I’ve had an article idea that I’ve put on the back burner for the last few years. With every passing week and month that I don’t write the article, it gets harder to write. Which means there’s a good chance I’ll just be lame and never do it.
Here’s the idea: ranking every single trade that the San Francisco Giants have made since Farhan Zaidi took over as President of Baseball Operations more than four years ago.
I’ll have to dive deeper before I can figure out what the list looks like, but I don’t think I need to put spoiler tags over this: the trade for J.D. Davis will be near the top of it.
It always hurts to say goodbye to a fan favorite, but the trade was do-a-double-take-because-that-can’t-be-right good. The Giants traded an all-offense, no-defense platoon player in Darin Ruf, and in return they received a better all-offense, no-defense non-platoon player who happened to be younger and have more team control. As a thank you for ripping them off, the Mets sent three highly-intriguing pitching prospects to the Giants.
The Giants went to the restaurant, saw the misprinted menu that was selling a dozen wings for $1.69, ordered them, and then got tipped by the waiter as thanks.
As a result, the Giants now employ one (1) J.D. Davis, a sneakily excellent offensive player.
Between injuries and his glove, which is best characterized as an infielders mitt doing its best Joc Pederson impression, Davis hasn’t always been an everyday player. But since establishing himself as a quality big leaguer in 2019, his wRC+ of 127 is 41st in the Majors among players with at least 1,000 plate appearances, ahead of names such as Nolan Arenado, Kris Bryant, Max Muncy, J.D. Martinez, and Anthony Rizzo.
But it gets better! Davis is the anti-Giant, which is to say he doesn’t have platoon splits. We’ve grown so accustomed to the Giants only giving certain starts to certain players — for good reason, I might add, if you’ve ever watched Pederson or LaMonte Wade Jr. attempt to hack at a breaking ball from a lefty — that we’ve forgotten that some people can hit both sides. Davis is some people.
Here are his career batting lines against the two handednesses (not a word, don’t care).
.260/.352/.440, .792 OPS, .180 ISO, 11.6% walk rate, 27.1% strikeout rate, 120 wRC+
.269/.349/.438, .787 OPS, .170 ISO, 9.3% walk rate, 27.3% strikeout rate, 118 wRC+
I didn’t even tell you which line correlates with which arm, because it doesn’t matter. Those are the same player. Almost the exact same player.
The point is that on any given day, Davis will be one of the Giants best hitters. If you build your lineup each game by assembling the six best hitters you have, and filling in the gaps as best you can, then Davis should be a lineup staple every time a lefty is on the mound and every time a righty is on the mound, too.
But where? And how?
The at-bats against lefties are easy to find. Pederson and Wade will occupy designated hitter and first base (probably respectively, but who knows) when righties are on the mound, and they’ll be locked in a basement 75 feet below Oracle Park when lefties are. Davis and Wilmer Flores will handle those positions when southpaws take the mound.
But less than 28% of the pitches thrown in 2022 were from lefties. Waiting around to hit lefties is a lonely game, as Austin Slater will be quick to tell you. Slater, however, struggles to hit righties ... the waiting game may be lonely for him, but it’s the only reality available.
It can’t be the only reality available for Davis, who last year hit righties significantly better than all but one of the left-handed hitters that are currently on the roster.
He has to play.
Yet Thairo Estrada, a revelation of an everyday player a year ago and a much better defensive player, seems to be earmarked as the everyday second baseman, despite struggling against right-handed pitchers. And David Villar, he of one of the most promising bats in the organization, is viewed as the incumbent at third base.
It’s fair to wonder if the Giants actually have a plan for what to do with Davis, or if they’ll just drop him about, figuring that injuries and rest days will open up enough opportunities for Davis to be a nearly everyday player. Which, truthfully, is a plan in and of itself, and not necessarily a bad one.
I’m breaking the first rule of writing, by not answering the question that I posed in the headline. I don’t know, exactly, what the plan is with J.D. Davis. All I know is that the Giants will be better when he’s playing, so they’d be wise to play him.