Davis' future could be early test for Orioles' new top executive - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Rich Dubroff

Davis’ future could be early test for Orioles’ new top executive

Seven days after the Orioles decided to part ways with Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter, no confirmed names to replace them have surfaced.

When the pair were released on Oct. 3, the Orioles announced that they would hire a new head of baseball operations from outside the organization.

“Once in place, this individual will have the final determination on all baseball matters that he or she believes will make the Orioles successful on the field, entertaining to fans and impactful in the community,” the statement read.

Although there has been skepticism from fans that Duquette’s replacement will have total autonomy, for now we should take that statement at face value.

After the Orioles traded Manny Machado on July 18, Duquette said the organization would rebuild, and he moved quickly to trade Zach Britton, Brad Brach, Kevin Gausman, Darren O’Day and Jonathan Schoop ahead of the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline.

Duquette, who had no job security, moved forcefully to make those deals and reiterated the organization’s plan to focus on international scouting, analytics and technology with the aim to cut the team’s payroll while it rebuilt.

If he was allowed to make those trades, why wouldn’t his successor be given the same—or even more latitude?

In order to attract top-shelf candidates to head baseball operations, Executive Vice President John Angelos and Ownership Representative Louis Angelos will have to give them their word that they’ll be able to reorganize the team as they please.

Brady Anderson, the team’s vice president of baseball operations, who isn’t a candidate to replace Duquette, remains under contract, the statement read. Neither Anderson nor interim General Manager Brian Graham will be a candidate because the Orioles are going outside the organization.

Replacing both the GM and field manager concurrently was a bold move just as the announced decision to rebuild was.

But in recent years the Orioles have shown that they’re capable of bold moves.

With the team floundering in June 2007, General Partner Peter Angelos decided another regime change was in order and in a surprise chose Andy MacPhail to head baseball operations.

The Orioles were in the midst of their 11th straight losing season, and few of the pieces on hand at that time remained when the team began winning just after MacPhail left four years ago.

MacPhail’s hiring of Showalter in July 2010 was another decisive move.

After the organization was criticized for allowing Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis to leave as free agents after the 2014 season, Angelos was convinced that shouldn’t happen again. In January 2016, the Orioles re-signed Chris Davis to a seven-year, $161-million deal.

The Orioles, falsely accused of being penurious, more than doubled their previous richest contract and the move, which has turned out to be disastrous, was met with general agreement from fans.

Davis’ contract still has four years to run, and what to do with it will be an early challenge for Duquette’s successor. No player was more representative of the Orioles’ 2018 season than Davis, who batted .168 and appeared lost at the plate.

It will be fascinating to see how a new manager and hitting coach affect Davis.

Two longtime hitting coaches suggest that Davis’ problems are fixable, but only if he’ll put in the work necessary to fix them.

After Caleb Joseph’s record-setting 2016 season, when he failed to record an RBI in 132 at-bats, he was pestered with questions about the ignominious achievement.

Two seasons later, Davis suffered through what’s generally conceded to be the worst season in baseball history.

Beginning with FanFest and then in spring training, Davis will be questioned endlessly about 2018.

Although far less accessible than he was in the past, Davis can articulate his frustrations well and in great detail when he chooses to, but he’ll choose to do so sparingly.

With Adam Jones unlikely to return, the 2019 Orioles won’t have many recognizable names. When national press members arrive in Sarasota next February to examine the rebuilding, Davis will be an obvious target.

In the past, Davis was always agreeable, but with Jones and Manny Machado on hand, he wasn’t generally the center of attention. Now, for negative reasons, he will be.

Fans who once supported the re-signing of Davis aren’t as supportive these days. Including deferred money, the Orioles owe Davis $110 million, money that will pay him through 2037.

Some have suggested that the Orioles offer Davis a buyout, which is unlikely. Davis, his uber-agent, Scott Boras and the Players Association would never accept that.

Barring injury, Davis will begin 2019 with the Orioles. If he shows no signs of improvement in the season’s first few weeks, then perhaps the new head of baseball operations and manager could help make a tough decision.

