A’s not done after key addition of Davis

The Oakland Athletics recorded 50 stolen bases as a team in 2016 — the fifth-fewest in baseball and just seven more than outfielder Rajai Davis swiped himself.

It goes without saying that their overall lack of speed was an issue in dire need of a remedy. By bringing Davis back to Oakland on a one-year deal the front office has filled said need, but has no interest in resting on its laurels.

In a conference call with Bay Area media on Wednesday, general manager David Forst said there are other openings in the lineup that could be filled before the team reports to camp in February:

“There is both (time and money). We will continue to explore the market — I think we have a couple holes that could be filled still.”

While Forst stopped short of mentioning any names included on the team’s target list, he did acknowledge a need for a right-handed bat, adding that the addition could come in “any number of spots.”

One such player that the A’s have contacted is free agent slugger Mark Trumbo, who led the majors in home runs with 47 a year ago. In its current state their is certainly an opening in the lineup for Trumbo, who could be penciled into left field with A’s 2016 home run leader Khris Davis (42) moving to the designated hitter role with which he has expressed comfort in filling.

Oakland previously made a run at another righty slugger, Edwin Encarnacion, but were unable to reach an agreement with the former Toronto Blue Jay instead watching him sign with Cleveland.

With $37 million committed to seven veteran contracts — which includes Davis — and another $11 million to Billy Butler, Oakland will still be nearly $20 million shy of its 2016 total player salary. That total would be enough to acquire Trumbo, who appears poised for a contract in the four years, $60 million range.

One thing that will benefit in the A’s attempts to sign Trumbo is Davis’ willingness to return to the center field position he has not played on a daily basis since 2009, in his first stint in Oakland.

Said Forst:

“Raj is going to get the majority of the time in center field. … He’s always played well in center field … And he still has his legs, obviously, that was a big part of the attraction for us. There’s a group of guys who have kept up that skill into their mid-to-late 30s, and Raj is clearly one of those guys.”

The GM lauded the 36 year-old’s work ethic and conditioning. Davis said in a conference call that losing the World Series, despite his own late-inning heroics, has not deterred that work:

“It’s been rather tough this offseason — quick offseason — but you still have to focus and get work in, and that’s what we’re doing right now.”

He will bring more than just that work ethic when he reports to the Oakland clubhouse. Over the past two seasons Davis has racked up some postseason experience to go along with his well-traveled veteran status. In the past six years, since parting ways with the A’s in 2010, the 11-year vet said he has been able to watch and learn from some of the games current great players.

Playing alongside Jose Bautista in Toronto and Miguel Cabrera in Detroit gave him a wealth of knowledge to impart on his new mates. That along with the defense, speed and winning mentality he brings to the field.

Those additions, along with the young talent that excited him with the notion of returning to the Bay Area, he said, has Oakland primed to repeat the worst-to-first journey he was part of in Cleveland:

“Before I went to Cleveland, they were a .500 team. Then they won the Central and went to Game 7 of the World Series. I think we have here with Oakland good young pitching. There are some good arms. It’s about gaining confidence and playing good defensive behind him. We have some guys who can play on this team. I think with a little experience we’ll be just fine.”

NOTES

According to general manager David Forst, both catcher Josh Phegley and pitcher Chris Bassitt are on schedule in their return from 2016 surgeries. Both, Forst said, will be reporting to Arizona “soon” to begin pre-season workouts. … Infielder Jed Lowrie is also expected to be at or near 100 percent when Spring Training begins, though Forst said the team would likely ease him back into game action.


Kalama Hines is SFBay’s Oakland Athletics beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @HineSight_2020 on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of A’s baseball.