Chris Davis' performance didn't really affect the Orioles in 2019 - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Chris Davis’ performance didn’t really affect the Orioles in 2019

Photo Credit: Joy R. Absalon

Oriole fans had two distinct lines of thinking about Chris Davis in 2019. One group was convinced that his presence on the Orioles was holding the team and its best prospects back. The other thought that the Orioles were so bad that Davis’ performance didn’t matter very much.

Anecdotally, at least, the second group was correct.

Davis appeared in 105 games in 2019, and the Orioles’ record was 35-70 for a winning percentage of .333. In the 57 games he didn’t play, the Orioles were 19-38 for a winning percentage of .333. Overall, the team was 54-108.

While Davis’ performance didn’t help the Orioles in 2019, it was a tertiary issue. The pitching staff’s 5.59 ERA and the 981 runs and 305 home runs allowed was far more crucial.

The first group of fans are resentful of Davis, whose seven-year, $161 million contract still has three years to run.

Please don’t forget that many of these fans implored the Orioles to re-sign Davis after his 2015 season when he led baseball in home runs for the second time in three years.

Some fans said that they’d never go to another Orioles game if the club didn’t extend him.

Now, they’re mad at him, and they want him gone. Some may actually believe that having Davis gone from the Orioles would make them a much better club.

A common thread was that Davis remaining on the Orioles prevented them from promoting Ryan Mountcastle. Clearly that wasn’t the case because Mountcastle, who was named the team’s top minor league player and the International League’s Most Valuable Player, wasn’t added when the rosters expanded in September.

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General manager Mike Elias said that Mountcastle will begin next season in the minor leagues to work on his plate discipline and mastering the outfield and first base.

Elias also said that Davis, whom the Orioles have given detailed instructions on how they want him to spend the offseason, will go to spring training with the team.

Next March, Davis will turn 34, and after four years of declining numbers is still owed $93 million. His annual salary of $23 million includes $6 million of deferred money. That $42 million will be paid from 2023, the year after Davis’ contract expires through 2037.

If the Orioles choose to cut ties with Davis, it will be an organizational decision, and not one taken lightly.

With the impending departure of Mark Trumbo, the Orioles have just two guaranteed contracts on their books, Davis’ and Alex Cobb’s.

According to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, Cobb, who signed a four-year, $57 million contract in March 2018, is owed $20 million in deferred salary to be paid through 2032.

If Cobb, coming off hip and knee surgery, doesn’t pitch 130 innings in 2020 for the Orioles, $10 million of his $15 million salary for 2021 is deferred, and that money would continue to be paid through 2035.

In 2020, teams will be able to carry 26 players, and they’re mandated to have at least 13 position players. For most of last season, the Orioles carried 13 pitches and just 12 position players.

With three extra players, one of them a backup catcher, it wasn’t easy to avoid playing Davis. A fourth position player seemingly makes it easier for the Orioles to keep Davis around.

If he remakes his swing this offseason and is productive during Grapefruit League games, then the Orioles will be happier and the restive fan base, who cheered him during his record-setting 0-for-33 stretch to begin the 2019 season, will applaud his comeback.

If Davis continues to struggle in March 2020, then the organization must think again.

Some thought that it would be impossible to carry Trumbo and Davis on the team in 2019. But Trumbo’s recovery after right knee surgery prevented him from playing until September, making that point moot.

The Orioles are eager to see what Mountcastle can do at the major league level. It was fun to see how Austin Hays and Anthony Santander did after they were given opportunities, and Mountcastle has taken his turn at every minor league level.

Mountcastle, who was promoted from High-A Frederick to Double-A Bowie in July 2017, had to return to Bowie for 2018 because the Orioles weren’t satisfied with his performance.

Now, Mountcastle is poised to return to the Triple-A Norfolk Tides to begin 2020 while Davis continues with the Orioles.

Is it possible to have Davis, Mountcastle and Trey Mancini on the same team in 2020? Sure, manager Brandon Hyde would find a way to make it work.

Last year’s team won just seven more games than they did in 2019. It’s possible that 2020’s team may show slight improvement, but if there’s a markedly better record, it won’t be because the Orioles moved on from Davis, it will be because the pitching improved.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

33 Comments

33 Comments

  1. Camden Brooks

    October 14, 2019 at 8:02 am

    Well said Rich.

  2. Boog Robinson Robinson

    October 14, 2019 at 8:42 am

    C’mon Rich .. what is this? If we’re going to stink, what’s it matter?