One longtime baseball man suggested that the key to the Boston Red Sox’s success this season was the May 30 release of the unproductive and divisive Hanley Ramirez.

Ramirez was in the final year of a four-year contract that was paying him $22.75 million this year.

The Orioles have long been reluctant to eat contracts, but if Davis begins 2019 poorly, it will be an interesting test for their new head of baseball operations.

44 Comments

44 Comments

  1. bigdaddydk

    October 10, 2018 at 8:25 am

    Reality is, it’s a sunk cost anyway. You’re going to pay it regardless. Is it better to pay that money for four more years for below replacement level — way below replacement level — performance when you could jettison the dead weight and pay someone to produce? Of course, it costs money. But why would you double down on horrid play for another four years? Seems to me that Davis either corrects the problem or he needs to go, money be [email protected]

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 10, 2018 at 8:36 am

      I agree, bigdaddy.

  2. SpinMaster

    October 10, 2018 at 8:31 am

    Rich: As you have said many times to us fans, this will be a very interesting off-season for the Orioles. It should keep all of us very busy commenting on all of the pending moves. The Chris Davis story has yet to have the final chapter written.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 10, 2018 at 8:38 am

      Spin, the end of the Davis story whenever it comes, will be fascinating.

  3. Creatively09

    October 10, 2018 at 8:48 am

    It may be unlikely that Davis accept a buyout, but if he’s reading this, I strongly urge that he does. Whatever settlement he agrees to will still be enough money for him to support his family for the rest of his life. He will be able to leave the Orioles with his dignity somewhat intact. I don’t think Davis is like most Scott Boras clients, and I never thought Davis was all about the money. He’s a caring man who gives generously back to the community. He’s a very religious man whose faith grounds him as a person. For those reasons, I don’t discount a scenario where a partial buyout occurs, but it would have to be carefully and creatively negotiated by the next GM of the Orioles.

    • bigdaddydk

      October 10, 2018 at 10:10 am

      Frankly, I could support my family for the rest of my life on 50% of his annual earnings. Very comfortably too, I might add. It’s been rumored recently that he’s thought about walking away during this past season. He may have even alluded to it himself. But I’m sure that $100 million is plenty of incentive to keep chugging along, being as the contract is guaranteed money. I suspect the O’s would have to approach him and offer him some portion of that money. But even then, I have to wonder how that is impacted by his agency relationship with Boras. Agents are due a cut, so he could be on the hook for a significant sum to buy out Boras if he accepts an offer for less than the balance of his contract. It would almost be worth it to take the one-year hit, cut him, and pay out the balance of his contract while the team is on low payroll and going to suck anyway. They deferred enough money that I’m sure was done in anticipation of paying some players who are key components of a playoff team, and that obviously hasn’t happened. I wonder if they could do it in a lump sum and be done with it, or if the terms of the contract require it to be paid out over time.

      • Rich Dubroff

        October 10, 2018 at 10:20 am

        bigdaddy, the Mets have a worse deal with 55-year-old Bobby Bonilla. They pay him $1.19 million each July 1 and will until 2035.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 10, 2018 at 10:16 am

      Creatively, I would guess that Chris isn’t reading this. The only way a buyout could occur would be if Davis initiated it.

      Contracts are guaranteed in baseball, and all Chris said was “thank you very much.” It was the Orioles who offered the contract, and they’ll have to deal with the consequences.

      I agree that Davis isn’t all about the money, but it would set a horrible precedent for the Players Association.

      While we all agree that the current situation is untenable, we’ll need to wait to see how Davis performs next spring.

    • Jbigle1

      October 11, 2018 at 1:04 am

      Peter angelos is a billionaire. He signed off on giving Chris Davis 100’s of millions of dollars. The money is his. Angelos is an attorney and is big on mitigating risk. Ie. The reluctance to spend on SP’s or IFA’s. If he was foolish enough to not only okay the deal but push for it to happen, he deserves to be paying out every dollar to Davis. You sign a MLB contract and that money is yours. The orioles can “buy him out” tomorrow by releasing him and eating every dollar they agreed to give the man.

