It’s official: KD is staying in Oakland. No, not that KD.
The A’s alluded to another Bay Area star’s impending free agency in Thursday’s press release, which announced that Khris Davis will be calling Oakland home for a little bit longer. Davis, he of 10 homers (tops in the majors) and 20 RBI (second-most in the AL behind Domingo Santana), put ink to paper on a two-year, $33.5 million extension Thursday, keeping him in an Athletics uniform through 2021.
Khris Davis used to go by “the other Khris Davis” or “Khris Davis with a K,” but now he’s graduated to THE Khris Davis. And all it took for him to take ownership of his own name (he literally made a name for himself) was swat 133 homers over a three-year span. No sweat.
For years Davis was a fixture on lists highlighting the league’s top bargains, which begs the question, why did it take so long to lock him up? The easy answer is because he plays in Oakland and if you’ve been following the team at all over the last two decades, you’ll know the A’s aren’t exactly big spenders (they even made a movie about it).
But like wedding cakes and certain taco dips popular at Super Bowl parties, the Davis debate has layers. For a player who has displayed an almost unparalleled level of consistency—he’s finished with the exact same batting average each of the last four seasons (.247)—Davis is exceptionally difficult to quantify. How do you define a player like Davis, a tater-clobbering, strikeout king who doesn’t even play the field? Nick Ahmed, Kolten Wong, Enrique Hernandez, Brian Anderson … that’s just a sampling of the 74 players who finished with a higher WAR than Davis last season. The last time Davis was invited to an All-Star Game? How about never.
To quote a tattoo I saw once, Davis is what he is: a 31-year-old whiff artist (he ranks 173rd out of 193 hitters in contact rate this season) who may just be the best power hitter in baseball. So what does all that get you? Certainly not Mike Trout money, but even if the Cal-State-Fullerton alum isn’t a five-tool or even a two-tool player, his one skill—using a Louisville Slugger to bash balls into the stratosphere—is pretty magnificent. As Greg Maddux would tell you, chicks dig the long ball and so do the A’s, who decided to get this done now instead of rolling the dice by letting Davis test the market this winter. With the unemployed likes of Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel serving as cautionary tales, walk-year players have been eager to sign extensions in fear of joining Kimbrel and Keuchel in free-agent purgatory. Davis, Nolan Arenado, Xander Bogaerts, Paul Goldschmidt, Aaron Hicks, Miles Mikolas, Chris Sale and Justin Verlander have already disappeared from what could have been a loaded free-agent class.
I spent a good chunk of last Friday’s Dose criticizing the insanely team-friendly contract Ozzie Albies signed with Atlanta, but you won’t hear any complaints this time around as the Davis extension figures to be beneficial for both parties. From Oakland’s vantage, the Athletics retain one of the league’s premier sluggers at a reasonable cost ($16.75 million annually for a player who provides elite power but not much else seems plenty fair) with minimal commitment. If Davis flames out as many stars do in their 30s, the A’s can kick him to the curb in two years. No harm, no foul. Meanwhile Davis will avoid the crickets he may have heard in free agency, where aging, one-dimensional players like himself often get low-balled or worse, completely cold-shouldered like Kimbrel and Keuchel.
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Injuries come with the territory for Dustin Pedroia, a four-time All-Star and the longest-tenured player on a Red Sox squad that heard the alarm go off but still didn’t bother to get out of bed for the season’s opening month (no amount of Excedrin can cure this World Series hangover). Boston will always roll out the red carpet for Pedroia, a Sox lifer with three World Series rings in his dresser drawer. But there comes a point of no return, when the lights go out and the band stops playing. Pedroia would never admit it—The Laser Show has always talked a big game—but with his knee deteriorating like the Red Sox’s playoff chances, the 35-year-old has to know the end is near.
Coming off an injury-derailed 2018 campaign that saw him log just 11 at-bats over three appearances, Pedroia was hoping his knee would cooperate but so far that hasn’t been the case. In fact, his career prospects couldn’t be bleaker as the Red Sox announced Thursday that the former MVP will head to the sidelines again after aggravating his left knee Wednesday in only his sixth game back. Even before the Red Sox moved him to the injured list, where he figures to stay for the foreseeable future, the former Arizona State Sun Devil just didn’t look right, managing two hits (both singles) over 20 listless at-bats. With Brock Holt also banged up (his latest ailment stems from being poked in the eye by his two-year-old son), Boston has gotten desperate enough to use Christian Vazquez, a catcher by trade, at second base. Meanwhile, regular second baseman Eduardo Nunez has slumped to a .159 average with no homers in 44 at-bats.
