Finally the Orioles are done with Chris Davis and his contract after Davis recently announced his retirement from baseball. The Orioles are still on the hook for the final year of Davis’ 7-year, 161 million-dollar albatross contract. However, the team will get a break as half of that salary will be paid over the next three years. Regardless of the structure of the payout, the O’s are finally done with Davis’ contract.
Davis’ Woeful Offensive Production
Davis’ exit from the Orioles (and baseball) has been a long time coming. From 2017-2019, Davis hit .185 with a .615 OPS, while averaging 175 strikeouts and 18 home runs in an average of 120 games during those years. In the Covid shortened 2020 season, Davis only played in 16 games where he hit .115 with zero home runs and 17 strikeouts. www.baseball-reference.com/players/d/davisch02.shtml. Davis’ woeful offensive production coincided with the start of the Orioles’ full-fledged rebuild after the 2018 season. As such, Davis was relegated to a $23 million a year defensive replacement, and place holder for young prospects like Ryan Mountcastle on a rebuilding team.
Davis’ offensive production was so bad starting in 2017 that he became the subject of fan ridicule and frustration. His contract was a constant topic for sports radio shows in Baltimore. He consistently drew the ire of fans during call-in segments. A city bar was providing free drinks to patrons during O’s games if Davis got a hit.
Davis’ Contract was Attempt to Make Up for Past Failures
Davis was not to blame for the contract the Orioles offered him. He smartly accepted the money that the Orioles offered, while bidding against themselves in the process. The fault for the contract lies with Orioles’ owner, Peter Angelos. The team overpaid Davis because Angelos wanted to demonstrate to the fans that he was finally willing to keep one of his own free agents. Angelos had previously failed to re-sign other notable free agents on the team. He also knew that he was not willing to pay the anticipated $300 million to keep Manny Machado, who was due to become a free agent in 2018.
Specifically, Angelos foolishly let both Nelson Cruz and ace reliever Andrew Miller walk in free agency after the 2014 season. The O’s signed Cruz for a mere one-year $8 million contract prior to that season after he came off a PED suspension. Cruz proceeded to hit 40 home runs and drive in 108 runs. However, the O’s failed to sign him after the season because he wanted a 4-year deal and the O’s were only willing to give him 3 years. How did that work out? Cruz is still putting up massive numbers to this day, seven years later!
The O’s also let Miller walk as a free agent following the 2014 season. The O’s traded its top pitching prospect, Eduardo Rodriguez, to the Boston Red Sox for Miller at the deadline in 2014. Miller signed with the Yankees and Rodriguez continues to pitch well for the Red Sox all these years later. The rich (Yanks and Sox) got richer and, of course, the O’s got poorer.
Davis’ Contract was Product of Poor Ownership
Although no one could have predicted Davis’ precipitous decline, the contract was ill-conceived from the start. As it turned out, the poorly owned Orioles got what they deserved. Davis had a few years of tremendous power production and was actually a good defensive first baseman. However, his play did not warrant a 7 yr. contract at age 30. No other team was offering Davis 7 years, or $161 million. Indeed, the Orioles previously offered a “take it or leave it” deal of 7 years for $150 million. When Davis, and his agent Scott Boras, decided to “leave it,” the Orioles added $11 million. The problem was that no other known team was bidding for his services. Obviously the Davis contract negotiation was not a winning formula. Either was failing to invest in analytics and international scouting as other successful franchises were doing at the time.
By signing the fan-favorite Davis, “the Crusher,” Angelos likely thought he would sell enough tickets, and Davis jerseys, to justify the contract. Instead, what he sold the fans was another “bill of goods.” The Davis signing was simply another move under the guise of “competing” for a world series. In reality, Angelos was willing to be just good enough to marginally compete and appease most fans. However, he was never willing to make the necessary commitment to meaningfully compete for a world series.
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