Cleveland Indians Sign Outfield Rajai Davis To One-Year Deal


Rajai Davis Signs One-Year Deal With Cleveland Indians As Tribe Upgrades Outfield

Former Detroit Tigers outfielder Rajai Davis inked a one-year deal with the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday, becoming the second veteran player to sign with the Tribe in less than 24 hours.

Shortly after the Indians signed first baseman Mike Napoli to a one-year, $7 million deal on Wednesday afternoon, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported that the Indians had also agreed to a one-year, $5.25 million pact with Davis. Davis’s deal includes incentives, so he could easily earn more if he has a good season.

While these moves might seem to be the “same old Indians”, given that the Tribe has already tried veteran sluggers like Mark Reynolds and Brandon Moss as cheap first base solutions, and Davis is a speed-reliant outfielder who is 35 years old this season, they’re actually not bad moves – especially when it comes to Davis.

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Last season, Davis played 112 games with Detroit, swiping thirty bases and hitting eight home runs as he posted a .258/.306/.440 line for the Tigers. That was lower than his career average, including the prior season in the Motor City, when he hit .282, homered eight times, and swiped 36 bases – albeit with a .721 OPS. He can still hit, with enough pop in his bat to make him a surprise threat to opposing pitchers despite primarily being a speed guy.

Although he’s spent parts of his career with the Pirates, Giants, Athletics and Blue Jays, most Tribe fans probably only remember Davis from his April 2015 home plate collision with Yan Gomes, sending the Indians’ catcher (and potentially their most important player) to the disabled list for six weeks. At the time, the Indians and Gomes said publicly that they didn’t view the incident as intentional, so there shouldn’t be any bad blood between Davis and his new team.

Ultimately, Davis is a player who is on the decline – at 35 years old, he’s no longer as fast as he used to be. However, this deal is different than the pact that they gave to Michael Bourn in that it carries almost no risk. If Davis struggles, the Tribe will be able to flip him or even cut him without feeling too much of the loss. Because his skill set is so reliant on his ability to run, teams just weren’t willing to risk multiple years on him.

Davis is the fifth new outfielder the Indians have picked up this winter, after adding Joey Butler, Robbie Grossman, Shane Robinson and Collin Cowgill. The Tribe is trying to compensate for the expected absence of Michael Brantley, who will miss at least one month of the season after undergoing right shoulder surgery this winter.

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There will likely be a lot of complaints from fans about adding another fairly light-hitting outfielder, especially one as old as Davis, but he has the potential to be a good value for the Indians until Michael Brantley gets back. There’s still room to upgrade at third base, so while it seems as though the Indians have found their outfield solutions, there could still be something in the works for a power bat at the hot corner.