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Toronto Acquires Davis, Increases Outfield Options

November 17, 2010

When the Oakland Athletics acquired David DeJesus from the Kansas City Royals one week ago there appeared to be a logjam created within their outfield as the team simply had too many players for the positions available. To further complicate the situation, four of the eight outfielders that were on the team’s 40-man roster as of this morning have the ability to play all three outfield positions with relative ease. Incidentally, the team completed a trade this afternoon that alleviates some of that clutter.

Oakland dealt speedster Rajai Davis to the Toronto Blue Jays this afternoon. In return, the Athletics will receive a pair of minor league relievers in Trystan Magnuson and Daniel Farquhar. Magnuson was drafted in 2007 and spent the 2010 season with AA New Hampshire where he posted a 3-0 record and 2.58 ERA over 46 appearances. Farquhar is a 2008 draftee who worked alongside Magnuson in the New Hampshire bullpen, posting a 4-3 record, 3.52 ERA, and 17 saves for the Fisher Cats. Both pitchers were ranked amongst Toronto’s Top 30 prospects prior to the 2010 season by Baseball America.

Davis served as the Athletics’ primary center fielder each of the past two seasons largely due to his speed and ability to cover a lot of ground. But with the team’s acquisition of DeJesus he became expendable and could have potentially been non-tendered. Over his five year career he is a .281/.330/.383 hitter over 1,455 plate appearances. Once on base Davis does use his speed well, stealing a total of 143 bases in that time, a 79.0% success rate in his 181 attempts. Yet, with a career ISO of .102 and just 12 total home runs it is evident that power is not a significant part of his game. His limitations from an offensive standpoint likely place him more in a fourth outfielder role, especially compared to the other outfielders currently on the Blue Jays roster.

Incumbent center fielder Vernon Wells will certainly remain in the starting lineup. His contract alone – $86 Million remaining over the next four seasons – will dictate that. Wells, however, isn’t the best defensive center fielder on the roster (career UZR of –38.0) and has long needed a move to one of the corners. The biggest problem facing the Blue Jays with regards to making such a move is that there has not been a viable candidate to displace him in center field over the past few seasons.

The Blue Jays received a major surprise in 2010 with the breakout season of Jose Bautista. His 54 home runs let all of the Major Leagues by a wide margin. It remains to be seen if he can repeat such a performance but there are many that believe it was not a total fluke. Bautista split his time between right field and third base and it is unclear where he’ll spend the bulk of his time in 2011. Ultimately that decision will largely depend on what other moves the organization makes this winter.

Travis Snider has been one of the brightest young players on the team’s roster and should be ready to take over right field on a full time basis in 2011. He had been primed for a breakout season in 2010 before suffering a setback due to a wrist injury that caused him to spend much of the season’s first half in the minor leagues rehabilitating.  Snider should come into Spring Training in line to compete for a starting role.

Fred Lewis, who had been acquired for next to nothing the previous offseason, received a good deal of playing time in left field over the course of the 2010 season. Over 480 plate appearances he put up a .262/.332/.414 line which was just below his career averages. Lewis likely would have filled the fourth outfielder role in 2011 but with Davis coming into the fold his spot on this roster could now be in jeopardy and he could be a non-tender candidate.

The final candidate for the outfield would be Adam Lind. Lind is capable of playing the outfield, primarily in left field, but spent most of 2010 filling the designated hitter role. His offensive production slipped from his 2009 campaign but he still was a big part of the Toronto offense. Like Bautista, his position for 2011 remains unclear. Lind could return as the primary DH but also could fill the team’s void at first base, again depending on what other moves are made between now and Opening Day.

Ultimately the acquisition of Davis gives the Blue Jays a number of options to consider and a great deal of roster flexibility. He could be used primarily as a fourth outfielder if the team decides to go with some combination of Wells, Bautista, and Snider as their starting outfield. Alternatively they could play Davis in center field, moving Wells to left field, which would potentially improve their overall outfield defense. The team has options at this point and the remainder of their winter moves will likely play a large role in dictating how the lineup unfolds come April.

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