Orioles have no option but to keep Davis - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Rich Dubroff

Orioles have no option but to keep Davis

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.—So many big Oriole stars have been traded, and Chris Davis remains.

Even if the 2018 season hadn’t been the horror show it’s been for Davis, he’d still remain with the Orioles because his contract effectively prevents him from being traded and the team owes him so much money that he won’t be released.

Davis, who signed a seven-year, $161 million contract in January 2016, is owed $23 million in each of the four years remaining on his contract. He deferred $6 million on each year of the deal. That $42 million is to be paid from 2023-2037. Davis is still owed $110 million.

Another team isn’t going to assume that kind of money for a player who’s hitting .157 after going hitless in four at-bats in the Orioles’ 5-4 win on Wednesday.

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Next season, Davis will earn full no-trade status because he’ll have 10 years in the majors and five with Orioles.

It’s been a nightmare season in many ways for Davis, who was the subject of criticism by Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer  during Orioles telecasts in May and again in this series.

Palmer has said that Davis hadn’t made necessary adjustments and, in May, criticized him for not working enough with hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh last winter. At the end of the 2017 season, Davis promised to re-invent his hitting approach in the offseason.

Manager Buck Showalter began the season with Davis as his leadoff hitter, an experiment that was quickly abandoned when he was just 1-for-20 (.050) in the season’s first five games.

Showalter sat Davis for two games at the end of April, and benched him for eight games in June.

Before his imposed absence, Davis was hitting .150. Since then, he’s been hitting between .147 and .161, not getting any worse, but no better.

“There’s a couple of games where you think he’s getting ready to have a real streak or spurt where he really is making big contributions,” Showalter said.

“We know the potential is there. He’s just had a lot of trouble sustaining things during a long period of time, and that’s been frustrating for him and us.”

Davis showed a bit more power last month, hitting six of his 13 home runs, and having his first multi extra-base hit game (July 26) and two home run game (July 29), both against Tampa Bay.

Davis has 136 strikeouts in 94 games, putting him on a pace to strike out more than 200 times for the third time in his last five seasons.

Davis has rebounded from bad seasons before. In 2014, when he was both on the disabled list with an oblique injury and serving a 25-game suspension for using Adderall without a therapeutic use exemption from Major League Baseball. Davis hit .196. Even then, he had an on-base percentage of .300. Now, his OBP is .242

Since signing the contract, Davis has been in a steady decline. In 2015, when he led the major leagues in home runs for the second time in three years to earn the contract, Davis hit .262 with 47 home runs and 117 RBIs.

Davis fell to .221 in 2016 and .215 last season with his home runs and RBIs dropping to 38 and 84 in 2016 and 26 and 61 in 2017.

His fielding has dropped off as well in the last two years. In the eighth inning of Tuesday’s game, threw a potential double play ball hit by Tampa Bay’s Matt Duffy into left field, leading to two unearned runs, which tied the game.

Showalter seemed to excuse the error, which was Davis’ fifth of the season.

“It’s a play that he’s made a long time and in practice, something he does real well, so it was very surprising, but we have something to gauge it against, how good he’s been at that play,” Showalter said.

Fans who were surprised by the depth of the Orioles’ radical transformation last month may now imagine the team taking it a step further by jettisoning Davis in the offseason.

With four years left on a massive contract, that step still seems exceedingly unlikely.

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47 Comments

47 Comments

  1. SpinMaster

    August 9, 2018 at 7:55 am

    Rich: Although we all praised the re-signing of Davis in 2016 (after letting Nelson Cruz go), we are all cringing at the thought of having him on the team while it re-builds. Unfortunately, Davis clogs up 2 positions.

    His only position is first base and that makes Trey Mancini have to play left field. If Davis could move to DH, then Mancini can play first and left field becomes an open position for one of our young players. The repercussions of Davis playing DH is Mark Trumbo has no position.

    I know I am preaching to the choir, but Davis’s contract will stall any re-building that the Orioles undertake.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      August 9, 2018 at 10:12 am

      Speak for yourself when you say “WE” all praised the Davis re-signing of Davis. They gave the guy superstar money when no other teams were offering him big $$ at the time. It was a terrible signing …

      • Rich Dubroff

        August 9, 2018 at 11:56 am

        I know there are a lot of fans who agree with you, BRR.