  4. Sisco Kid

    October 10, 2018 at 9:23 am

    Davis seems like a great guy and I want him to have every chance to turn it around. But if he can’t do it through the first part of 2019, we have to let him go. Cutting Davis at his current production level boosts the team offensively (replacement level batting) and probably defensively too (Mancini moves to first and the outfield defense gets a boost). It seems like a no-brainer. But then again, it’s not my money. Cheers

    • bigdaddydk

      October 10, 2018 at 10:02 am

      Moving Mancini out of the outfield alone will help the defense. If we’re going full youth movement, then Stewart, Mullins, and Hays look at the moment like the outfield of the future. Obviously that can change, but Mancini needs to be at a position more natural for him than LF. I agree that Davis should get the opportunity to turn it around, but there’s a point where you’ve exhausted those opportunities. He can’t keep dragging it out ad infinitum, and he certainly can’t continue to bat below .200, which he’s done twice in his career already. He rebounded from the first one, which was the season after he was suspended for not having the therapeutic use exemption for Adderall. But his trend has not been good since 2015. He’s declined in every key offensive stat each season since. We’re talking about a guy who has had three years to figure it out. This season wasn’t an anomaly. It was symptomatic of something that has gotten worse. Whatever the disease is that makes him unable to hit productively, it’s now systemic.

      For the record, I really like Chris Davis based on what I’ve read about him and heard from him overall. He does seem like a great guy. He seems like he’s high character off the field, and I’ve never seen him be anything but classy on it. For all the pressure he must feel, he doesn’t lose his temper, argue with umpires, etc. He’s a guy I like to root for. I’m just not optimistic at this point.

      • Sisco Kid

        October 10, 2018 at 10:24 am

        That’s definitely fair, point taken. Hopefully we’re going to have too many “good” young outfielders, honestly, that’d be a good problem to have. We have Mullins, Hays, Stewart, Yusniel Diaz, Mountcastle (who I’ve read might transition to the OF if he can’t stick at 3B), and McKenna all coming up within the next few years. OF is one area where I’m NOT concerned for the O’s.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 10, 2018 at 10:21 am

      No, Sisco it’s not your money, but it would set an incredible precedent.

  5. willmiranda

    October 10, 2018 at 10:58 am

    Scott Boras should be paying Davis a fortune. His contract is the best endorsement an agent could want. If Davis should choose a buyout, he could do infomercials with Larry King promoting Boras’ agency.

  6. Delsym

    October 10, 2018 at 11:11 am

    We must keep him and help him!! He is committed to his craft, a man of faith with great work ethic. Invest in him and his success, perhaps split the cost with him? Bring in some folks who may have special insights and skill sets to work through with him over the winter: Josh Hamilton, Barry Bonds, Jim Thome; none of them can help him play first base; but I would argue he may be the best defensive first baseman of our era and can be in the same conversation wrt hitting…but for this travesty and blight upon the game of baseball called a “shift”. Maybe even a slapper/hitter like Gwynn could help with that? His speed isn’t really aweful, I truly believe he’s salvageable and belongs at first until we’ve a defensive replacement. If we’re paying, then we must keep him, he adds value to/for a young, struggling and foreseebly underperforming team for the years he and we have left with him. Pray… perhaps they’ll kill the shift and all will be well once again???

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 10, 2018 at 2:53 pm

      Delsym, there’s no question the shift has hurt Davis, but it doesn’t look as if it will be legislated away this offseason.

    • Raymo

      October 10, 2018 at 9:59 pm

      I don’t know the actual statistic, but if 50% of your plate appearances end with a strikeout (whether called or swinging), the shift isn’t the major issue.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 10, 2018 at 11:52 pm

      Raymo, this year it was 36.8’percent.

    • Paul Folkemer

      October 11, 2018 at 9:54 am

      Delsym, I disagree with most of what you’ve said here. I think it’s fair to ask questions about Davis’ work ethic and commitment, especially after the brouhaha with Palmer and Coolbaugh early last season. I have no doubt that he wants to succeed, but what are the adjustments he’s making?

