Has Chris Davis talked himself out of big money?
He’s about to find out what the market is for a guy who can hit 50 homers, strike out 200-plus times and offer next to nothing in the field.
The market has not surprisingly been rather uninterested in Davis, who hit 47 home runs, drove in 117 and struck out a jaw-dropping 208 times in 2015.
His slash numbers weren’t as bad as you might have expected – .262/.361/.562. In 2013, when he hit a career-high 53 homers, his line was .286/.370/.634.
The year in between is a big concern – in 2014, Davis had 26 homers, 72 RBI and a woeful .196/.300/.404 slash line.
When Davis is good, he’s good – his 2013 wins above replacement was 6.5, and his 2015 WAR was 5.2. But when he’s bad, his 2014 WAR was 1.8.
Using WAR as a guide, you can see that Davis’ good isn’t necessarily great. His 6.5 WAR in 2013, for instance, wasn’t even the best on the O’s roster, with Manny Machado in 2013 putting up a 6.7 WAR with his 14 homer, 71 RBI, .283/.314/.432 season.
But Machado contributes with his glove as well. Machado’s 7.1 WAR in 2015 reflected a solid season at the plate – 35 homers, 86 RBI, a .286/.359/.502 slash line – and in the field – Machado won his second Gold Glove in four seasons at third base.
Davis is serviceable at best at first base, where he started 111 games in 2015, posting a deceptively good-looking .997 fielding percentage, with just three errors in 938 chances. It’s deceptively good because his 8.89 range factor was 54th among 91 American League first basemen in 2015.
The idea that Davis can contribute in the outfield – he started 29 games in right for Baltimore in 2015 – erodes when you look at his limited range there – Davis ranked 81st of 117 American Leaguers who played right field in 2015.
So if you’re signing Chris Davis, you’re signing a guy whose best position is DH, basically. He’ll be 30 on Opening Day, so he’s on the back end of his prime years, maybe two, three good years at the plate at best before he starts to decline.
And he’s asking seven years at a premium rate.
It’s not going to happen, not in this market. There are maybe two teams that would give him anywhere near seven years at $22 million per in the marketplace, and the New York Yankees aren’t spending big anymore, so that leaves us with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have Adrian Gonzalez on the payroll through 2018.
Davis’ best bet at this point is going to be to sign a one-year deal, put up a monster year and hope to hit it big next winter.
The O’s, for their part of this, might have lucked out that he didn’t take the long-term offer. They’re not going to get stuck paying him superstar money for three, maybe four years of declining production.
– Column by Chris Graham