    • Rich Dubroff

      August 9, 2018 at 11:55 am

      Thank you for your spin, master. A number of fans told me at the time they’d never go to another Orioles game if they didn’t re-sign Davis.

  2. chico salmon

    August 9, 2018 at 8:28 am

    Let’s hope they can trade Trumbo, move Trey to first, and just play Davis as DH against right handed pitching. That’s the best we can hope for. It’s just another example of how these mega contracts never work out. It’s human nature. You remove the motivation and incentive to improve. The player reaches the mountain top, the culmination of a lifetime of work, and they stop working. I think it will happen with Manny, Harper, and anyone who signs for over $100mm.

    • Raymo

      August 9, 2018 at 9:02 am

      One notable exception being Max Scherzer.

      • Bancells Moustache

        August 9, 2018 at 9:26 am

        While you can’t say Scherzer hasn’t fulfilled his end of the bargain with Washington, his mega-contract was to be the final piece to a World Series champion. To date, the Nats STILL have yet to win a postseason series in their history and are on the razors edge of missing the playoffs altogether in Bryce Harper’s walk year. So did Washington get a return on investment?

        • Rich Dubroff

          August 9, 2018 at 12:00 pm

          Bancells, I think the Nats would not be contenders without Scherzer.

      • Rich Dubroff

        August 9, 2018 at 11:58 am

        Chico, I agree with the general point, but most who sign long-term contracts get to the latter point of their contracts at advanced ages, making it likely they’ll not work out, and I agree with Raymo about the Scherzer signing being a good one.

    • Paul Folkemer

      August 9, 2018 at 10:04 am

      I think it’s a little dismissive to say that players just stop working hard once they get a mega-contract. I don’t think that’s true in most cases. Plenty of players are hard workers even after getting a big contract.

      The reason most mega-contracts don’t work out is because free agents are usually already in their late 20s or even early 30s when they sign them, so they’re bound to see their production decline as they get older. (Davis was 29 when he signed his.) If you sign a player to a six- or seven-year deal, you have to accept the fact that the player might be an albatross by the end of that deal.

      When the O’s re-signed Davis, I think they expected that he might drop off in the later years of the contract. The problem is that he fell off a cliff even earlier than they anticipated, so even the early years of the deal don’t look good.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      August 9, 2018 at 10:14 am

      Why do you want trade Trumbo? He’s a big league hitter on a team that lacks hitting.

      • Rich Dubroff

        August 9, 2018 at 12:01 pm

        I think it’s unlikely that a team would take on Trumbo’s contract for next year right now, BRR, but I think they’ll look to deal him in the fall.

      • Borg

        August 10, 2018 at 6:55 am

        Trumbo probably does have some value to a team that needs a right handed power hitter, but DH is already a position the O’s are clogged at, and they need to get younger and better defensively, neither of which applies to Trumbo. If they move him, Davis can be DHed and Mancini put at his real position so they can get a real corner outfielder. If Davis wasn’t here, Trumbo would be a fit. Since Davis isn’t going anywhere, Trumbo has to if the O’s want to fill out their lineup with better defense.

        I don’t fault the Orioles for signing him, even for the contract because I thought it signified they were going to be signng their other stars long-term. I really did think that what would follow on the heels of the Davis signing was Machado and Schoop extensions (either that year or the next off season). And given the numbers Davis had put up, it wasn’t unreasonable to expect a .240-.260 average, 40+ HRs, a .340 OBP and 100+ RBI on a fairly regular basis. That didn’t happen, they didn’t sign either of their young stars, and now they are stuck with Davis, but some of that is 20-20 hindsight.

  3. ZantiGM

    August 9, 2018 at 8:40 am

    Completely agree about the motivation factor after mega deals
    However i think it all comes out we will find out it was others factors in Davis’s decline
    Chris really does have the Yips..it doesn’t happen often but has happened to some other major leaguers.
    Was is concerning about this is how long it has lasted and the complete decline in HR power.

    • Rich Dubroff

      August 9, 2018 at 12:02 pm

      Thank you for your post, Phil.

  4. woody

    August 9, 2018 at 8:50 am

    I was surprised when the O’s abandoned their experiment with him in the outfield, where he played 30 games in 2015. His defensive numbers there were actually very fair – and coincidentally those 30 games were probably his best as a batter in the past 5 years. Trumbo is an awful outfielder but solid at 1B.

