Opinion Pieces

Top Trade Targets: Left Field

Khris Davis, Athletics

After agreeing to a 10.5 million dollar salary with the A’s to avoid arbitration, Khris Davis is now the highest paid player on the Athletics roster, making 45% more than the next closest player. Heading into his walk year, look for Khris Davis to be one of the most talked about players on the trade block as the trade deadline approaches.

Since acquiring Davis from the Brewers prior to the 2016 season, Davis has been one of the most prolific power hitters in baseball. He has clubbed 85 home runs in the last two seasons and ranks third in isolated slugging percentage out of all qualified players (the two players ahead of him are Giancarlo Stanton and Mike Trout).

While power will always be Davis’ calling card, his plate discipline also improved significantly in 2017. Last season, Davis posted a walk rate nearly 75% greater than his career average by walking in 11.2% of his plate appearances. He still has plenty of swing-and-miss in his game evidenced by his 29% strikeout rate, but in an era where strikeouts are at an all-time high, this will not be a major deterrent for teams.

Despite cementing himself as one of the most feared power hitters in the game, his value is significantly hampered by his poor defense in left field. Davis struggles in the outfield are largely the result of his extremely weak throwing arm. Dating back to college, Davis has had what is known as “the yips”, a mental block that prevents him from throwing. As a result, Davis statistically has the worst arm in MLB history.

While Davis may never overcome his throwing woes, he still has plenty of value for teams seeking a power-hitting designated hitter that can occasionally play left field. If the A’s are out of contention in July, Davis will provide a nice rental bat at a low cost for a power-needy club.

Suitors: Boston Red Sox, Houston Astros, Toronto Blue Jays

Possible Trade:

Red Sox Receive:
Khris Davis (LF)

Athletics Receive:
C.J. Chatham (SS, #7 Prospect)

After ranking last in the American League in home runs in 2017, the Red Sox have made it a point of emphasis to acquire a slugger this offseason. The club has been connected to J.D. Martinez all offseason, and if they do end up signing him, it would likely put an end to any possibility of them trading for Khris Davis. As the days pass and Martinez remains unsigned, it no longer seems inevitable that the two sides will reach an agreement. If Martinez signs elsewhere, Khris Davis could be the next best thing for the club.

Khris Davis is a perfect fit for the Red Sox for a  number of reasons other than the club simply needing power. As I discussed in the “Top Trade Targets: First Base” column, (in which outlined why Jose Abreu might be a nice fit in Boston), the Red Sox may have a hole at designated hitter if Hanley Ramirez doesn’t turn it around. Coming off his lowest wRC+ in his career, Ramirez’s best days are behind him. 

The dimensions of Fenway Park could hide Davis poor throwing arm if he is ever forced to play the field, while also aiding his power output at the plate. The Red Sox have used the strategy of using an offense-first left fielder at Fenway before, most notably Manny Ramirez. Of course, the Red Sox would not need to put Davis in the field at all with Andrew Benintendi on the roster, but if injuries forced their hand, the short wall in left could hide Davis’ defensive woes. 

More importantly, Davis’ already high home run totals could surge even more if he gets to play his home games at Fenway Park. Last season, Khris Davis’ average flyball distance on balls he pulled to left field was 329 feet. Considering that Fenway Park is only 310 feet down the line in left, it is not hard to imagine him launching balls over the green monster with regularity. In fact, 56% percent of the flyballs that Davis pulled last season would have been home runs at Fenway Park, while only 31% of those same flyballs got out of the Oakland Coliseum.

The main impediment to completing this trade is the lack of prospects remaining in the Red Sox farm system. While the Red Sox lack top end prospects, it would likely only require a mid-level prospect to acquire Davis, seeing as he is just a rental. 

The A’s are always eager to dump money to a bigger market team, so if the Red Sox are willing to absorb whatever remains of the 10.5 million Davis is owed, the A’s could jump at an opportunity to cut payroll.

With this said, the Red Sox will still have to send something in the way of prospects to the A’s to make a deal work, which is why I have included former 2nd round pick C.J. Chatham in this deal.

Chatham is a defense-first shortstop with a 60-grade arm and the instincts to stay at the position, despite average range. At the plate, he makes consistent contact and could produce a solid batting average to go with gap-to-gap power. His plate discipline needs improvement, but he has the skills to hit .280 with double-digit homers at the next level.

Other Trade Candidates:
Adam Duvall

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About Traven Tapson

I am a recent graduate from Claremont McKenna College pursuing a career in baseball operations for an MLB team. I am fascinated by the analytical side of baseball and use this blog as a platform to share my insights and knowledge with those who share my curiosities.
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