How Could Chris Davis fit with the San Francisco Giants?


The San Francisco Giants went through the entire 2015 season without hitting a splash home run into McCovey Cove, the first time that’s happened since the team moved to AT&T Park in 2000. The team is still sitting on 68 splash hits, but apparently, the front office is interested in changing that.

According to ESPN’s baseball aficionado Buster Olney, the Giants have “serious interest” (Insider required) in former Baltimore Orioles’ slugger Chris Davis. The Giants’ lone open position, as things stand right now, is left field, although first base is a little murky, given Brandon Belt‘s concussion issues in recent years. General manager Bobby Evans did say on Wednesday that Belt’s health is “not an issue”, however.

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Davis is the premier power hitter on the market this year, and is certain to get a long-term deal worth a lot of money. Would the Giants be comfortable sticking with Davis in left field for the entirety of a five-year deal, or maybe even longer, just to get his bat in the lineup? Davis isn’t necessarily a bad defensive outfielder, but, similar to Michael Morse in 2014, he doesn’t have the speed necessary to cover the spacious outfield grounds at AT&T Park.

Obviously, the glove isn’t what teams are going to be looking at when talking to Davis. The power bat, which is just about unmatched in the MLB right now, is the big ticket item that any team would covet in the middle of a lineup. In 2012, David got his first taste of true regular playing time, and hit 33 home runs and drove in 85 runs for the Orioles. The next season, he exploded, bashing 53 home runs and driving in 138 runs, leading baseball in both categories, while adding 42 doubles. He finished third in AL Most Valuable Player voting that year.

2014 was a down year for Davis, as he struggled through injuries and inconsistencies. Despite batting a lowly .196, he still managed to hit 26 home runs. Davis bounced back in 2015, raising his average back up to .262, while adding a league-leading 47 home runs and driving in 117 runs. That home run total could have been higher, but he was robbed of a mind-boggling five home runs by incredible outfield plays between July and the end of the season.

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Davis wouldn’t really fit with the philosophy of the current Giants’ lineup, which is filled with contact hitters who keep the line moving. For the most part, the Giants were one of the best contact teams in baseball, and only Belt struck out in more than a quarter of his plate appearances, at 26.4 percent. Hunter Pence struck out 21.5 percent of the time, but his timing was understandably off due to several long layoffs because of injuries. Brandon Crawford went down on strikes 21.2 percent of the time, but cut down on that by more than a percent over 2014.

Among other players who figure to be in the starting lineup next season, Matt Duffy struck out 15.7 percent of the time, Angel Pagan had 15.1 percent, Joe Panik 9.9 percent, and Buster Posey 8.7 percent. Nori Aoki, the man Davis would replace if he were to come to San Francisco, struck out in 6.4 percent of his plate appearances, which would have been the lowest in the league if he were a qualified hitter.

In comparison to those numbers, Chris Davis is a strikeout machine. Over the past four seasons, Davis has struck out 749 times, by far the most in baseball. Jay Bruce, who is second to Davis, has struck out just 634 times. But in that same span, Davis has hit 159 home runs, also the most in baseball. Yes, Davis is a factory for strikeouts, but his power is unmatched.

Could a Davis signing impact Belt’s future? Belt is still arbitration eligible, and won’t be eligible to hit free agency until after the 2017 season. The Giants have discussed a long-term deal with Belt, similar to what they just gave to their shortstop Crawford, but bringing in Davis could put a damper on those plans. Davis profiles much better at first base than he would in left field, especially at AT&T Park.

Belt has long been the subject of trade speculation, mostly by Giants’ fans, but the Giants could be able to package Belt in to a deal to get a pitcher to fill their need in the rotation. A hefty deal for Davis would also likely hinder the Giants’ ability to really upgrade their rotation through free agency, so a trade could be a way to work around that while simultaneously filling a void.

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It’s still extremely early in the offseason, and a rumor is just that: a rumor. Davis would be a good add to the lineup for the Giants, giving them a true power hitter, something they’ve been missing since Barry Bonds. The Giants have succeeded in recent years without that presence, but could they be looking to change that? Only time will tell.