Regarding Chris Davis

I addressed potential first base alternatives over the weekend and named Rangers 1B/3B Chris Davis as one. Today, Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated floated his name again:

The Rays may look into offense with Manny Ramirez gone. Johnny Damon isn’t going to keep up his pace of current heroics (five straight walkoff hits). The Rangers’ Chris Davis would be a great pickup for them.

Heyman has beaten the Davis-to-Tampa-Bay drum throughout the offseason fiercely. Perhaps Heyman is working solely off his gut here, but there is a chance he knows something –or someone—more than the rest of us, so let’s give the idea a fair share of attention. (Yes, Scott Boras is Davis’ agent.)

Davis shares a few similarities with Dan Johnson. Both are left-handed hitters capable of playing first and third base with outstanding minor league offensive track records. Yet, neither is a sure thing in the majors anymore. Johnson has actually out-produced the 25-year-old, with a career line of .239/.338/.411 (as opposed to Davis’ .248/.300/.459 offering). And that’s without taking park affects into account.

While the power is legitimate, Davis has issues with plate discipline and against left-handed pitching. He has drawn 59 walks in 872 big league plate appearances while striking out 278 times –or a .21 walk-to-strikeout ratio. For comparison, Sean Rodriguez’s career walk-to-strikeout ratio is .24. Some may float a Carlos Pena comparison, but ‘Los held a walk-to-strikeout ratio over .40 by the end of his year-25 season.

Consider PECOTA’s top five comparable players for Davis: Mike Jacobs, Hank Blalock, Alex Gordon, Travis Ishikawa, and Jeremy Hermida. Each were highly considered prospects at one time or another who –for whatever reasons—flamed out. In some cases, like Blalock, those flameouts occurred after a few solid seasons. It’s not impossible to see Davis turning it around, but make no mistake: his upside does not appear that of an all-world first baseman.

It is impossible to know the transaction cost for Davis, but one could guess they may float him for a right-handed reliever as July nears. The Rays could theoretically accommodate that, but trading Joel Peralta, Kyle Farnsworth, or Juan Cruz is not possible until June unless the player gives permission. Who knows if the Rangers can even ask for a price that steep anyways, as their leverage is limited. Davis simply doesn’t fit the roster anymore now that the Rangers have Adrian Beltre and Mitch Moreland at the corners, Mike Napoli at DH, and Michael Young on the bench.

At the right price, acquiring Davis makes sense, even if his upside is limited to a bench role or as a second division starter.

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