For the second time in less than a week, the Oakland A's acquired a slugging first baseman. Earlier in the week, the A's signed free agent first baseman/DH Billy Butler to a three-year deal. On Sunday, they acquired first baseman Ike Davis and international bonus slot 86 from the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for international bonus slot 27. The A's also designated outfielder Andrew Brown for assignment to make room for Davis on their 40-man roster.
From 2010-2012, Davis was a central part of the New York Mets' everyday line-up. The Mets' 2008 first-round pick debuted in 2010 and posted a 791 OPS in 147 games. In 2011, Davis was limited to 36 games, but he had a 925 OPS and seven homers. He followed that up with a 2012 campaign that saw him hit 32 homers and drive-in 90 runs.
The 2013 campaign was a trying one for Davis, who got off to a slow start and found himself back in Triple-A for a short time in the middle of the season. He had a solid second half of the year (954 OPS in 40 games), but Davis still found himself the odd-man out a few weeks into the 2014 season with the Mets. He was traded on April 18 to the Pirates, as Lucas Duda took over the everyday first base job in New York.
Davis played regularly for Pittsburgh and hit .235/.343/.378 for the Pirates. After the season, the Pirates decided to move third baseman Pedro Alvarez across the diamond to first. With Davis slated to make at least $4 million next season in his second year of arbitration eligibility, Pittsburgh elected not to incur that cost for a player who would likely be a back-up for them behind Alvarez. They designated Davis for assignment on Thursday to make room for prospects needing to be protected for the Rule 5 draft. Then they swung a deal with the A's, acquiring more international bonus cap money in the process.
The A's are hoping that Davis can get back to his power-hitting ways after an inconsistent showing over his last two seasons. Davis cut down on his strike-outs a lot in 2014, but that seemed to come at the expense of his power, especially the first half of the year. The A's would likely be fine with Davis returning to the player he was with New York, when he hit for power, walked a decent amount and also struck-out his fair share. Davis won't turn 28 until March, so he is still young enough that a power decline can be seen as a one-year aberration and not a trend. Davis didn't play much against left-handed pitchers last year and struggled badly when he did face them. He would likely be a platoon player for the A's, facing right-handers almost exclusively. A life-long National League player up to this point in his career, Davis has a 798 OPS in Interleague play.
Davis joins an A's roster that already has several first base options with Brandon Moss, Nate Freiman, Kyle Blanks, Butler and Stephen Vogt all first base options. The A's also have John Jaso, who could see some time at first when not catching. By acquiring Davis, the A's have given themselves more options in terms of either trading or keeping all of those aforementioned first base options. The A's can also deal a corner outfielder now, if they find a good match, and move Moss back to the outfield.
Brown has now been designated for assignment twice this off-season. The A's claimed Brown off of waivers from the New York Mets earlier in the off-season. It wouldn't be surprising to see Brown claimed again by a team looking for a right-handed power-hitter.