Extension talks between Khris Davis and the A’s have been taking place for over a year, and the slugger reiterated to media members (including MLB.com’s Jane Lee) on Sunday that his desire is to remain in Oakland. To this end, Davis is also willing to take a salary cut to make an extension happen, telling Lee that he would be willing to accept $10MM per year if the A’s were to extend through at least the 2021 season.
This would represent a pretty significant salary reduction for Davis, who is set to earn $16.5MM in 2019 after he and the Athletics avoided arbitration by settling on a contract in Davis’ final year of arb-eligibility. Davis, however, recognized that his market could be limited in free agency next winter. He’ll be 33 years old on Opening Day of the 2020 season, and he doesn’t offer a well-rounded game — beyond his power bat, Davis is a sub-standard baserunner and defender, and best suited for a DH spot at this stage in his career. Though he has been a solidly above-average hitter overall (career 125 wRC+) thanks to his huge power, Davis also isn’t a big on-base threat or known to post a high batting average, as per his well-documented streak of four straight seasons with a .247 batting average.
“I don’t want to break the bank. I want to be happy playing baseball. I’m not trying to max out the dollars,” Davis said. “$16 million, this is the top for me. I don’t want more than that. I’ll probably have to take a cut, and that’s fine, as long as I’m here.”
It’s an unusually public stance for a player to take, and perhaps one that Davis’ agent and/or the MLBPA might have concerns about given how the union is facing a league-wide slowdown on free agent salaries. From Oakland’s perspective, the club may feel that it has enough leverage to perhaps avoid an extension whatsoever, taking the gamble that Davis might still be eager to re-sign at a discount after the season, even if he posts more big numbers. Extending Davis even at a modest two-year deal for around $20MM through 2021 still carries some risk for the A’s now, as a lower-payroll team like the Athletics can hardly afford even a $10MM payroll albatross should Davis’ production fall off.
Still, in a vacuum, Davis’ comments aren’t too far removed from any highly-paid veteran player acknowledging that their next contract will be of lesser value, or a player who prioritizes a certain team or playing for a contender over a wider scope of free agent choices. Davis’ home run totals have also allowed him to capture $32MM over his three arbitration years, so he is already more than secure financially. As Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle noted earlier this winter, contract length “is far more important to Davis than the annual value of the contract,” and Davis told reporters today that he hopes to keep wearing an A’s jersey for “at least three more years.”
“It’s not a good thing being a free agent right now,” Davis said. “I’m already 31. I don’t know if I’m too old. There’s a lot of things that run through my head.“