Athletics Acquire Ike Davis

The Oakland Athletics have traded international signing money to the Pittsburgh Pirates for former Met Ike Davis.

Ironically, in a related move, the A’s DFA’d former Met Andrew Brown to make room on the 40-man roster for Davis.

In other news, the Athletics also signed former Kansas City Royal Billy Butler. Considering that Butler is a righthanded-hitting DH / first baseman who tends to hit better against lefthanded pitchers, maybe Davis will have an opportunity to platoon a bit in Oakland.

Other transactions over the past week or so:

Mets killer Adam LaRoche has signed with the Chicago White Sox. This is great news for Mets fans on many fronts. First, he’s out of the NL, and the Mets won’t be playing the ChiSox in 2015. Second, he’s left the Nationals, who presumably will move Ryan Zimmerman across the diamond to first base, making their lineup righty-heavy. Third, the Miami Marlins did not get LaRoche — there had been rumors he was one of their top targets this winter.

The White Sox also signed LOOGY Zach Duke, so scratch him off the Mets’ wish list.

Josh Willingham has retired. I imagine his decision was based primarily on the Mets’ signing of Michael Cuddyer, which all but removed any chance of “The Hammer” finishing his career in Flushing.

The Diamondbacks picked up Jeremy Hellickson from the Rays in return for two minor league prospects who played in low-A last year, outfielder Justin Williams and shortstop Andrew Velazquez. Interesting move for both clubs.

Catcher Russell Martin signed with the Toronto Blue Jays. Good move by the Jays, good news for Mets fans, as it’s always helpful to see a solid NL player move to the Adulterated League. Toronto also traded Adam Lind to the Brewers, but that was almost a month ago.

Anticipating the exit of Martin, the Pirates made a trade for Yankees backup catcher Francisco Cervelli. “Francisco” — that’s fun to say! Interesting that Cervelli joins another former backup Yankees catcher, Chris Stewart, on the Bucs’ roster. The Buccos also signed A.J. Burnett to a one-year deal — a move that immediately strengthens the Phillies’ rotation by subtraction.

The Braves released Jonny Venters and Ramiro Pena. The Venters release is mildly intriguing, considering the lefty’s history as a shutdown reliever from 2010-2012. However, Venters underwent a THIRD Tommy John surgery this past August, and won’t be ready to pitch in MLB again until late 2015 at the earliest. Imagine if MLB employed scientists, instead of former bullpen catchers, to monitor pitchers’ rehab? We might never see pitchers suffering re-tears while recovering from surgery. I know, silly talk. It’s much more important that MLB coaches and management concern themselves more with important factors, such as innings limits, when it comes to coming back from TJ surgery. But I digress …

Defensive-minded backstop Jose Molina has been DFA’d by the Tampa Bay Rays. Molina posted the lowest slugging percentage of a MLBer with at least 200 ABs since 1968 — also known as “The Year of the Pitcher.” He can frame a strike, though.

The Detroit Tigers traded minor league second baseman Devon Travis to the Toronto Blue Jays for Anthony Gose. Remember Gose? He was a Jays prospect that was briefly rumored to be obtained by the Mets in the R.A. Dickey deal. Gose has a great glove but not yet been able to put it together with the bat. Meanwhile, Travis is a diminutive (5’9″) infielder who carries a big stick — he posted a .936 OPS with 16 HRs in A-ball in 2013, and followed that up with a 10-HR, .817 OPS in AA last year. There’s a decent chance that Travis breaks north with the Jays next April.

The Tigers also re-signed Victor Martinez, so forget about him joining the Mets.

The Dodgers acquired righty Joel Peralta and lefty Adam Liberatore from the Rays in exchange for right-handers Jose Dominguez and Greg Harris. They also picked up right-hander Juan Nicasio from the Rockies in exchange for a PTBNL or cash considerations. I guess LA’s goal is to throw as much pitchers on the wall as they can, and see what sticks in the bullpen.

As of this writing, we’re still waiting to hear what happens with Pablo Sandoval. Otherwise, I think I’ve hit most of the more notable transactions. Feel free to post your comments on these moves, and/or add any trades or signings of import that I’ve missed.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. argonbunnies November 24, 2014 at 11:43 pm
    So happy to see LaRoche leave the NL East! The Mets never figured out how to make him chase or throw him a strike he couldn’t hit, despite the fact that the rest of the league fanned him with regularity.

