One of the top power hitters in the league, Khris “Khrush” Davis recently signed a 1 year deal to avoid arbitration with the A’s. Worth 10.5 million, Davis will once again be the cornerstone for a rebuilding organization.
Behind only Giancarlo Stanton, 86, Davis launched 85 home runs the past two seasons. But wasn’t it just three years ago that Davis was a member of the Milwaukee Brewers. And ready to play a pivotal role. We’re going to revisit this trade, and the effects of it on today’s roster.
Starting the Rebuild
When Ron Roenicke was fired in April of 2015 after a historically bad start, the Milwaukee Brewers finally started to turn a page in the organization. Their 2011 core faded, and got old. They were going to rebuild. With a new GM and manager the Milwaukee Brewers were going to start clean.
In 2015 they shipped off Yovani Gallardo to the Rangers, then during the 2015 season they traded Aramis Ramirez. In the span of two years, the Milwaukee Brewers cleaned out nearly the rest of the roster, trading away Carlos Gomez, Mike Fiers, Jonathon Lucroy and other notable players. However, there was one player thought to stay with the Milwaukee Brewers through their rebuild. That player was Khris Davis.
Emergence of Khrush
Drafted in 2009, Davis emerged from the minors in 2013, midway through the season, and immediately made an impact. In 153 plate appearances Davis posted a 158 wRC+, hit 11 home runs and was worth 1.1 WAR. In a very short stint, he impressed.
After giving the Crew a beacon of hope for the 2014 season, Davis took a step back hitting only 22 home runs. Problems in left field started to emerge, and an absurdly low walk percentage, created questions about his future. Was he going to stay with the team through the course of the rebuild? Or was he going to be traded for a couple prospects? While not physically enormous, Khrush had the physical peripherals to hit 30-40 home runs consistently.
In 2015, Davis’s last season in a Brewers uniform, he mirrored his 2014 season. Again, he was a liability in left, but he put up 27 home runs. Remember, this was a time where pitchers dominated and home runs were low. But a whopping amount of strikeouts had the Milwaukee Brewers thinking, was this breakout ever going to happen? Or should he be shipped, like every other tradable player on the roster?
Turns out the fire sale included him. Just before Spring Training of 2016, the Brewers and A’s agreed on a deal. The Milwaukee Brewers decided that he wasn’t worth holding through the rebuild, so they dumped him to the A’s for two prospects, Jacob Nottingham and Bubba Derby. And boy, that would backfire.
Short Term Reactions to the trade
When this deal was completed, it seemed a win-win for both organizations. Both teams had finished with 68 wins the previous years, but the A’s weren’t looking to clear house. They desperately needed power from the right side, and Khrush brought them that. Obviously, they didn’t know he was going to hit 40+ home runs, but they knew they were going to get a defined power hitter for a secured amount of time.
Similar stylistically to a Nelson Cruz, the A’s were going to get a hitter who smashes the ball, but strikes out a lot. However, the problem was his defense. Speed was not the issue. The main problem was throwing the baseball. His arm was and still is impossibly weak, and you can look at DRS and UZR for proof of that.
For the Brew Crew, it seemed like another smart deal. Both players were essentially lottery tickets, but they had serious upside that could make an impact down the road.
Jacob Nottingham, the centerpiece in the trade, spent his time in Low-A and Middle-A, slashing an impressive .309/.364/.493. Even though this was A ball, a catcher hitting these kind of numbers raise eyebrows. Now would this carry on as he trekked through the minor leagues?
With Derby, things were more or less the same. He was a lottery ticket that could throw hard, and down the road he could be something. At this time, the A’s won the trade through certainty, while the Brewers also came out winners because of the potential upside.
The inevitable breakout involving Khris Davis finally happened. But not in Milwaukee. In 2016, Khris Davis slugged 42 home runs and hit .277 ISO. What makes this more impressive is where he did it. The Oakland Alameda Coliseum is one of the most pitcher friendly parks in the league, so putting up almost twice as many dingers in the Coliseum vs Miller Park was mind boggling. And very frustrating for the Crew. Posting near identical numbers in 2017, it looked clear from the A’s perspective that they pulled a major heist and won the trade by the largest of margins.
What about that upside the Milwaukee Brewers were looking for from Nottingham? After dazzling with the bat in Oakland’s low and high A’s affiliate, Nottingham immediately wilted in 2016 and 2017 posting .234/.295/.347 and .209/.326/.369 respectively. At 22, he certainly can turn it around. But when the Brewers traded for him, the main focal point was his bat. After posting those numbers, there is less optimism for him in the future.
In 2016, Derby started in High A as a starter and struggled mightily posting a 5.59 ERA in 132 innings. Like many other relievers at this stage, being a starter was not adept for him, so in 2017 he converted into a reliever and posted very solid numbers in AA and AAA.
Like stated previously, Derby was a lottery ticket, as he only had 34 innings in the minors to his name. While he did show he was capable in the minors, expecting him to dazzle when and if he gets his shot in Major Leagues is foolish.
Effects of it Now
While it is true the Brewers have a surplus of outfielders, it is also true Davis has hit the second most amount of home runs the past two seasons. And in one of the most pitcher friendly parks in the league. It wouldn’t be hard to see him consistently hitting 50 plus home runs for three or four years at Miller.
If we had Davis playing in Milwaukee the past two seasons, many things would be different, including the possibility of not having Santana’s breakout season. The outfield is a mess right now, but with Davis we could easily have traded for him for a frontline pitcher. Then again, maybe Khrush needed a change of scenery despite the fact that Miller Park is more hitter friendly. Maybe playing in front of a new fan base changed things.
These are all speculations, but two things are for sure, the Milwaukee Brewers could be even more versatile in terms of trading for an ace, and this trade was one of the few misses Slingin’ Stearns made the past two years.
The Milwaukee Brewers made a bunch of pivotal trades that resulted in a very successful season. This was not one of them. While forgotten, it’s a tough pill to swallow seeing Khrush hitting 40 home runs in another uniform. However, Stearns has made many successful trades. It’s going to be interesting in what else does he have under his sleeve.