It’s reunion season in Oakland. The A’s announced Wednesday that they’ve signed outfielder/designated hitter Khris Davis to a minor league contract and assigned him to their affiliate in the Arizona Complex League.
Davis, of course, was a mainstay in the Athletics’ lineup from 2016-20, logging a trio of 40-homer campaigns as the team’s primary designated hitter along the way. Davis rather remarkably posted a .247 batting average in four consecutive seasons with the A’s, complementing that with healthy walk rates and top-of-the-scale power. Davis led Major League Baseball in home runs from 2016-18. Add in the 2019 season, and only Nelson Cruz and Nolan Arenado surpassed him in total long balls.
The slugger had long made clear that he hoped to remain in Oakland, and the A’s took the rather rare (for them) step of extending Davis and buying out multiple free-agent seasons. Unfortunately, the two-year, $33MM contract proved to be a misstep, as Davis’ bat fell off not long after signing the deal. He hit just .200/.303/.329 through 99 plate appearances in 2020, the first season of that extension, and Oakland flipped him to the Rangers in an offseason deal that brought Elvis Andrus to the A’s and carried payroll benefits for both clubs. Things didn’t go well for “Khrush” in Texas, either, as he slashed just .157/.262/.333 in 61 plate appearances before being designated for assignment and released.
Of course, any mention of Davis’ decline needs to take his health — or lack thereof — into account. Davis played through hip, oblique and hand injuries in 2019 as his downturn at the plate began, and while he didn’t make excuses for his dwindling power numbers, he eventually acknowledged that his injuries had impacted his swing when asked. Davis explained that he’d begun to choke up a bit to compensate for a lack of strength in his hand, which had conversely impacted his power game. Whether Davis was fully healthy in either of the two subsequent seasons can’t be certain, but he’s yet to regain the prodigious power or remarkable consistency at the plate that he displayed in his peak form.
It might be a long shot to see the now-33-year-old slugger return to those heights, at least in 2021, but the A’s will take a no-risk look and try to get one of their former lineup cornerstones back on track in the minor league ranks. Their openness to doing so should come as no surprise; Oakland designated hitters have combined to bat just .217/.292/.380 this season. The A’s were linked to Cruz in trade rumblings last month, but the AL East-leading Rays made the best offer for the now-former Twins slugger and acquired him about a week prior to the July 30 trade deadline.