The opportunity to return to an organization in which he has some comfort and a chance to bring some veteran leadership to the young Oakland A's was enough to convince veteran outfielder Rajai Davis to sign a one-year contract for the 2017 season.Davis, who nearly played the role of World
The opportunity to return to an organization in which he has some comfort and a chance to bring some veteran leadership to the young Oakland A's was enough to convince veteran outfielder Rajai Davis to sign a one-year contract for the 2017 season.
Davis, who nearly played the role of World Series hero last year for the Indians with his game-tying homer off Albertin Chapman in the eighth inning of Game 7 vs. the Cubs, fills the A's need for a center fielder and will give them a veteran presence at the top of the batting order.
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Davis, who played for Oakland from 2008-10, hit .249 with a .306 on-base percentage, a career-high 12 homers and an American League-leading 43 stolen bases last year for the Indians.
"It's just a place where I really established myself as a big leaguer and I really gained the confidence [that] I am a big league player," he said. "To come back, I'm excited just to be familiar with the Bay Area and know exactly where we want to stay and that kind of thing -- the little things are pretty much taken care of since we know the surroundings a little bit. That's definitely fun. We're looking forward to a great season."
A's general manager David Forst said Davis will play the majority of time in center field in an outfield mix that includes Khris Davis, Jake Smolinski, Brett Eibner and Matt Joyce. Davis had his breakthrough season with the A's in 2009, when he batted a career-high .305 with 41 stolen bases. Davis added a career-high 50 steals the following season.
"It's exciting to bring somebody we know and somebody who's had so much success back here," Forst said. "Part of the challenge of free agency is always bringing in new guys, new personalities who maybe you're not as familiar with, and to be able to eliminate that variable and to bring in someone we know, someone we know is a great person, a guy who will influence our clubhouse positively -- as well as what he does on the field -- that's a big part of the equation.
"We're excited. I got to spend some time with Raj [Tuesday]. He looks great, he's in shape and he's excited to be back here, which is always nice."
Davis, who played 80 games in center field last year and 66 in left, has spent time in left field (436 games), center field (617 games) and right field (113 games) throughout his career. Last year, he became the fourth-oldest player to lead his league in steals behind Rickey Henderson (1998) and Eddie Collins (1923-24). He said he keeps his body in prime shape to run.
"I'm all around just better -- better player, better mindset, better shape," Davis said. "Just more experience. I just have a lot more knowledge and just able to have the right people around me and just recognizing the right people around me. I think it's a bunch of things that add up in that success."
Meanwhile, the A's were reported on Wednesday to have an interest in free-agent outfielder Mark Trumbo, and Forst has said he would like to add a right-handed bat.
"I think we have a handful of spots we could put guys right now," Forst said. "I wouldn't say there's any specific positions we're looking at right now. I had said early on center field was really the one position on the field that we needed to focus on, so now that we've done that, we're open to adding guys in any number of spots."
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com.