Yesterday, the Toronto Blue Jays made a minor deal with the Oakland As by acquiring outfielder, Rajai Davis. In return the Jays sent a pair of minor league relievers, Trystan Magnuson and Daniel Farquhar, to Oakland. Both players spent all of 2010 with the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats. Although he'll be thirty next season, Davis still has three years of arbitration remaining. That should keep his salary down while providing the Jays with help in some key areas.
The first thing to jump out about Davis is his speed on the basepaths. In 2010, he swiped 50 bases in 61 attempts, an excellent 81.9 percent success rate. On his career, spanning back to 2006, Davis has stolen 143 bases against just 38 failed attempts. Davis nearly stole as many bases as the Blue Jays did as a whole last season. The Jays swiped just 54 bags last season.
Now, stealing lots of bases does not equate to winning games, one only need and look at the one team that stole less bases than the Jays. That would be the World Champion San Francisco Giants. But having someone with this level of base stealing ability is never a bad occurrence. That speed is also a key factor for Davis at the plate. He is not a power hitter, he doesn't even have average power, with a career isolated power of just .102. To help paint that picture a little better, Davis has just a dozen homers in 1455 trips to the plate.
Without the power, Davis has routinely hit plenty of groundballs and used his speed to dig out base hits. Davis' BABIP has been better than the league average in three of the last four seasons, including 2010 when he had a career low 15.5 percent line drive rate. Keeping your BABIP high with a low line drive rate is awfully tough but he was able to do it successfully with his speed a key culprit for why.
In his career Davis has hit .281 with a .326 BABIP. Davis doesn't walk or strikeout much making his ability to keep his average up paramount to being a productive hitter. Davis drew a walk in just 4.6 percent of his at-bats last season, well below the league average and well off his 6.7 percent mark in 2009. If he walked more he'd be a prototypical lead-off hitter but as it stands he's probably better suited to hitting lower down the line-up. Maybe not so much with the Jays though as they don't have a clear cut choice for a lead-off hitter in 2011.
Finding a spot for Davis in the line-up is jumping ahead a bit with incumbents Vernon Wells, Fred Lewis, and Travis Snider lined up as the ideal outfield trio. The defensively challenged Adam Lind and third baseman/right fielder/home run king Jose Bautista might also be looking for outfield playing time next season. That being said, Davis is considered an above average defensive outfielder capable of handling all three outfield spots. Right away he's probably the best centerfield option for the Jays, from a purely defensive standpoint.
Davis has played 342 games in center, 57 in left and 35 in right during his career. With Lewis, Snider, and Lind all hitting left-handed there should be plenty of opportunities to get the right-handed hitting Davis into the line-up against left handed pitching. Davis has a career .331 wOBA against lefties, compared to a .308 wOBA against righties. That difference comes mostly from hitting .292 against lefties to .277 versus right-handers and walking 2.7 percent more against lefites than righties. His isolated power and BABIP are essentially even against either type of pitcher.
How much playing time he gets will determine the end value of this trade. But for a pair of minor league relievers the Jays added a proven base stealer who can effectively play three outfield positions and hit lefties, all at a reasonable cost. A small move sure, but it's good to see Alex Anthopoulos go out and address a need without appearing to give up too much in the process.
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