    I do find it bizarre that they’ve sold off their entire team and kept 3 firstbasemen!

    I agree with chico – the only logical move right now is to trade Trumbo who is thankfully putting himself in the shop window, which would open up the DH spot and allow Mullins or Hays to move into the outfield.

    • Paul Folkemer

      August 9, 2018 at 10:10 am

      Moving Davis to the outfield wouldn’t really solve the Orioles’ 1B/OF/DH logjam, though. You’d still have at least two players of the Davis/Trumbo/Mancini trio playing out of position.

      You’re right, the most likely scenario for easing the logjam is for Trumbo to get traded. I think there could be a market for him this winter, but the O’s might have to pay some of his contract and probably wouldn’t get much of a prospect return.

  5. Bancells Moustache

    August 9, 2018 at 9:42 am

    I have one other reason for keeping Chris Davis, which I believe is driving the Orioles decision-making on Chris Davis; the continued murmuring from Rob Manfred’s office about banning the shift. No player has seen their production wiped out by defensive shifting as dramatically as Davis. Should, over the winter, the League office outlaw the defensive shift so as to increase offense (AKA ticket sales and television ratings), Chris Davis career would be resuscitated by the stroke of a pen. With this much capital invested in a guy, that’s a gamble the Orioles have no choice but to take. Let’s face it, Crush ain’t going to Cooperstown. But the glove is still solid, and with a rule change his bat could gain new life as well.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      August 9, 2018 at 10:19 am

      C’mon Ban Mo … the guy rarely puts the ball in play. The shift really isn’t making much of a difference while the umpire is screaming “strike threeeee” at that rate. Besides, when Crush was Crush … he was going to left & left center quite often.

      • Bancells Moustache

        August 9, 2018 at 11:45 am

        He was going to the left and left center bleachers, not the field of play. There have been umpteen number of things documenting his “death by shift”. It has him all screwed up. I’m not saying banning the shift will make him Mark McGwire with county gravy again, that ship has sailed. But it will get him at least in the neighborhood of league average. If it’s between holding out for that to happen, which it very well might, or essentially throwing nine figures in the fireplace, it’s easy to see which way the Angelos boys will lean.

        • Rich Dubroff

          August 9, 2018 at 12:04 pm

          Interesting debate on the shift here, Bancells and BRR.

        • Boog Robinson Robinson

          August 9, 2018 at 3:01 pm

          Point taken … they were long balls.

  6. blair brooks

    August 9, 2018 at 10:19 am

    Anyone who thinks the Orioles –and the fans–are “stuck” with Chris Davis should use an imagination. The length of his contract was a major mistake. He earned an upgrade but definitely not the tenure he was granted. While he is obviously putting in his time in the gym, (looking good!) he should dedicate the same focus to making adjustments in his approach. I feel certain he feels bad about the daily, humiliating performance at the plate — and now in the field — but what is he doing about it? I don’t want him to be sad. I want him to be mad. If the O’s cannot provide competent coaching to guide his performance rehabilitation, get new coaches. If Crush declines to accept the coaching, counseling or whatever (legal) support offered to return his play to a major league level, he should be gone. His presence will become a cancer on the psyche of the team, management and the fans. There are a lot of ways to incentivize the settlement of a contractual relationship gone bad. Someone should be focused on that, not resigned to a wasted seat on the field…or on the bench.

    • Rich Dubroff

      August 9, 2018 at 12:06 pm

      Interesting points you make, Blair

    • Ekim

      August 10, 2018 at 12:56 pm

      Someone finally said it! …”get rid of the coaches.” It’s not just Davis who’s hitting has regressed and Coolbaugh’s been there too long. Same ole, same ole, same ole coming from the same ole coach. It’s way past time for a new approach.

  7. Orial

    August 9, 2018 at 10:55 am

    Has anybody taken a serious look at Davis lately? The guy’s blown up like the Incredible Hulk. Is it far-fetched to believe that he’s created a body that can’t compete against ML pitching? Just an out of leftfield thought. There’s a rumor floating around on media sites claiming that Ken Rosenthal said O’s may do a “buy out” of Davis’ contract. Another “Fake News” or some basis?

    • Rich Dubroff

      August 9, 2018 at 12:08 pm

      I have not seen that, Orial.