    I certainly can’t speak for for his teammates, coaches or the organization, but simply put, his presence on the roster is an embarrassment to the fan base.

    I’m sure Chris is a great guy, and I don’t begrudge him one iota for sticking around and collecting on the contract that the team signed him to, but to have him on the 40 man at this point, is frankly a joke and indefensible by ownership as well as management.

  3. SpinMaster

    October 14, 2019 at 8:57 am

    I kind of agree with Boog, but since he will be at Spring Training I will be a very interested observer to see the changes that he will have made. That was said with tongue in cheek because I really don’t think we will see many changes.

  4. Tony Paparella

    October 14, 2019 at 9:23 am

    You can make a different explanation or excuse for anything at anytime if you really want to.I have never seen a team stick with a guy so long who does not seem to have it anymore.I myself also like Chris Davis and wanted him signed to a contract though I was thinking around 125 million at the most at that time.That also would have been a mistake but who would have thought what has gone on with him would actually happen? I do agree with your article in the sense that you have put it, but the Orioles would be better off in the future (if he continues this digression) going in another direction.I could list a lot of reasons why but in fact am willing to see what spring training brings, if they continue to give him a chance.At some point he is going to have to improve his numbers and age is also a factor.I believe most fans hope he makes a comeback instead.

  5. PC in OC

    October 14, 2019 at 9:57 am

    In order to compete and be a top notch team, a team MUST have three main ingredients, Pitching, Pitching and more Pitching. Once we accomplish that, Watch the Orioles Take Off. With that being said, I don’t have anything against CD personally, however, enough is enough. How many chances are we going to give him. He is going to have detailed instructions this winter, he has had them before. ( no improvement) He has his money and is now, just going thru the motions. Back in 2015, I was one of many, who wanted him back, we didn’t have anyone else, to cheer for or give us hope, like other RICH Teams had. (We all make mistakes) It seems like, you all want to give him another chance. Ok, for the time being, I’ll join your group and give him that chance, however, if there is no improvement in spring training or the Grapefruit League and I’ll go a little further, 3 weeks into the season, then it’s time to say, good riddance. It won’t be the first time, a team has eaten ones salary.

  6. PC in OC

    October 14, 2019 at 10:01 am

    Three Strikes and your Out!!!!

  7. CalsPals

    October 14, 2019 at 10:10 am

    The mistake they made was sticking with him the whole season, kinda crazy to release him now, they’ve made their bed, IF he does all the things he was supposedly told to do in the off season AND he shows a major improvement, ok, he’d be worth sticking around & helping, my major concern is all the younglings he has negatively impressed, sorry on beating a dead horse, but when he went after Hyde, his days should have been numbered, like any of ours would have been at work…just saying…go O’s…

  8. Dantor

    October 14, 2019 at 10:18 am

    Bite the bullet and let him go. CD has not improved since the contract and has steadily gone down hill. His offense is no better or worse the last couple of years and his defensive skills are not what they used to be.
    Again bite the bullet and let him go!

  9. Orial

    October 14, 2019 at 10:30 am

    Well written and thought out article. In a nutshell as we all know it’s that damn contract. That being sais–give Davis the off season with the mandates and next spring training. It does seem that the window is not closed on a release. When you said a roster with Davis,Mancini,Mountcastle could work(though difficult) you failed to mention Nunez. Hes also a part of the “softball team” clog they’ve got at 1B/DH. A shame that Mountcastle is his own worst enemy with these flaws.

  10. willmiranda

    October 14, 2019 at 10:30 am

    It seems to me that Elias is commendably measured in his rhetoric.
    So, when he says that Davis will definitely be back for spring training without
    indicating in what capacity, I naturally think: peanut vendor. I do wonder, though,
    what are the consequences of dropping him from the 40-man for the sake of the
    Rule 5 Draft to protect someone else. Any thoughts?

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 14, 2019 at 11:56 am

      Dropping him from the 40-man roster would be cutting him. He’d pass through waivers and be a free agent, Will and the Orioles would be on the hook for his remaining salary.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        October 14, 2019 at 6:51 pm

        So pay him to strike out for somebody else already.

