plate appearances down in Double-A, adding 8 homers and 31 runs batted in. His defense is decent and currently ranks as a 40 (below average) on the 20-80 scale, with his arm coming in as a 50 (average), according to MLB.com.
As for Derby, he is not ranked on the Brewers’ Top 30 list. He’s 22 and only in Class A-Advanced, where the lefty has gone 6-10 with a 5.32 ERA and a 93-41 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 111 2/3 innings pitched this year. The San Diego St. product has not shown lots of promise on the stats sheet, to say the least.
Giving up prospects isn’t exactly what a non-contending team wants to do, regardless of how prominent they are. I know I wrote that the Athletics could contend by making this move back in Feb., but that has not been the case. I still like this deal for the team, though, for multiple reasons.
First off, he’s cheap and he will be cheap for awhile. Davis isn’t arbitration eligible until next offseason, giving the Athletics plenty of time to build a lineup around him. He’s also not a free agent until after the 2019 season. Right now, Davis is making just over the league minimum at $525,000.
Secondly, the Athletics could decide to move him in another trade further down the road. Nottingham is decent, and plays a premium position, but I would be willing to bet the Athletics would be getting a better prospect package in return for Davis than they gave up.
Just look at the trade the Mets made for Jay Bruce. Bruce, a power-hitting outfielder with little defense capabilities, fetched the Reds Dilson Herrera, an infielder that is no longer a prospect but still has lots of potential, and lefty Max Wotell, who ranks No. 21 on their Top-30 prospects. Bruce came with another year of control, too, which could be an exact move the Athletics make at the 2018 trade deadline, albeit with Davis.
And, obviously, the earlier they decide to dump him (if ever), the more they’ll get in return.
To recap, Davis is an option that helps the Athletics now and in the future, and perhaps even further into the future if they decide to flip him somewhere else.
So perhaps one of the best moves of this past offseason was the Athletics’ trade of slugging outfielder Khris Davis, no matter how late in the offseason it came.