  8. Chewy

    August 9, 2018 at 11:20 am

    Before all the trades, I believed that the O’s had no choice but to keep Davis. But since the trades, I am starting to believe that Davis will not make the team next year. Obviously from a purely baseball perspective, it makes no sense to keep Davis any more due to the poor production and the upcoming logjam at 1B/OF/DH. It’s the financials that have been the issue.

    If I understand the way Davis’ contract works correctly, over the next 4 years, he is owed $17 Million each year for a total of $68 Million. The remaining $42 Million that was deferred will be paid out over the following 14 years, which comes out to $3 Million a year. From an annual perspective, this isn’t so terrible. By the end of the payout, $3 Million might be getting close to the equivalent of a minimum salary.

    The O’s have already saved $60 Million with all the July trades. The payroll will be significantly reduced the next 2-4 years during the rebuild phase that will likely save the O’s well over $100 Million more. Revenue should at least remain stable compared to the last two years due to loyal fans wanting to see the development of the rebuild, tourists still wanting to see Camden Yards, and the stadium getting packed again for about a quarter of the home games against NYY and BOS. So the O’s can finally afford cutting Davis and still have plenty of money leftover to put into rebuilding resources such as international scouting and advanced analytics.

  9. Rich Dubroff

    August 9, 2018 at 12:12 pm

    Davis will be paid $3.5 million annually from 2023-2032 and $1.4 million from 2033-37., chewy.

  10. boss61

    August 9, 2018 at 12:44 pm

    I believe I understand the motivation of the Davis signing. I don’t have to like it or agree with it (I do not and I do not) but I did understand it then as now.

    Ownership was being thrown under the bus daily on call-in shows, in columns on blogs and in blog comments. This dates back to the mid-90s, and the reflexive and ill-fated decisions to jettison beloved guys (Jon Miller and Davey Johnson) and to stick with other less-beloved guys (Syd Thrift mainly, but also overriding beneficial trade recommendations by then GMs Pat Gillick and Wren). Gradually both in terms of the local fans and “around baseball” O’s ownership become somewhat of a dysfunctional laughing stock.

    Then came the Syd Thrift fire sale of 2000, which jettisoned more beloved guys (Bordick, Surhoff and others) for poorly-performing no-names. O’s management had acquired a reputation for being myopically frugal, exemplified the most when Mussina left for the Yankees. The name “Angelos” became vilified. A lot.

    Even when the O’s overpaid for the likes of a somewhat tarnished big star in Miguel Tejada, Angelos shared some of the blame for his checkered steroids history and the fact that he had lied about his age and therefore was two years closer to age-related decline. He also by then acquired a reputation for “meddling” in baseball decisions that otherwise were front office purview. The signing of a host of over-the-hill veterans for their name recognition (Sosa, Guerrero, Palmeiro again, etc.) evidences ownership decisions in the mid 2000s.

    Only when Andy MacPhail came in did Angelos agree to be more hands-off and the team eventually prospered from that round of competent rebuilding. We enjoyed the rewards. Problem is, ownership did too. Being the owner was fun again, and ownership was wrongfully (IMHO) blamed for valid Moneyball decisions to let Nick, Nellie and Andrew Miller walk. Yes bad decisions, but only in hindsight. But ownership was taking it right between the eyes and up the tailpipe from the fan base all over again. People were livid, in the 2014-15 offseason.

    Ownership heard the outrage and reacted. He opened his wallet and signed – viola – Chris Davis to the contract we have been discussing. He thus put to bed the charges of myopic frugality once and for all. He could not know that Davis’ production would decline this markedly; it is unprecedented in baseball history. His heart was in the right place – he gave us what many demanded – a fat new contract for a hometown hero. Just the wrong hero at the wrong time, but that’s hindsight.

    Hope this helps folks who forgot elements of just how we got here.

    • blair brooks

      August 9, 2018 at 1:19 pm

      I remember that history. I understood the signing but not the magnitude of the contract. No one would have matched an $80 million, 4 year offer. I don’t believe for a minute that Angelos ordered his team to pay whatever it takes to sign Davis. Parties in management were whispering (figuratively, if not literally) in his ear and he signed off, including for the reasons you mention. Deals don’t always work out. That’s true for any organization. The best organizations have someone always focused on the future and making the adjustments necessary to overcome mistakes. Thanks for your comment.

