68-Win A’s Get Khris Davis From 68-Win Brewers

With so much analysis and similar thinking taking over the game, it’s easy to imagine a reality where, down the road, every player in every organization is assigned a number that reflects his total value, and trades are made based on nothing more than balancing value numbers until they match. Even if that’s an exaggeration, you can see how things could come to feel that way, like trades are just the results of equations being run. In this hypothetical future, we’d see trades a lot like the one that’s just gone down between the A’s and the Brewers. Needs have been met on both sides. Everything makes very obvious sense.

I know the A’s and Brewers just finished with the same record, but the A’s don’t do the whole rebuilding thing, while the Brewers are in deep. Oakland wanted to add power from the right side and they were seeking help in the outfield, so that’s where Khris Davis fits. From Milwaukee’s side, if anything they had too many outfielders, and they didn’t have any catching depth behind Jonathan Lucroy, so that’s where Jacob Nottingham fits. Lucroy’s basically a goner anyhow, and Nottingham might not be that far away. And Bowdien Derby, known as Bubba? Live arm. Lottery ticket. More talent for the system. The A’s win the trade for the certainty; the Brewers win the trade for the upside. The A’s wanted certainty. The Brewers wanted upside.

Starting with the Oakland half of things, allow me to sell you on Khris Davis. Behold Khris Davis:

That’s what he is. More than anything else, Davis is a slugger, and he’s a slugger without a platoon split. He’s gone about his development rather quietly, given where he’s played, but there’s no denying what he’s done.

Somewhat importantly, Davis is 28. More importantly, Davis has just two full years of service, so he has another four years of affordable team control. There are similarities between him and Mark Trumbo, but when Trumbo brought back Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs, he had another three years of control. So Davis has the advantage there. He’s going to Oakland to hit the ball hard, and he’s going to Oakland to hit the ball everywhere.

According to Baseball Savant — and therefore Statcast — last year Davis ranked in the top five percent in average batted-ball speed on flies and liners. Over the last three years, since Davis debuted, he’s ranked in the top six percent in hard-hit rate. More specifically, he’s ranked in the top three percent in hard-hit rate on flies and liners. I know that sounds complicated but I’m just leaving grounders out because hard-hit grounders are less productive. Davis makes good contact when he puts the ball somewhere in the air. His air-ball hard-hit rate is basically tied with Chris Davis and Matt Kemp.

There’s something else about him that’s kind of neat. I took the last three years, again, and I narrowed all the hitters down to guys with at least 100 batted balls to the pull side, up the middle, and the other way. Davis is one of just three players with a hard-hit rate north of 35% to all three fields. The others are Paul Goldschmidt and Miguel Cabrera. The contact quality is fantastic, and Oakland has been somewhat starved for this sort of strength.

In terms of approach and strength, you can fairly compare Davis to Nelson Cruz. He looks like Nelson Cruz-lite — Cruz has achieved a certain level of consistency, but this is Davis’ ceiling. Players tend to fall short of their ceilings, but Cruz has been a four-win player two years in a row. It’s something to hope for.

As with Cruz, however, there are issues with the defense. This isn’t the usual case of a guy being a lumbering slugger — Davis, by range, has actually been something of an above-average left fielder. He can move around all right. But his arm plays impossibly weak. His arm is bad by DRS, his arm is bad by UZR, and his arm is bad by the Fan Scouting Report. Last year, the only outfielder given a worse arm-strength rating by the fans was Ben Revere. It’s not the easiest thing to improve.

As a consequence, Davis has been worth a total of about four wins. A little over two, per 600 plate appearances. Right now it’s fair to see him as an average player, more or less, just an average player with one great strength and one great weakness. You’d think that maybe the arm could be improved, or hidden, but you have to balance optimism with even pessimism, and you might also think pitchers could find a weakness in Davis’ swing. His contact rate dropped below 70%.

To simplify: Davis hits the crap out of the ball. He should keep doing that for a while, and Oakland has badly wanted bats like this. They were linked to Kemp earlier Friday, and they’ve previously pursued Cruz. If everything clicks, Davis could be Cruz. But even Cruz wasn’t that interesting prior to his late-career renaissance, and Davis isn’t a defensive plus. Oakland fans should enjoy watching him, and in the short-term he helps cover up for Coco Crisp and Billy Butler. Davis, though, is likely to feel like more of an impact player than he is.

I’m sure Oakland recognizes that. Clearly, Milwaukee recognized that, since four years of service is a lot of time. But in Davis, the Brewers didn’t see a long-term fit, not with other outfielders present or approaching, so they swapped a slugger for something the organization arguably needed most. I don’t want to take anything away from Derby, a recent sixth-round pick who’s worked his fastball into the mid-90s. He has yet to be unsuccessful, and even if he doesn’t make it as a starter, he’s already served as a closer in college. Derby isn’t just a throw-in, in other words, but the prize is Nottingham, who David Stearns gets to get back after he watched the Astros send him to Oakland during the summer when he still worked in Houston.

