Rajai Davis, 36, is no longer a spry young outfielder. But if last year proved anything, he still has the wheels to keep up with those darn whippersnapper millennials on the base paths.
Playing on a one-year, $5.2 million deal with the Cleveland Indians, Davis stole 43 bases — the most since 2013 — and was an overall excellent base runner. He also gave us arguably the biggest moment of the season with a home run in the eighth inning of the World Series; one that would have been the biggest moment in 68 years if Game 7 ended differently. But does all that mean the Indians should take him in for another season?
For all the good Davis did with his legs on the bases and in the outfield, his bat was not great. He finished a .249/.306/.388 slash, good for a 85 wRC+ — his worst since 2012. He had particular trouble against left-handed hitters, slashing .235/.296/.374 against southpaws in 2016. Even with the struggles against lefties, and the overall drop in offensive production, he still hit a career-high 12 home runs for the Tribe.
Steamer seems pretty optimistic in its projections for Davis, pegging him for a .249/.302/.282 slash and another 14 home runs and 39 stolen bases.
Everyone always talks about Mike Napoli’s veteran leadership in the clubhouse, and rightfully so, but I feel like Davis’s leadership was overlooked in turn. When Lindor got TOOTBLAN’d in the World Series, it was Davis he immediately went to in the dugout to talk it out. Following the lead of Davis, Cleveland baserunners led the AL in stolen bases with 134.
At this point in his career, Davis probably is not expecting more than one year deals to string him along until he’s ready to retire. The issue for the Indians, however, is that Davis does not really solve their outfield problem. He could be another cog, similar to Brandon Guyer, but he is not an end-all solution.
I am on the fence about this one, but if it comes down to adding nothing in free agency or another flier on Davis, I say go for it. It’s hard to imagine there will be a bidding war for his services.