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Khris Davis Extension A Good First Step For A’s Front Office

(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

The writing was on the wall. Khris Davis was slugging his way to the top of the Major League Baseball home run leaderboard and into the upper echelon of contemporary home run hitters. It felt with every home run, however, that he was also inching closer to an exit from Oakland. The story was all-too-common for A’s fans, but the team ensured Davis’ tale had a different ending by inking him to a two-year extension that keeps him in the East Bay through the 2021 season.

Every day that went by without an extension for Davis felt like a scene in a sad movie where A’s fans already knew the result. All the clutch home runs and inhuman, opposite field moon shots were fun, but they were also going to push Davis out of the A’s price range.

A trade involving Davis would’ve landed with a dull thud for a fan base so used to seeing their stars and favorite players leave. It’s the harsh truth that comes with a team famous for pinching pennies, and a front office run by Billy Beane who’s been forced to treat fan favorites more like currency for a rebuild than assets for victory.

An extension for Davis under the A’s financial circumstances feels like something of a miracle, and it ostensibly is given that he’s getting $33.5 million in 2020 and 2021, along with his $16.5 million already due this year. The $50 million across three seasons is the second-largest contract in A’s history according to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. It’s still probably an underpay. Less than $17 million per year for a player who can be penciled in for 40 home runs is a bargain.

In a game increasingly defined by power, Davis is the gold standard, and Oakland shelled out the cash necessary to keep him. He’s finished in the top three in home runs in each of the last three years, and no player since the start of the 2016 season has more home runs than the A’s designated hitter.

It helps that Davis loves playing in Oakland. He was traded to the A’s from Milwaukee before the 2016 campaign.

“Oakland has been a special place for me since I arrived,” Davis said in a statement released by the team. “I love playing here in front of our fans, and my teammates make this feel like a family. I never hid the fact that I wanted to stay in Oakland because that is how I feel, and I’m glad that I can continue to call the city of Oakland my baseball home. This team has a bright future, and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.”

Not only did the A’s do right by Davis, who helped power them to 97 wins and their first playoff berth since 2014 last year, but they signaled to their fan base that things are changing. Or at least trying to.

All the work they’ve done to change the Coliseum and turn it into a more vibrant, fan-friendly ballpark has been admirable. Their transition from traditional season tickets to their A’s-Access program to try and mitigate some of the cost of attending games might be revolutionary. None of that was or is going to matter if they don’t stop the cycle of trading every good player and fan favorite as soon as they were due to get expensive.

The Davis extension is a new phenomenon. It’s a sign that a fan wanting to buy his jersey can do so with confidence he’ll be around for at least two more years. It’s a sign that the other young stars on the club like Matt Chapman and Matt Olson might be on the team’s radar for extensions when the time comes. It’s a sign that buying into what the A’s are building is again an option for fans who may be scarred by nearly two decades of the same, vicious circle that saw so many star players leave and have success in other uniforms.

On the other hand, it was an easy call because Davis didn’t demand the money a premier power hitter would typically get. He took a contract that likely puts him south of what he would’ve earned on the open market. The deal was a home run for the A’s, but it’s worth wondering whether they would’ve reached an agreement had he demanded something in the range of $22 million per year.

Beane insists the move represents a changing time for the A’s, a sentiment he also expressed following the team’s strong end to the 2017 season.

“Khris is a special talent who has made a tremendous impact both on and off the field during his time here,” he said in a statement released by the team. “He’s become one of the most beloved players to have worn an A’s uniform, and his commitment to Oakland has never wavered. He made it clear from the beginning that he wants to play, and win, right here. We’re thrilled that Khris will continue to be an A.”

Extending Davis was certainly a good start for the A’s in their quest to put together a team that annually draws 2 million fans and goes beyond the first round of the playoffs. It can’t be the only step though. The front office has to make a habit of spending to keep talent, because it’s clear to anyone paying attention that Oakland is onto something with their current roster. Davis just can’t be the only player from it to stick around for more than a few seasons.