    Too bad about Duke, I figured he’d be a cheap alternative to Miller. Although, really, the White Sox didn’t get him that cheaply. I’d be fine bringing Eveland back — while not super impressive, he consistently didn’t beat himself.

    The Martin contract strikes me as an overpay for a guy coming off a career year. He’s a good player, but it’s hard for me to imagine him making a huge difference for that team, unless Navarro was a truly horrific pitcher-handler.

    I think Ike probably has one more adjustment left in his quest to become a reliable MLB hitter. Initially, he had the power, but a lot of Ks. Then in AAA in 2013, he altered his swing, and ever since then his BB and K rates have been drastically improved, but he’s lost his pop. So: can he create a hybrid of both swings, where he can still read the pitch and make contact, but when he makes contact, it goes? Odds and history would tell you no. But at 28, I don’t think his time’s completely up.

    Andrew Brown, on the other hand — his time is completely up. A 30-year-old RH power hitter who doesn’t crush lefties or do anything else above-average is never going to be more than an injury call-up. I wouldn’t mind seeing him in Vegas again, but I’d hope not to see him in the majors for more than a few games.

    Willingham had a weird career, going from undervalued to toast in a short span. After 2010, the Nats traded him for not much — I would have loved to acquire him then. After a solid 2011, the Twins signed him for 3/$21M, which looked like a steal when he had a career year at age 33 in 2012. .260/.366/.524 with 35 HRs and 110 RBIs at Target Field in the post-‘roids era? Whoa. Then in 2013 he was suddenly terrible, in 2014 he played part-time, and now he’s gone. I will always remember his short arms and ability to hit pitches off the plate inside.

    • Joe Janish November 25, 2014 at 12:19 am
      There’s no such thing as cheap anything anymore. That trend began about five seconds after Sandy Alderson smirked at the Washington Nationals’ signing of Jayson Werth, and continues with gusto with each and every local TV contract that gets signed. Halfway decent role players cost a relative fortune, and the prices will continue to go up. In 5-10 years, more than half of MLB will be near or at a luxury-tax payroll — because they can afford to be.

      Even when he was hitting 25-30 HRs, I never bought into the Ike Davis fascination. I always saw a guy with a slo-pitch softball swing who hit off his front foot and somehow got lucky to run into mistakes often enough to reach double-digits in homers. Then his luck ran out. Maybe with limited exposure and facing RHPs exclusively, Davis can be a valuable asset. We’ll see.

      Agreed on Brown.

      Willingham had a run of seven consecutive seasons of .800+ OPS, with the majority over .830 — that’s pretty damn good. As you point out, he dropped drastically at age 34, which, to me, in post-PEDs era, is not at all surprising, since the early 30s is the when many men start losing their natural testosterone … er, I mean, bat speed. Ask Robin Ventura. Or ask someone like Steve Finley, Rafael Palmeiro, Brady Anderson, or Barry Bonds, who learned how to reverse the process.

      • argonbunnies November 25, 2014 at 1:09 am
        I do still occasionally see a signing where I go, “That’s a good deal!” Tim Hudson last year comes to mind. But yeah, cheap roles are definitely dying out. With fewer starters who go 7+ every time, I guess it was inevitable that 7th inning relievers would get their due.

        I think your description of Ike perfectly sums up his 2012. Those 32 bombs seemed a little lucky, and that’s when the Mets should have sold high on him. In 2010-2011, I thought he seemed a little better than that, though. Not much to go on at this point, it’s true…

        Yeah, 7 straight good offensive seasons — seems like Willingham should have gotten more love. Maybe his defense was really that bad? I dunno. I guess I shouldn’t be shocked at a guy declining at age 34; it just seemed a bit abrupt, and I don’t want to think about Wright and Granderson suddenly becoming completely useless in the next year or two.

        I’m looking around at past players who excelled well into their 30s, and it’s pretty hard to find guys who were more than a fraction of their old selves after 35. It mostly seems to be steroid-era guys and all-time greats like Ruth, Williams, Musial, Aaron and Mays. I’m happy to have a cleaner game, but it seems sad (and also a bit unlikely) to me that we don’t have ANY all-time greats among us. Pujols looked like one, and then his age 29 to age 33 seasons were a straight line downhill. Cabrera looked like he was peaking at 30 and then his body began falling apart. Is Hanley even going to make it to the end of his new contract? Is Cuddyer?

