A left field situation that appeared murky for the A’s heading into spring training suddenly came into focus Friday.
Oakland acquired a right-handed power bat in Milwaukee’s Khris Davis, sending to the Brewers highly touted catching prospect Jacob Nottingham and minor league right-hander Bubby Derby in return.
To clear a space for Davis on the 40-man roster, left-hander Sean Nolin was designated for assignment. That the A’s added a legitimate middle-of-the-order threat this close to spring training is big for a club that finished 12th in the American League in home runs (146) last season and didn’t have a player with more than 77 RBI.
General manager David Forst immediately anointed Davis, 28, the A’s new everyday left fielder.
[STIGLICH: A's acquire OF Khris Davis in trade with Brewers]
“We talk about right-handed power here every year, and Khris adds that,” Forst said. “We look forward to having Danny (Valencia) here for a full year, because he added that for a couple months last year, and we fully expect Billy (Butler) to bounce back. So you’ve got the making of a really good middle of the lineup right now and a chance to have some power.”
The move means that veteran outfielder Coco Crisp moves into a sort of utility role, able to fill in at left field, center or even designated hitter. However, Crisp’s role only becomes a talking point if the 36-year-old proves he’s at full strength after chronic neck trouble limited him to an average of 85 games the past two seasons.
“We expect Khris to be in left field, but Coco is healthy right now which is great,” Forst said. “There’s a lot of ways Coco would help us. He can play center, DH. There’s still at-bats to be had in LF. If Coco is in fact healthy on Opening Day, there’s a lot of ways he can help us.”
Yet to be determined is how Mark Canha finds his at-bats, as he comes off an impressive rookie season in which he split time between first base and left. Right now, the plan is for Canha to platoon with Yonder Alonso at first, but Forst added:
“I think Mark is going to find a way to get at-bats. He did last year, and will. You know how the 25-man roster changes, how the lineup changes day to day.”
Davis hit .247 with 27 home runs and 66 RBI in 121 games last season, missing several weeks midseason after tearing cartilage in his right knee that required surgery. He’s a .250 career hitter with 60 homers over parts of three seasons with the Brewers. Interestingly, the right-handed hitter fared better last season against right-handed pitching than left-handed, the same reverse splits that Canha showed.
He is under team control through 2019 and isn’t eligible for arbitration until next winter, the kind of target the A’s often search for in trades. With the Brewers in rebuilding mode and looking to go young, Forst said the A’s viewed Milwaukee as a potential match for the kind of hitter they wanted.
For Oakland to get Davis, it cost Nottingham, a 20-year-old ranked by mlb.com as the No. 8 catching prospect in the game. The A’s also gave up Derby, a sixth-round pick last June.
Nolin was considered a rotation candidate entering this spring. He went 1-2 with a 5.28 ERA in six starts with the A’s last season. The team has 10 days to trade, release or send Nolin to the minors if he clears waivers.