There’s a financial component in play—Pedroia’s contract runs through 2021—but how long can this fight continue? How many hours in the trainer’s room, how many rehab at-bats in Greenville or Pawtucket until the four-time Gold Glover and his crumbling body surrender to Father Time? Realistically, Pedroia wasn’t going to be the player to make or break Boston’s season, but it’s hard to watch him limp to the finish line like this. Maybe the tenacious veteran can muster another comeback, but after seeing David Wright’s career teeter out in similar, devastating fashion, it seems all too likely that Pedroia, as many before him, will succumb to his injury demons once and for all.
AL Quick Hits: After an offseason spent in free agent Hell, Craig Kimbrel is finally ready to play ball, literally and figuratively. The ace closer has softened his contract demands and is now amenable to a three-year deal, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network. Kimbrel would be a logical fit for his former team, the Braves, who just lost closer Arodys Vizcaino to a season-ending shoulder injury. … Miguel Andujar will test out his injured right shoulder by throwing to bases on Friday. If Andujar’s torn labrum prevents him from playing third base, Yankees manager Aaron Boone said the team would consider moving him across the diamond to first or possibly installing him as an everyday DH. … Troy Tulowitzki ran, hit and fielded grounders on Thursday and will join the Yankees on their West Coast swing next week. The aging shortstop has missed most of the year with a strained left calf. … Didi Gregorius hit in the batting cage Wednesday and has reportedly expanded his throwing range to 120 feet. The Yankees shortstop is making noticeable strides in his recovery from Tommy John surgery, though a midseason return remains the most likely scenario. … Blake Snell threw again Thursday and is slated for a bullpen session on Saturday. A broken toe sent Snell to the injured list last week, though the reigning Cy Young winner is hoping to miss just one start. … Brent Honeywell will be shut down for “a few days” after encountering a slight setback in his recovery from Tommy John surgery. The Rays are being understandably cautious with the right-hander, who began feeling soreness in his elbow/forearm area earlier this week. Highly regarded by the scouting community, the 24-year-old is the league’s 27th-ranked prospect, according to MLB.com. … Ryon Healy ended an 0-for-19 dry spell by swatting a pair of homers Thursday in an 11-10 victory over the Angels. Remarkably, the Mariners boast a 9-1 away record compared to just 5-7 at home.
NL Quick Hits: Odubel Herrera went on the injured list Thursday with a strained right hamstring, though the outfielder hopes to return when first eligible in 10 days. Aaron Altherr, Roman Quinn and Scott Kingery are candidates to fill in for the injured Herrera in center field. … Jean Segura remained sidelined Thursday for the Phillies’ series opener in Colorado. Manager Gabe Kapler suspects it will be another “couple of days” before we see the shortstop back in the starting lineup after sustaining a strained hamstring earlier this week. … Mike Soroka made his 2019 debut Thursday at SunTrust Park, limiting the Diamondbacks to four hits and one run over five strong innings in a losing effort. Selected as a first-round pick in 2015, the 21-year-old right-hander is listed at No. 23 in MLB.com’s latest prospect rankings. … Hyun-Jin Ryu is set to make his return Saturday in Milwaukee after missing time with a strained groin. With Ryu back to reclaim his starting role, Julio Urias will revert to the bullpen, at least until another injury arises in the Dodgers’ rotation. … Cody Bellinger clubbed his 10th homer of the young season Thursday in a win at Milwaukee. He needed just 21 games to reach double-digit bombs, becoming the second-fastest Dodger to achieve that mark. Christian Yelich also went yard in that game, raising his season home run total to 10, which ties him with Bellinger and Khris Davis for the major-league lead. … Not much has gone right for the Rockies this year, but at least they’re getting healthy. Thursday saw the returns of David Dahl, who was placed on the injured list with a core injury earlier this month, and Ryan McMahon, who hadn’t played since spraining his elbow two weeks ago. Dahl went 1-for-3 with a walk while McMahon provided a pair of homers—his first two of the season—in a 6-2 win over Philadelphia. … Daniel Murphy was cleared for “full baseball activities” on Thursday after resuming batting practice earlier this week. The Rockies first baseman hasn’t seen the field since suffering a broken finger during opening week. … Addison Russell will begin appearing in minor league games next week. Still serving a 40-game suspension for violating the league’s domestic violence policy, the Cubs shortstop isn’t eligible to return to the big leagues until May 1. … Patrick Corbin finally collected his first win as a National, scattering two hits and one run over 7 2/3 innings to down the Giants Thursday in D.C. Among NL hurlers, only Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer—who finished first and second in last year’s Cy Young voting—have logged more strikeouts than Corbin this season.