Giants Place J.D. Davis on Waivers, Cubs Still Profile as Fit

Update: Davis has reportedly signed with the Athletics, which appears to about getting the chance to play every day before being flipped to a contender.

We’ve already written about J.D. Davis as a possible fit for the Cubs following the Giants’ addition of Matt Chapman, but the topic is worth revisiting briefly now that Davis has been placed on waivers. The timing indicates the Giants were unsuccessful in working out a trade over the last week since signing Chapman, which isn’t surprising given their complete lack of leverage. It’s also a matter of Davis being more of a high-floor guy teams were willing to wait on.

Are the Cubs one of those teams? They do have question marks at both corner infield spots and could see Davis as insurance there. However, he’s making more than twice as much money as Patrick Wisdom and would represent a big drop in power from the right side. On the other hand, Davis walks more and strikes out less than his jersey-tugging counterpart.

Back to the money, which is another wrinkle here that could impact the Cubs’ interest. They currently sit at roughly $235.7 million in competitive balance tax salary per Roster Resource, so Davis would push them into penalty territory unless they clear over $5 million elsewhere. While I don’t believe the first penalty tier is actually a firm barrier, as explained here, it’d be kind of odd to push past it for this player in particular.

Ed. note: Since Davis’s $6.9 million salary was set via arbitration, it is not guaranteed. He’s unlikely to earn that same amount with another team, but he’s going to make far more than league minimum. There is a chance, however, that the Giants could end up paying the whole thing based on language in the CBA. A player who has “failed to exhibit sufficient skill or competitive ability” is entitled to 30 days of his prorated salary (just over $1 million for Davis) if released more than 16 days before the season opens.

But if the Giants lost their arbitration case with Davis because he was able to prove he was worth more than they had proposed, they don’t have a leg to stand on when it comes to arguing he’s bad. Maybe they can just reach out to fans, many of whom seem to agree that Davis is not any good.

My preference would be for someone like Brandon Belt, who offers a lefty bat that still has decent pop in it despite his age. Or if the Cubs want to stay with a right-handed hitter with a similar name, how about J.D. Martinez? Cost is a factor here even if we set aside any tax implications as we know full well how Jed Hoyer’s strategy is based on value.

In this case, it all comes down to how the Cubs view the price to upgrade a roster that will have an opening once Caleb Kilian is placed on the 60-day IL. Garrett Cooper and Dominic Smith have looked good so far this spring and will almost certainly cost less than the aforementioned players if they earn a spot, so I’d guess Hoyer is looking as much at that equation as he is a safety net for Christopher Morel and/or Michael Busch.

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