Davis excited to experience free agency for first time
Vet's future with Toronto uncertain as he looks for opportunity to play every day
TORONTO -- For the first time in his career, Rajai Davis has the ability to choose his own fate.
Toronto's veteran center fielder is set to hit free agency shortly after the World Series comes to an end, and while it's a process that can be stressful, Davis seems to be relishing the opportunity.
Since joining the Blue Jays prior to the 2011 season, Davis has been primarily regarded as a part-time player. That's something he hopes to change this offseason, as playing time appears to be his No. 1 priority when it comes to choosing his next destination.
"I'm definitely looking forward to it," Davis said of being a free agent. "I think it's another opportunity, a great opportunity, a better opportunity. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing what's available.
"When I played in Oakland, I was able to play a lot more regularly, and I was able to produce when given the opportunity. I'm definitely looking forward to getting another chance to do that."
Davis appeared in more than 100 games with the Blue Jays in each of the last two seasons, but he entered both seasons as a backup. He was given chances to play regularly as a result of injuries to starters.
The general assumption for the past couple of months is that Davis and the Blue Jays will part ways this offseason. Davis is expected to be in line for at least a decent raise on the $2.5 million he earned this year, and the club could save money by using Anthony Gose in a backup role next year.
As per club policy, the Blue Jays don't publicly comment on contract negotiations. Toronto seems to be keeping an open mind when it comes to Davis, but there likely won't be a deal unless it's on the club's terms. General manager Alex Anthopoulos has remained non-committal, but wasn't exactly adamant that his club would look to bring Davis back into the fold.
"I think anyone who is a free agent, the assumption is that they won't be back, but I definitely wouldn't rule that out," Anthopoulos said. "We'll just see how everything develops. Raj has been outstanding for us.
"He has been here three years now, good teammate, filled the role well. He had times when he played every day and times when he was outstanding against left-handers. He's as big of a stolen-base threat as you're going to find."
The problem with Davis is that he'll look to earn the salary of an everyday player, but history suggests that his best production comes as part of a platoon. In 108 games this season, he hit an impressive .319 with an .857 OPS vs left-handers, but managed to record just a .228 average and a .594 OPS against righties.
Those numbers also come as part of a trend that has seen Davis hit .255 against right-handers during his eight-year career. When used in a platoon, at DH or in the outfield, there's plenty of incentive to start Davis, but when it comes to an everyday spot, the numbers leave much to be desired.
Davis is aware of the track record and doesn't necessarily bristle when asked about his struggles against righties, but he thinks it's something that will improve with everyday at-bats and some adjustments during the offseason.
"I definitely want to improve my on-base percentage and my discipline at the plate," said Davis, who has a career .316 OBP. "Swinging at balls I can hit hard, as opposed to balls that I'm fouling off or balls that I'm swinging at out of the zone that I really can't hit really well. Just staying in the zone that's more beneficial for me to hit."
The market for Davis won't be known for at least a couple more weeks. He's expected to look for at least a two-year contract with an annual salary that could go upwards of $5-million. His lack of success against righties will be a cause for concern, but there's always at least a couple of teams looking for an impact player on the basepaths.
Davis has established himself as one of the elite base-stealing threats in the game. He was caught just six times in 51 opportunities this year and has now has four seasons in the past five years in which he has surpassed the 40 stolen base plateau.
That should be enough for an organization to take a chance on Davis, but with Melky Cabrera, Colby Rasmus and Jose Bautista all signed through next season and Gose waiting in the wings, it seems unlikely that it will happen in Toronto.
There might be a lot of uncertainty right now for the Connecticut native; however, it shouldn't take long for that to change. Davis, whose wife recently gave birth to their first child, is embracing the opportunity.
"It's definitely going to be a lot on my plate, but I plan on eating it all," Davis joked. "I'm going to take it one bite at a time."