  11. NormOs

    October 14, 2019 at 11:52 am

    Well said, BRR

  12. 89Ghost

    October 14, 2019 at 1:28 pm

    This is quite the testament to our pitching staff. As for Davis, I am not surprised by his sustained drop off in average given his 2014 season long slump and prevalence of shifting and strikeouts, but I figured his power numbers would have held up more, especially at home. It will be interesting to see if he gets to 300 career home runs (he is at 295 now) before he is released – of the 27 guys who have hit 50+ in a season, it looks like only 3 did not finish with 300+ for their careers (Maris, Brady, and Hack Wilson in the NL in the late 20s). Given that he will begin year 5 of 7 in 2020, even their projections at the time of re-signing had to show him entering the diminishing returns stage, which should make the eventual decision less bitter.

  13. OriolesNumber1Fan

    October 14, 2019 at 3:02 pm

    I can’t understand why the Orioles are keeping this guy now going forward. Can’t teach an old dog new tricks and CD will turn 34 before the season starts. I could see before when they had no issues regarding the 40 man roster but now they need to put 8 more guys possibly on the 40 man and they are currently right at 40 now. They are all young cheap players except for Cobb, so if they expose any with the new 26 man rosters in place, they better have a real plan in place. I’m sure they don’t want to lose any in the rule 5 draft. And I’m sure they want to be players themselves in the rule 5. So, I’m guessing that if CD doesn’t turn it around by the end of spring training that they would finally cut him loose. Elias only stated that he would be back in spring training with a off-season plan in place for him. So no commitment past spring training is guaranteed. I know Mountcastle will be on the 40 and hopefully by the trading deadline they find him a defensive position that he can handle, hopefully either in left field or at 1st base, so they can call him up. We don’t need another DH type with a poor WAR on the roster. To help their pitching woes somewhat they better start looking at their defensive makeup if they want to improve.

  14. mlbbirdfan

    October 14, 2019 at 3:51 pm

    Davis seems lost, like he needs glasses, and a new mind. That said, he is a sunk cost, no point releasing him now. He (very slightly) improved BA, OBP, SLG, OPS, HR per AB, RBI per AB in 2019 compared to 2018. Maybe he’ll take a small hop or “quantum leap“ in April/May 2020 and we can off load him to someone for $1 million(or more). Before you make a wise crack, think about what $1 million buys in technology today. Orioles Player Development: just beginning to emerge from true darkness. I trust Mike Elias and Sig.

  15. jimcarter

    October 14, 2019 at 5:34 pm

    Since Mountcastle has never played a ML game, that has nothing to do with Davis. The issue was having Mancini out of position for yet another season while Davis was dead weight. Mancini and several others were not and likely will never be quality major league outfielders. I would rather have had Mancini at first all year and given Williams an extended audition in the outfield (because he’s actually an outfielder). We know Davis. He’s had plenty of auditions.

    • Chuck

      October 14, 2019 at 5:58 pm

      Well said, JC. Abusing TM in the outfield is a huge issue that needs correction. Go O’s!

    • Bhoffman1

      October 14, 2019 at 7:31 pm

      Yes Rich didn’t mention that in his article.Keeping Mancini in the outfield is enough to release CD. Listen all the data about the team bring no better without him are BS. Pure BS there were other factors and quite possibly if we had a normal productive player in those games even with the bad pitching there could have been more wins

  16. Hallbe62

    October 14, 2019 at 5:56 pm

    Anecdotal or not….If he’s not helping…..than he’s hurting.

    And if he’s hurting the team through “inaction” then he is affecting the team.

  17. Frank Howard LF-1B

    October 14, 2019 at 5:58 pm

    Has there been an uglier chapter in Orioles’ history than the Sad Saga of Chris Davis?
    I’m glad that Jim Palmer delivered an informed “call out” to this man.
    One thing is for-sure, and I utterly guarantee this to all at Baltimore Baseball.com:
    Chris Davis will change NOTHING of any substance this Winter, or ever.
    He will be HORRIBLE for however long the Orioles’ Brass allows him to stay.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      October 14, 2019 at 6:58 pm

      Cheers Frank! We’re with you.

    • Bhoffman1

      October 14, 2019 at 7:35 pm

      Giving him a plan to follow this off-season is a insult to fans. I guess their thinking is he was given a plan the last two years and got two strikes so we will give him one more year to get his three strikes.