      I also think blaming the shift for his struggles is letting him off the hook. Certainly, the shift has taken away some singles from him. But it isn’t the reason he dropped from 53 home runs to 16 last year. If you hit the ball over the fence, you don’t have to worry about the shift. Davis has stopped doing that. To me, his bat speed is noticeably slower than it used to be, and that’s been one of his biggest issues. It’s possible that someone could help him learn to hit to the opposite field more often, but if you’re suggesting Tony Gwynn, unfortunately he died four years ago.

      I think you’re overestimating Davis’s defense and speed, too. He used to be a good defensive first baseman, but he’s slipped in the last couple seasons. And he’s gotten slower. I just don’t see what value he provides to the Orioles.

      • Birdman

        October 11, 2018 at 11:12 am

        Agree with Paul’s analysis … with almost the entire left side of the infield undefended, Davis’ stubborn refusal to bunt against the shift was impossible to justify – I understand that getting on base with bunt singles may be a blow to the pride of a former home run champion, but would it really be more embarrassing than a .168 average?

  7. Justin Lego

    October 10, 2018 at 11:53 am

    I don’t think any GM or owner would publicly admit to intentionally tanking, but continuing to play Davis, especially at his current sub-par performance, might not be the worst thing ever. Hear me out on this.

    The O’s aren’t in a position to compete for a division title or wild card spot next year and are expected to be in complete rebuild mode. Having some very high draft picks for the next 2-3 years would go a long way towards injecting some high end talent into the farm system and speeding up the rebuild. Playing Davis will probably cost the O’s a few games next season, but if that’s the difference between having the 5th pick in the draft or the 1st or 2nd pick, isn’t the higher draft pick more valuable to a rebuilding team? I realize there are no guarantees with any draft pick, but theoretically, you’re in a better position with the top pick. I’m not privy to the financials, but I can’t imagine getting a 3 win boost does a lot for this team financially. Going from 89 wins to 92 would be huge, but going from 59 to 62 (or something in that range) probably doesn’t move the needle.

    If the O’s were in a position to contend, then yes, cutting Davis would absolutely make sense and would make the team that much better. But in their current state, adding a few wins might hurt them long term if it means a worse draft pick.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 10, 2018 at 2:54 pm

      Justin, it’s highly likely that the Orioles will have another difficult year in 2019–with or without Davis in the lineup.

      • Justin Lego

        October 10, 2018 at 5:23 pm

        I agree with you completely. The O’s will have a high draft pick as a result of the 2019 season. I’m arguing that by playing Davis and his negative WAR, they can very likely draft 1 or 2 overall again. By benching him in favor of a better player, you pick up a few extra wins on the season. That won’t make it a good season, but it might mean you’re drafting 6th instead of 2nd. If you’re going to rebuild, REBUILD. That means being awful, not mediocre for a few seasons. To that end, I think Chris Davis is just the guy we need!

        • Jbigle1

          October 11, 2018 at 1:11 am

          Once we deal our last 2 established big league relievers by the deadline next year we’ll probably struggle to win any games even if we’re up in the later innings. Givens has been rumored to be available this offseason and I suspect bleier could go by the deadline next year. That makes for an ugly back end. Moving Davis out if he can’t do it anymore makes a lot of sense for our other players development. Winning isn’t the objective but getting Mancini comfortable at first while allowing our young OFers to play out there is beneficial to our future. We certainly want to suck but we also need to build. The removal of givens/bleier and potentially one of (if not both) Bundy or Cobb should help keep us really bad.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 11, 2018 at 9:23 am

      Jbigle, your scenario is plausible.

  8. Boog Robinson Robinson

    October 10, 2018 at 12:01 pm

    It’s simply time to exorcise “The Curse of the Bobblehead.” Davis must go.

  9. Beeb

    October 10, 2018 at 2:34 pm

    I love these comments! Seriously. Unfortunately, you are dealing with someone who has serious “between the 4 inches” issues. And that’s how you have to deal with him.

