The Athletics have held at least exploratory talks about multi-year deals with both shortstop Marcus Semien and outfielder Khris Davis, according to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. The club discussed an extension of up to five years with Semien during the offseason, though the shortstop tells Slusser that the two sides haven’t revisited talks since the spring.
Semien is open to revisiting negotiations, though he acknowledged that he isn’t sure if the A’s feel the same in the wake of his rough 2017 season. The shortstop missed almost three months due to wrist surgery, and he has hit just .151/.300/.247 in 90 plate appearances. There’s still obviously quite a bit of time for Semien to get back on track this year, not to mention the fact that some extra recovery time is usually needed in the case of wrist injuries.
Semien, who turns 27 in September, hit 27 homers last season but posted just a .238/.300/.435 slash line over 621 PA, making him an exactly league-average hitter (100) as per both the OPS+ and wRC+ metrics. Semien has below-average defensive metrics at shortstop over his career, and there has long been speculation whether he has enough glove to remain at short, or if a move to second base is in the cards once Oakland permanently calls up prospect Franklin Barreto.
In either case, the extension talks would seem to hint that the A’s indeed see Semien as part of their future in the middle infield. Had a five-year extension been reached last winter, it would have covered Semien’s final pre-arbitration season, his three arb years and his first free agent season. Unless Semien can turn things around at the plate over the final two-plus months of 2017, his lack of production will certainly hurt his first arbitration number, which could mean a lower price tag for an extension on the Athletics’ part, if the club is indeed still interested.
A Davis extension, meanwhile, would be a much costlier investment, as the left fielder is putting up another big power season — 27 homers and a .246/.334/.526 slash line through his first 392 PA, putting Davis on pace to match or surpass his career-high total of 42 home runs in 2016. Despite that prodigious amount of power, Davis is also prone to strikeouts and is a defensive liability in left field, so the A’s could have concerns about how he’ll age (Davis turns 30 in December) over the course of a long-term contract.
Davis is earning $5MM this season and is in line for a nice raise in his second time through the arbitration process this winter. Slusser says that the A’s just “briefly talked” with Davis about a long-term contract, so it would seem that more in-depth negotiations have yet to take place.
Usually, the rising cost of a player like Davis would lead to speculation that the low-payroll Athletics would be exploring trade options. While the A’s have again looked to move veterans this summer (such names as Sonny Gray and Yonder Alonso are trade candidates and Oakland has already moved Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle to the Nationals), executive VP of baseball ops Billy Beane recently stated that the team is hoping to get past this trend of constant player turnover and start locking in some key players to multi-year deals. Since this latest rebuild effort is tied to the Athletics’ still-unsettled quest to get a new ballpark, however, it remains to be seen if the timeline will match up so that Semien and Davis would be part of his first wave of long-term talent, or if they could eventually be the last members of the current generation of players dealt.