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The Khris Davis trade is a disgrace for the A’s

On February 6th, the Oakland A’s traded DH/OF Khris Davis, C Jonah Heim and RHP Dane Acker to the Texas Rangers for SS Elvis Andrus, C Aramis Garcia, and $13.5 million. I’ve been very vocal about the A’s lack of action this offseason. They’ve let Marcus Semien, Liam Hendriks, and Tommy La Stella walk in free agency. All three were key members of the first A’s team to win a postseason series in 14 years, and the A’s let them leave for nothing. According to FanGraphs’ 2021 season predictions, the Astros and Angels have leapfrogged the A’s by seven and four wins, respectively, while the A’s have sat on their hands. Oakland needed to make moves in order to stay competitive and hope to defend their AL West crown. But had I known that this was what the A’s were planning for this offseason, reportedly since November, I would’ve begged for a quiet offseason filled with nothing but minor league free agent signings and trades for relievers with less than 20 IP in the majors. Let’s not mince words. This trade is a salary dump, plain and simple. Failure to call it such is to do the bidding of John Fisher, a man who wants you to accept the A’s consistently being among the lowest-payroll teams in baseball. From the on-field perspective, this trade doesn’t move the needle for the A’s and arguably moves the needle backwards. From a fan perspective, that of someone who invests their time, money, and soul in the A’s organization, it is a slap in the face. Another in a long line of moves made this offseason that reinforce the fact that the A’s don’t care about their supporters. 

The A’s have a hole at shortstop. That is undeniable. When Marcus Semien signed with the Toronto Blue Jays, he left gargantuan cleats to fill, and the A’s simply lacked any players with a hope to fill them. Prior to the Elvis Andrus trade, the two men sitting at the top of the A’s shortstop depth chart, Chad Pinder and Vimael Machin, had just 268 combined innings at the position. Andrus is an upgrade for the A’s, giving them a player with major league experience at short. But even though Andrus improves the shortstop position for the A’s, it’s not a significant improvement. Quite simply, the fact that Andrus has experience at short is the only positive he has as a player. The 32 year old hasn’t had a season worth 1.5 fWAR since 2017, and has been worth a total of just 2.3 fWAR since 2018, a span encompassing 273 games and 1187 plate appearances. His bat is one of the worst in the majors, with his 73 wrC+ since 2018 being the third-worst in MLB among qualified batters, and his glove isn’t good enough to compensate for his weak bat. Unlike his first five years in the majors where his quality fielding compensated for his hitting, Andrus has been a wash defensively since 2018, having just 1 DRS, 1.6 UZR/150, and 3 OAA in 2353.2 innings. Put simply, Andrus is one of the worst shortstops and worst players in baseball, period. He’s been worth the fourth-lowest fWAR total among qualified shortstops and is tied for the 18th-lowest fWAR by a position player since 2018. For a team with championship aspirations, that’s inexcusable. The worst part is that Andrus is arguably not even the best shortstop in the A’s organization right now! ZiPS, a projection system made by Dan Syzmborski, projects Nick Allen to be worth more fWAR than Andrus in less plate appearances. Unfortunately, it is incredibly unlikely we see Nick Allen, at least in the first half of the 2021 season, so for the time being the A’s are stuck with Andrus. But the Andrus trade didn’t just affect the shortstop position for the A’s. With the departure of Khris Davis and Jonah Heim, the A’s became significantly weaker in the outfield, behind the plate, and at DH. Khris Davis has not been good for two years. That is a simple fact. The former home run king of baseball had just an 82 wRC+ over the last two years and has been worth -1.2 fWAR. There is still some potential in Davis, as he did make a swing change heading into the playoffs that immediately showed results, and ZiPS does project for him to have a 107 wRC+, but he is no longer the player he used to be. Despite this, his trading creates a knock-on effect for the A’s that could be disastrous. With Davis gone, the A’s need a new DH. In 2020, when Davis was benched for his poor performance, Mark Canha took his place in the lineup. With no other additions to the A’s roster this offseason, Canha continuing to fill the role of DH for the A’s seems like the most likely outcome. That means the A’s need to fill either left field or right field, depending on where Canha would’ve played if he didn’t need to slot in at DH.