  10. WAM

    October 10, 2018 at 3:52 pm

    How about Davis working with a bunting specialist over the off-season? If he can bunt down the 3rd baseline for base hits, maybe opposing teams will finally get out of the shift. It seems like the recent trend in going to the shift has hurt Chris more than any other MLB’er.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 10, 2018 at 11:57 pm

      The best way to beat the shift is to hit the ball hard, bunts are great, but they’re one base. He’s been hurt, WAM because in trying to beat the shift, he’s trying to hit the ball out of the ballpark.

  11. Maka

    October 10, 2018 at 3:53 pm

    With the recent trades, considerable amounts of salaries have been removed from the books. This should make absorbing Chris Davis’ salary easier to digest. He can be replaced with a younger, cheaper player, or a productive versatile veteran similar to a Steve Pearce type. Unless Davis can regain some of his old form, he is not worth having on the team, and sends mixed messages about the seriousness of the rebuild and desire to be competitive.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 10, 2018 at 11:58 pm

      Interesting thoughts, Maka.

  12. deqalt

    October 10, 2018 at 5:48 pm

    Bigger issue than Davis is the fact as the Orioles are without a GM and Manager the Marlins are stock piling money to go after the Cuban players while the Orioles just watch. If the money is close and after the latest trade it is no way Orioles get the brothers.

  13. Grand Strand Bird Fan

    October 10, 2018 at 6:51 pm

    The two hitting coaches who said if Davis puts in the work he can fix his problems. Palmer questioned his work ethic during a broadcast calling out Davis. The Orioles need to push him through their coaches and video analysis to fix his approach. I think he has the first half of 2019 to turn it around. Otherwise I think they will release him.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 10, 2018 at 11:59 pm

      It will be interesting, Grand Strand.

  14. Michael Trent

    October 10, 2018 at 7:34 pm

    Just get the right hitting coach to get him to hit the ball to left field or as others have said , bunt down the third base line. As for the Cuban players you may as well say they are going to the Marlins. We have some assets to trade for some more international money

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 10, 2018 at 11:59 pm

      I will be eager to see who next year’s hitting coach is, Michael.

  15. BirdsCaps

    October 10, 2018 at 8:19 pm

    Watching Chris try to hit is the baseball equivalent of getting a root canal. He seems like a decent enough guy who cares about his on field performance. However, the Palmer comments do cast some doubt on that. The Red Sox front office promptly cut Pablo Sandoval after his poor performance (and lengthy expensive contract), and the Birds front office needs to grow up and cut ties with their costly mishap. If the O’s don’t cut him by next all star break (barring improved performance) we’ll forget the great years of “Crush” and only remember the solemn strikeout king known as “Cash” Davis.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 11, 2018 at 9:24 am

      Davis’ 2019 season will be one to watch, for sure.

  16. Krabman

    October 10, 2018 at 9:48 pm

    This will be clearest indication ever – to the fans, of whether the owners are serious about winning. If they jettison this albatross they are. If they don’t, they’re not.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 11, 2018 at 9:25 am

      The guess here, Krabman is that they are.

  17. willmiranda

    October 11, 2018 at 11:02 am

    Alternate hypothesis. Next year, Davis gets off to a very good start, and the team hovers around .500 in July. A deep pockets team bids for Davis but offers peanuts in return. What do we do?.

    • Paul Folkemer

      October 11, 2018 at 4:09 pm

      How much of the salary are they taking? If it’s even half, you jump on that deal before they can hang up the phone.

  18. Jacobs1928

    October 11, 2018 at 8:36 pm

    With the Owner a Lawyer …I would make Davis an offer say $25 million and cut him from the team…..then go to court if not accepted…and if I were in the jury I would vote
    Against Davis based on his performance in the years following the contract…I think
    He quit his talent because of the contract.

  19. Jacobs1928

    October 11, 2018 at 8:40 pm

    My previous comment I assume if my denial of full contract $$$’s would lead to a
    Trial with a jury the O’s would win based on his recent year results and $25 million.

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