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Indians sign Rajai Davis to minor-league deal

After splitting the 2017 season between Oakland and Boston, Rajai Davis returns to Cleveland as a non-roster invitee.

World Series - Chicago Cubs v Cleveland Indians - Game Seven Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The Indians have signed outfielder Rajai Davis to a minor-league deal with an invitation to major-league spring training, per Jordan Bastian of MLB.com.

Davis, 37, showed his age a bit at the plate in 2017, posting a .235/.293/.348 slash line with five homers in 366 plate appearances split between the Athletics and Red Sox. He continued to show exceptional speed on the basepaths, though, stealing 29 bases and achieving double-digit steals for an 11th straight season. He also provided solid defense at all three outfield positions, posting an even defensive runs saved rating in center and left with -1 run saved in right.

Though he struggled offensively last year, Davis is just one year removed from a strong 2016 campaign with Cleveland. Over 495 plate appearances, Davis hit .249/.306/.388 while hitting a career-high 12 homers and stealing an AL-best 43 bases. Davis, of course, hit perhaps the most memorable home run in Indians history during the eighth inning of Game 7 of the 2016 World Series; the two-run homer tied the Game at 6-6 and gave the Indians a fighting chance at winning their first World Series since 1948, though the Cubs ultimately earned the victory in extra innings.

While the Indians’ starting outfield is seemingly set with Michael Brantley, Bradley Zimmer, and Lonnie Chisenhall — as long as Brantley is recovered from ankle surgery by Opening Day, that is — Davis should make a strong push to earn a job on Cleveland’s bench. Brandon Guyer, Abraham Almonte, Tyler Naquin, Melvin Upton Jr., and Brandon Barnes are also competing for backup outfield jobs this spring. It certainly seems possible that the Indians could carry two outfielders on the bench, vastly increasing Davis’ odds of making the club, though the versatility that Jason Kipnis showed during the 2017 postseason could make them more comfortable carrying an extra infielder or operating with a short bench.