The Nottingham summary now is essentially what it was at the time of the Scott Kazmir trade: he’s a young catcher who could stick as a catcher, and his bat broke out after underwhelming earlier in his professional career. Nottingham slugged .363 two years ago, .385 one year ago, and .505 in the most recent year, the campaign ending in High-A. Nottingham improved his ability to make contact, and he didn’t just pull his power — he impressed observers with his ability to drive the ball out to right. That bodes well for his future against more advanced competition.

The power seems like it’s real, and if Nottingham is a quick learner, he could arrive in 2017. The Brewers, of course, aren’t in desperate need of catching depth as long as they have Jonathan Lucroy, but the Brewers, of course, are looking to trade Jonathan Lucroy, and then there was just nothing there. Nottingham becomes an in-house option, a long-term option, and more generally he’s also now one of the top prospects on an increasingly deep farm.

A young catcher with a power bat is a hell of a player. The risk here — the thing that made Nottingham available — is that he might still have to move. He’s not a young Yadier Molina, and even should he make it as a backstop, he won’t win Gold Gloves. And now imagine that Nottingham eventually shifts to first base: then he’s a righty first baseman with all-fields power. So, he’d be kind of like Khris Davis. Nottingham might have the higher ceiling because of his current position, but he hasn’t yet reached Double-A and he hasn’t yet handled an advanced pitching staff. Nottingham is a fitting exchange for a player of Davis’ skills and standing. Those who like to evaluate prospects by their upsides will love this for Milwaukee, but Davis does have real present value, even if it’s limited, and Nottingham, in a sense, hasn’t proven much of anything yet.

I do like it for the Brewers, because they addressed what they had to address. They also unblocked a part of the outfield, and I can’t wait to see what Domingo Santana might become. The Brewers are really on to something, and Stearns deserves high marks for what he’s already pulled off, with Lucroy and Will Smith still on the active roster. For the A’s, I like it just fine. Davis has the attributes that could make him an overrated player, but with maybe one more step he’s a multi-year cleanup slugger. Also, the A’s are doing what they can to eliminate weaknesses in 2016, because they can’t afford to play at the top of the market. What they’ve built isn’t a division favorite. It’s just a far better team than the one they just had. Whatever happens from here on out will happen.



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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.


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Shirtless Carson Cistulli
Member
3 months 16 days ago

Do the Brewers still need a closer?

Famous Mortimer
Member
Member
3 months 16 days ago

I’m not sure this account has legs, but I like it anyway.

TheGrandslamwich
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TheGrandslamwich
3 months 16 days ago

Nottingham seems like a big price to pay for league average OF for a team that by all appearances seems to be wallowing in mediocrity. Yeah, Beane has pulled some moves that worked out amazingly 2012-2014, but it’s hard to see this as a net gain for the A’s org, though it does give them some added flexibility should they be selling at the deadline.

jdbolick
Member
Member
3 months 16 days ago

I would argue the exact opposite, as I can’t believe the Brewers traded four years of a league average outfielder for a prospect who not only has doubts about his ability to stick behind the plate but whose power disappeared after the Kazmir trade. Nottingham had an impressive first one hundred days last season, but before that he didn’t even rank in Kiley’s top 30 for the Astros organization and after that he more or less went right back to what he was before. Khris Davis already is something. He’s unlikely to ever be as valuable a major leaguer as Khris Davis, much less better.

TheGrandslamwich
Member
TheGrandslamwich
3 months 16 days ago

Nottingham is still #66 on BP’s prospect list. I know the A’s policy is to retool instead of fully rebuilding, but they still are projected as the bottom feeders in the AL West.

Maybe they will be able to flip Davis for someone solid later, but I just don’t think the A’s are on the position on the win curve to be trading off their young talented prospects anymore than they already have.

jdbolick
Member
Member
3 months 16 days ago

Nottingham is still #66 on BP’s prospect list.

My point is precisely that he shouldn’t be, as he didn’t maintain any of the supposed improvement after being acquired by Oakland. His power evaporated and his K% went right back to what it had been.

LHPSU
Member
LHPSU
3 months 16 days ago

The A’s brought Khris Davis to Oakland so that Coco Crisp would have competition for weakest arm in the league.