  2. david November 26, 2014 at 1:48 am
    I put Ike’s decline down partially to the Valley Fever that knocked him out for a long time and also derailed the career of Connon Jackson (whom the A’s also picked up after he suffered from Valley Fever). Fatigue seems to be the lasting symptom. Defense is all about focus, intensity and energy – and Ike went from looking like a gold glove fixture to a mediocre, at best, 1st baseman.

    Martin is getting way too much money and with his contract being backloaded he should be in the Bronx in 2 years as a necessary add on to the Reyes deal (paingul as that may sound). I have to wonder how the Jays can give that kind of cash to an aging catcher. Yes, he is Canadian but home town bonus should apply not a 40% uplift.

    As for the bat speed Testosterone link my thoughts of course went to Cuddyer. But he won a batting title in his early 30’s so let’s hope he is the exception. Ditto for Mr Wright.

    • argonbunnies November 26, 2014 at 1:55 am
      Can’t believe I forgot about the Valley Fever. Good call. Agreed 100% about the fielding.
    • Joe Janish November 26, 2014 at 6:03 pm
      From the little bit of my surface knowledge about Valley Fever (speaking with infectious disease doctors, connections made from my bout with Dengue a few years back) combined with my Google brain, I’m under the impression that long-term effects of Valley Fever are rare, and generally are related to chronic lung problems; in very rare situations, maybe neurological problems. I have no idea how severe were the VF cases that Davis and Jackson suffered, and I have not heard of either suffering any lung or nervous system problems since their illnesses. That said I don’t believe Valley Fever on its own can be blamed for either player’s career downturns. Maybe being out of action for an extended period had something to do with it — i.e., perhaps one or both players tried to come back too early and wound up creating a bad habit to compensate for the weakness they had while sick. Maybe they put too much pressure on themselves to return. In Ike Davis’ case, I don’t think he’s a .220 hitter who strikes out a ton because he has lingering effects of VF — I think he simply is, and always has been, a hitter with WAY too many movements in his swing, has a too-long swing to be a high-average hitter, and lunged too much not to be vulnerable to off-speed stuff. He had a great rookie year, then the league figured him out, he couldn’t adjust, but he did figure out how to run into mistakes. Go back into the archives of this blog, you’ll see my comments about Davis hitting well IN SPITE OF his flaws. For me it was more a surprise that he hit as well as he did, rather than a surprise when he started failing.

      As for Davis’ defense, I also was never in agreement with the SNY booth and the Mets blogosphere that he was some kind of future Gold Glover. He was an average to maybe above-average defender, mainly because of his rifle arm. A few dives into the stands for foul balls and everyone lost their mind in their assessment of his skills. Yes, he could scoop balls in the dirt, but so can most average MLB first basemen — it’s not an unusual skill. His range has always been so-so. His arm, plus. Gold Glove? Meh. I didn’t see him on the same level as a Mark Teixeira, Joey Votto, Albert Pujols, Adrian Gonzalez (in their primes). Davis, even as a rookie, simply didn’t have the quick feet.

      • argonbunnies November 29, 2014 at 3:49 pm
        Ike never had elite range, but his range was at least okay for his first two years. In 2012-2013 it was no longer okay; it was awful. He didn’t dive for anything dive-worthy, he didn’t lunge for anything lunge-worthy, and there were some balls in the hole that he didn’t even react to at all. He seemed like he was in a fog — either listless or unfocused. There are many explanations for this — maybe he just isn’t a high-energy guy, and the enthusiasm of a 23-year-old rookie initially disguised that — but the lingering effects of an illness do seem to fit. I’m sure the symptoms that doctors care about — the symptoms that impact normal people — have long since disappeared, but for a pro athlete, any lingering bit of imperfection can be magnified a thousandfold.

        I had really bad heat stroke once, and even though doctors couldn’t find anything wrong with me afterward, I wasn’t myself on the field for the next 6+ months. No quickness, no explosiveness.

        Not saying that Valley Fever was and is the only thing stopping Ike from being a star! It just wouldn’t surprise if it’s had an impact.

        • Dan42 November 29, 2014 at 5:54 pm
          It didn’t do Conor Jackson much good, unless early retirement is the goal. Three good years with the bat, then Valley Fever and worthless at age 27.