With the A’s seemingly content on having Chad Pinder fill the right-handed part of a platoon at second base with either Vimael Machin or Tony Kemp, that leaves Stephen Piscotty, rule 5 pick Ka’ai Tom and Seth Brown to play the corners. After being one of the A’s best players in 2018, Piscotty has struggled hard, having just an 87 wRC+ and being worth 1 fWAR over his last 564 plate appearances. Injuries have kept the former Cardinal off the field, and they seem to have also impacted his play on it. His ISO of .153 over the last two years is well below his mark of .187 from 2015-2018, and he has also seen his K% rise to 24.3% after never being above 21.9% between 15-18. Ka’ai Tom was one of the A’s Rule 5 draft picks this year and exploded in AA and AAA after making a change to pull the ball in the air more. According to Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs, his average exit velocity and hard hit rate were both slightly above the MLB average in 2019, but it’s unknown if his power will translate against big league pitching. Seth Brown mashed opposing pitchers in AAA back in 2019 and earned a callup near the end of the season. But after his cup of coffee in 2019, he got just five plate appearances in 2020, in which he failed to reach base before being designated to the A’s alternate training site. So, to recap, due to the A’s need to replace Khris Davis at DH after trading him, their corner OF depth charts now consist of a player who has struggled to perform due to injuries, a Rule 5 draft pick and a career minor leaguer with just 88 major league plate appearances. That sounds like the depth chart of a team in the middle of a rebuild, not one that is trying to repeat as division champs! But that’s still not all of the on field consequences from the Davis trade. Jonah Heim was also a part of the trade. For most teams, trading a backup catcher isn’t a big deal. But for the A’s and starting C Sean Murphy, it is a big deal. Unfortunately, Murphy has a long history of injuries going all the way back to his college days. It’s part of the reason the A’s were able to draft him in the third round of the 2016 draft in the first place. Murphy has only played in 177 games since 2018. The A’s have to be prepared for the worst-case scenario in which Murphy has to miss an extended period of time. With Jonah Heim backing Murphy up, the A’s were prepared for a Murphy injury if he were to sustain one. But now, the A’s have Aramis Garcia and Austin Allen as understudies for Murphy. Garcia is a below-average defender according to scouts, and has crippling plate discipline that makes him unable to be an effective hitter, having a 34% strikeout rate. Allen is another poor defender who also struggles to hit quality pitching, having a 14.5% swinging strike rate. So, when you put it all together, the A’s get a nominal upgrade at shortstop, improvement at DH, major question marks in the outfield, and a depth chart for catchers built on a house of cards. The only good thing this trade brought the A’s was $13.5 million in cash. But it still remains to be seen if that will even be of used for on-field improvements, or if the money will go unspent by the A’s. 

The on-field part of this trade makes very little sense, but I would be more forgiving if it wasn’t another instance of Oakland’s refusal to show the fans that they care about putting a quality team on the field. This offseason has given A’s fans the 1-2 punch of Marcus Semien and Liam Hendriks leaving in free agency. It’s hard to think of players more synonymous with the A’s than those two. Since being traded to Oakland in 2014, Semien had the most games played of any position player on the A’s. It’s a similar story with Hendriks, as he has the most appearances of any pitcher on the A’s since a trade in the 2015-16 offseason brought him to Oakland. Players like Matt Chapman and Matt Olson may be the faces of the A’s, but nobody had the same familiarity and connection to A’s fans as Semien and Hendriks did. After the departure of the two most tenured members of the green and gold, that left Khris Davis as the A’s player with most games played as an Athletic. You would think that the A’s would throw their fans a bone and keep the closest thing they had to a franchise icon on the team, especially one that still has the potential to perform, and was good enough to receive an extension to stay with the team. But you would be wrong. Since Davis was making more than 10 million dollars, he had to leave. Now, as we head into the start of the 2021 season, Davis, Semien and Hendriks are gone. Three men A’s fans could rely on to be there game-in and game-out. Even when the A’s were well out of playoff contention, at least Davis was still hitting homers, Semien was a rock at shortstop, and Hendriks was striking people out. But, to be fair to John Fisher, it’s not like the A’s could’ve kept them all. Had they not traded Davis and matched the deals given to Hendriks and Semien, their payroll would’ve ballooned to an absurd $103 million, 19th most in baseball and still below the median MLB team payroll. Obviously the A’s couldn’t do that. So instead A’s fans had to say bye to Semein, bye to Hendriks, bye to Davis. Just like how we had to say bye to Donaldson, to Cespedes, to Gray. And like Hudson, Tejada, and Mulder before them. The revolving door of the Oakland A’s continues to spin

I keep finding it harder and harder to work up the emotional energy to invest in the A’s. They make baffling moves and routinely insult their fans year after year by either trading or letting players adored by their fanbase walk in free agency. It’s been a long time since the constant shuffle of new players in and out of the A’s organization has become more synonymous with Oakland than their kelly green jerseys or the Oakland Coliseuim’s massive foul ground  Why should I turn on the TV to watch an A’s game when the players on the field are going to be completely different in just three years? How can I focus on the game when I have that Sword of Damocles hanging over me?  Is the A’s success worth the repeated heartbreak of seeing players I love leave the team? As the days go on, I’m finding it harder and harder to answer that question.

Elizabeth Tsai

A lifelong baseball fan, I've supported the Oakland A's through good times and bad. A numbers geek, I love diving into the stats to find any fascinating stories not obvious to the basic eye test. Proud transgender woman

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