      • boss61

        August 9, 2018 at 1:22 pm

        I guess as fans there always is much we don’t know, some we think we know but really don’t, etc. It sure seems an excessive contract in hindsight, but other top stars seemed to be getting contracts not dissimilar. The problem really is that Davis was not then, and really is not now, a top star.

    • Bancells Moustache

      August 9, 2018 at 1:21 pm

      I recall the majority of these voices currently shouting down Mr. Davis threatening to burn jerseys and never buy tickets again if he wasn’t resigned.

    • Rich Dubroff

      August 10, 2018 at 5:25 am

      Some very interesting points raised here.

  11. boss61

    August 9, 2018 at 1:23 pm

    Those voices were loud then too, Mr. Moustache.

    • Rich Dubroff

      August 9, 2018 at 4:51 pm

      Boss and Blair, I think I’ll be writing about Chris Davis’ contract for the rest of my career.

  12. ptjhu

    August 9, 2018 at 3:35 pm

    I remember ESPN’s Keith Law saying that he’d be “out” on re-signing Chris Davis — especially since Davis spent that previous season trying to crack the Mendoza Line. And Law has been vindicated.

    I’d love to hear about any adjustments Davis has made; to me, it’s the same long, loopy swing. Davis doesn’t choke down on the bat or cut down on his swing. It’s a selfish act from a selfish player, as he knows that his money is guaranteed and there’s no reason to change anything.

    • Rich Dubroff

      August 9, 2018 at 4:55 pm

      ptjhu–Buck Showalter has remarked how he never sees anyone choke up on the bat anymore. He’s tried to go to left field more than in the past, but nothing seems to be working.

  13. deqalt

    August 9, 2018 at 6:03 pm

    This is our new Albert Belle contract we just gotta suck up right now. 4 years. At least 2 will be years the Orioles will be rebuilding

  14. Maka

    August 9, 2018 at 6:05 pm

    The Orioles will pay Davis whether he is with the team or cut. As he is today, they are better off giving his at bats to someone else and getting more value from Mancini by playing him at first base. They can improve the outfield defense by playing a natural outfielder in left. And create a stronger lineup by eliminating automatic outs. Davis’ contract is a sunk cost so it no longer matters. It takes courage to eat Davis’ contract but we need to be bold and do what is right for the team.

    • Rich Dubroff

      August 10, 2018 at 5:26 am

      This is a point many fans will agree with, Maka.

  15. 54orioles

    August 9, 2018 at 7:48 pm

    CD may well go down as the player in all of baseball with the worst performance after signing such a huge contract. Worst than Albert Bell, Glen Davis, Ubaldo Jimenez and anyone else I can think of in the last 60 plus years. But it is what it is. So either sit him down or play him and don’t expect any miracles.

    • Ekim

      August 10, 2018 at 1:03 pm

      He makes the O’s like a NL team with only 8 legitimate hitters in the lineup.

    • Borg

      August 11, 2018 at 6:53 am

      I woudn’t lump Belle in with bad contracts. He was a train wreck of a human being (apparently) but he put up more than adequate numbers here before he got hurt. There wasn’t any way to predict that injury, or any injury for that matter. If Belle had fulfilled all of his contract at the same numbers he put up in it when he was healthy, I think most people would have considered it money well-spent. Davis, on the other hand, isn’t inured and can’t hit. Even if he was maintaining borderline gold glove defense he still wouldn’t be worth the money with his present rate of production.

  16. SpinMaster

    August 10, 2018 at 1:57 pm

    Rich: You sure stirred up a hornet’s nest with this topic. All of the comments are great no matter what side of the issue they are on. It is great to have this site to express opinions and hear others.

  17. Allen Carbaugh

    August 10, 2018 at 2:34 pm

    I disagree. When it comes to the point that he is blocking a young guy then you get rid of him. Is it now? I don’t think so. Mullins is the only guy that is really knocking on the door and is a legit building block for the future. Mountcastle, Diaz, and McKenna are more realistically spring training guys next year. When it comes time to part ways with Crush you do it whether by trade or cutting him.

  18. TheMadStork83

    August 12, 2018 at 6:49 pm

    Rich, can’t the Orioles just DFA Davis and open that roster spot for a player that will produce? I understand the Orioles would still have to pay Davis, but look at what the Red Sox did in the last year in DFA Ramirez and Sandoval. It’s made them a better team overall, and opened up roster spots for better players.

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