With Opening Day nearing, Chris Davis is staring at the prospect of a fourth stint in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. Mitch Moreland is the favorite to win the Rangers’ first base job. Mike Napoli will get some DH starts along with Michael Young, who was booted off third base when Adrian Beltre signed. It’s possible that Young is shipped elsewhere, but the three years and $48 remaining on his contract make that unlikely unless Texas includes lots of cash or Nolan Ryan treats a rival GM like Robin Ventura, applying a vice-like headlock and shouting, “eat the contract!”
If he’s destined for Round Rock, Davis told Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com that he’d prefer the Rangers to let him get a fresh start in a new organization:
I just want to be in the big leagues, whether it’s here or somewhere else,” Davis said. “In all fairness, I’ve done everything the Rangers have asked me to do. I’ve been a good sport about it. I’ve had a smile on my face and a good attitude about it. When it comes down to it, the fair thing to do is to give me a shot either here or somewhere else.
Of course, Texas is under no obligation to accommodate Davis’ request. The 25-year-old has a minor league option remaining, and the club could call on his bat if Moreland struggles or Ryan does manage to put the death lock on some unsuspecting GM, who then has no choice but to take Young.
But let’s assume for the moment that the Rangers are actively shopping Davis as a first base / third base / DH trade chip (the 6-foot-3, 230 pounder is considered a liability at third, though). Where might he end up?
MLBTradeRumors listed the Diamondbacks, Marlins, Indians, Rays and Blue Jays as potential fits for Davis. For 2011, Oliver projects a .342 wOBA from the lefty slugger. How does that compare to the incumbents that Davis might challenge on those teams?
It’s not clear that Davis is better than The Muscle or Miranda, and the D-Backs already have their own first base prospect in purgatory in Allen. If Arizona could stomach Davis’ defense at third, though, he’d certainly be an offensive upgrade over the geriatric Mora/Blum platoon of doom.
1B Gaby Sanchez: .338
Davis could be a fit at third if Florida deems Dominguez in need of more minor league time, though again Davis’ defense would cut into his value. In any case, Dominguez will be at third shortly, and as Joe Pawlikowski recently noted, the Marlins may already have to figure out how Sanchez fits in if Chris Coghlan shifts from center field to left and Logan Morrison heads back to first base. It’s hard to see where Davis would find ABs long-term, though Florida does have bullpen options that could entice Texas if Neftali Feliz becomes a starter.
1B Matt LaPorta: .323
DH Travis Hafner: .342
LaPorta’s career has flat lined. And while Lonnie Chisenhall is just a call away at Triple-A, Davis could be an offensive upgrade at third in the interim. Still, the Indians might want to see if CC Sabathia trade acquisition LaPorta and Cliff Lee pickup Donald will produce anything other than heartache. Pronk is 33 and has a bum shoulder, but he’s still a good hitter. And considering he’s owed about $29 million over the next two seasons ($13M in each of 2011 and 2012, plus a buyout for 2013), he’s not going anywhere.
1B Dan Johnson: .359
Oliver is bullish about the 31-year-old Johnson’s chances of getting on base and popping extra-base hits over a full season. Davis is considerably younger, but he’d likely post an OBP 30-40 points lower than Johnson for a Rays team still vigorously pursuing a playoff spot.
1B Adam Lind: .341
DH Edwin Encarnacion: .339
Lind is expected to move to first base for the Jays. Even if Jose Bautista moves off third base and plays more in an outfielder corner, Brett Lawrie is close to the majors. But Davis could be a plausible alternative at DH to Encarnacion, who has missed large chunks of time the past two years with wrist and forearm injuries.
Davis’ relative youth and power potential will attract interest if the Rangers put him on the market. But as this exercise shows, it’s hard to find positions around the league at which he’s a clear upgrade. As a low-OBP slugger with negative defensive value, Davis is more likely to bring back a decent ‘pen arm in a trade than a quality prospect.
A recent graduate of Duquesne University, David Golebiewski is a contributing writer for Fangraphs, The Pittsburgh Sports Report and Baseball Analytics. His work for Inside Edge Scouting Services has appeared on ESPN.com and Yahoo.com, and he was a fantasy baseball columnist for Rotoworld from 2009-2010. He recently contributed an article on Mike Stanton's slugging to The Hardball Times Annual 2012. Contact David at email@example.com and check out his work at Journalist For Hire.