Unfortunately, they had to give up Bowdien Derby, who was competing with Coco Crisp for best name in the league.

j27roenick
Member
j27roenick
3 months 15 days ago

I’ve never seen an MLB arm weaker than that of Khris Davis. When he warms up between innings, he doesn’t even throw the ball into the stands for a souvenir. He just rolls it in to the bullpen catcher on that side of the field. He also will make the guy he’s warming up with between innings chase at least two balls per commercial break. I’ve never seen anything like it. Johnny Damon had a stronger arm. And my daughter has a stronger arm than Damon, and she’s only 10 months old.

FRL
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Member
FRL
3 months 13 days ago

Craig Biggio and Juan Pierre come to mind as recent weak-armed outfield regulars. I remember base runners regularly tagging up and advancing to third on fly balls to Biggio in MMP’s tiny left field. It was even worse the year he played CF.

cnote66
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cnote66
3 months 16 days ago

who get more PA’s in CF for MIL this year? Phillips or Broxton?

Chickensoup
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Member
Chickensoup
3 months 15 days ago

Both might get zero. It should be Rymer Liriano, with Nieuwenhuis as the backup to start the year and Ramon Flores taking a bench role when he comes back from injury.

GameofRedemption
Member
3 months 16 days ago

After looking over Nottingham’s numbers, it seems pretty clear that the majority of his value is derrived from one very good half-season this year. He was slugging near .600 until he came over to Oakland, where it dropped to just over .400 (.15 points higher than his previous career best). It appears that the A’s will win this trade unless Nottingham can stick at catcher AND prove his power to be a real commodity. Davis is a good player at the Major League level that still hasn’t reached his ceiling. However if Derby can develop into a valuable bullpen piece, this trade may favor the Brewers.

chrisb
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Member
chrisb
3 months 16 days ago

2013 and 2015 both look like ceilings Khris Davis has hit, depending on your sample size preferences.

doc ellis
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doc ellis
3 months 15 days ago

Thing is, in both 2013 and 2015, Davis derived most of his value in half-seasons of mashing. I know that streakiness has different meaning to a prospect who’s just shown it once rather than a MLB regular, but I still find it funny.

Dooduh
Member
Dooduh
3 months 15 days ago

How much of this was the A’s realizing that Nottingham wasn’t as good as they had been led to believe by the really good first half he had and this was an opportunity to still move him for some value? Or is it the A’s flailing from one move to another with no clear direction? They were lauded for having gotten Nottingham 8 months ago and so this comes as a bit of a surprise.

johansantana17
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johansantana17
3 months 15 days ago

The A’s easily lose this trade because they DFAd Sean Nolin. They lost three quality young players for one maybe average MLB player.

TrevorCap
Member
TrevorCap
3 months 15 days ago

They’re probably trying to sneak Sean Nolin through waivers right before Spring when rosters are mostly full and to describe him as “quality” you need to ignore the fact that he was throwing 85-88 last year. He’s not Jamie Moyer with his control and unless he regains a couple ticks on the fastball, he’s not a quality player, he is a piece of trivia about the 4th player in the Donaldosn trade. So I would disagree with both points.

Johan Santa
Member
3 months 15 days ago

You of all people can vouch for the value of wisely using those 40-man roster spots.

jim fetterolf
Member
jim fetterolf
3 months 15 days ago

Davis looks like trade deadline material if Oakland lags. That seems Beane’s new model, get a potentially useful player for prospects, then deadline trade for more prospects, Zobrist coming to mind.

Beer
Member
3 months 15 days ago

Khris Davis = Shirk Divas

jruby
Member
Member
jruby
3 months 15 days ago

Ok, cool.

Only glove, no love
Member
Only glove, no love
3 months 15 days ago

What’s the surprise? The guy won when he had zito, hudson, mulder and harden. Other than that? Two seasons.

He’s just churned the roster exchanging one severely limited player for another hoping to catch lightning in a bottle.

And of course, sometimes he trades away really good players for not very much.

Sleepy
Member
Sleepy
3 months 13 days ago

2006 AL West Champions – no Hudson, no Mulder, 9 starts from Harden (4.18 FIP)

2012 AL West Champions – no Hudson, no Zito, no Mulder, no Harden

2013 AL West Champions – no Hudson, no Zito, n Mulder, no Harden

2014 AL Wild Card – no Hudson, no Zito, no Mulder, no Harden

If you had access to the internet, you could’ve fact-checked this yourself.

Brians Sticky Sock
Member
Brians Sticky Sock
3 months 13 days ago

mic drop, bitch…

NaterJ
Member
NaterJ
3 months 15 days ago

Incredible how fast the Brewers are turning over the roster. Definitely reduces the logjam in the corner OF, improves the OF defense, and adds another prospect.

Dooduh
Member
Dooduh
3 months 15 days ago

Not sure about the prospects they got in this deal, but yes they are doing a great deal rebuilding that team in general. That farm system is already in the top ten.

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