  18. Birdman

    October 14, 2019 at 8:04 pm

    Rich … yes, you are correct that the Orioles biggest weakness, by far, is pitching. That said, there are several reasons to cut Davis loose, including:

    a) Davis has proven unable and/or unwilling to change his hitting technique. Same swing and same inability/unwillingness to hit or bunt against the shift, which is not acceptable when you are batting .170 and striking out about 40% of the time.

    b) As has been pointed out, the Orioles best hitter, Trey Mancini, belongs at first base full-time. With Mancini at first everyday, what useful role could Davis possibly have?

    c) Davis is probably the main symbol of the Orioles collapse over the past few years. Keeping him around does not send a hopeful message about the future to a discouraged and diminishing fan base.

    • Camden Brooks

      October 14, 2019 at 9:18 pm

      For starters, asking CD to start bunting against the shift is like asking Tim Wakefield to become a fastball pitcher…not gonna work. I agree Davis probably needs to go, but close your eyes, and picture that it’s YOUR $160 million dollars that you’ve spent, and by cutting him, you’re guaranteeing that you have 0% chance of getting anything in return over the last 3 contract years. I think ownership is 100% controlling Chris’ situation.

  19. TxBirdFan

    October 14, 2019 at 8:46 pm

    Can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think Rich is saying we would have gained zilch if CD had been released. We still have to pay him, our pitching wouldn’t improve, we’d still have a logjam at first base with Trumbo, and Mancini still had a tremendous year without playing first base. We could lose with or without him so there was nothing to gain by sending him packing. Nice article Rich – it took me awhile to get it.

  20. WorldlyView

    October 15, 2019 at 2:46 am

    If, and only if, we knew for sure that the O’s could have and would have signed a high-contributing pitcher as a free agent to take CD’s roster spot would I be convinced that retaining him had materially hurt the team’s performance this past season. In any event, we can’t change history, so it’s best to look to the future. I would argue the right thing to do is wait until the end of spring training or very early in the season to see if he has returned to being a legitimate big league batter. If not, he should be released. Much of his guaranteed salary is deferred and will not be fully paid off until 2037! Given the difference between the present value of money versus its future value, it seems reasonable to suggest that CD could be bought out of his contract at a mutually reasonable discount to the total of what’s owed to him. I would also suggest that part of the O’s payment to him be salary for his new position of VP for External Relations. He seems like a genuinely nice guy, and he has done many good things in the community; hence his team’s nomination for the Roberto Clemente award. Finally, his hiring as an O’s VP could be delayed until after he has had a chance to be picked up by another team. I for one would not at all be surprised by his being signed by another team that will resurrect his hitting prowess. The Yankees come to mind.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 15, 2019 at 8:09 am

      Professor Cohen, Chris’ agent is Scott Boras. Davis will be paid, and should be paid the remaining money that he’s owed. He’s not going to retire.

  21. Bumble bee

    October 15, 2019 at 8:30 am

    But what if this fall they take crush and his live arm and let him tinker at relief pitching, can’t be any worst than what we have, that way mountcastle has an opening to play when and if they bring him up

  22. garyintheloo

    October 15, 2019 at 10:24 am

    Chris Davis has not performed as a major league hitter (the prime reason for the contract) but I think it is unfair to criticize the fans who complain because they got a poor product. Personally I did not think the Os would sign him and I would not have gone above 5/110 especially without obvious competition for him. There were some other questionable signings around that time. Remember Prince Fielder? We got a bad deal and don’t have to like it. Agreed that the money will be paid anyway but open up the roster space. Besides this team has been OBP deficient for 20 years but if the kid can hit make Mountcastle the DH. Yordan Alvarez with the same deficiencies is the favorite for ROY as a DH. Give us something to root for since it won’t be pitching.

  23. Borg

    October 15, 2019 at 7:03 pm

    For $23 million, shouldn’t he actually make a difference? And the argument that many fans wanted him re-signed so they don’t get to be disappointed with his performance doesn’t hold water either. He hasn’t come close to earning 1/10th of that salary, and fans have every right to be angry when they are paying for games.
    Remaking his swing is a pipe dream. Maybe he didn’t hold anyone back this year, though I would argue that his presence kept the Orioles from developing Mancini as a first baseman and somebody (Stewart, Williams, etc) as an outfielder. But if he is on the roster next season he will certainly be hurting the club. Spin it any way you wish, he is an albatross and the Orioles should stop trying to use smoke and mirrors to deflect criticism away from him. The sooner he is gone, the sooner people will believe the team is actually trying to get better. The money they owe him is already wasted so they might as well bite the bullet and at least get somebody in the lineup who might be productive.

  24. pineconekingpin

    October 15, 2019 at 7:36 pm

    Oh wow, I forgot about the deferral’s. What a mess!

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