What Is A Fair Extension Price For O’s Slugger, Chris Davis?

Sports and Bets — August 5, 2015 at 6:47 am by

Chris Davis has hit home runs in two of the last three games. His shot against Oakland Monday night was of the Earl Weaver variety and it sparked the O’s to a big 9-2 win.  In the middle of a pennant race in August, home runs seem to make even more noise than usual, and the value of men who can hit them in bunches rises as the season wears on and as the pennant chase gets tighter.  Power hitters can change the entire complexion of a baseball game with one swing and having a masher in the lineup, especially in the American League, is extremely important to success.  Davis is that masher for the Birds and it’s no secret that he’ll be a free agent at the end of this season.

crush

Davis’ potential contract is big talk ’round theses parts.  What will he command on the open market?  What is he worth?  There are two definite and decided camps in this argument.  There are those who constantly bring up Davis’ strike out rate and his poor batting average.  These folks seem fine with letting Davis walk at the end of the season.  The other camp points to his power, his RBIs, and the fact that  a man with the potential to hit 35-40 home runs a year isn’t found walking up and down Lombard Street on a daily basis.  This camp thinks that signing Davis is an absolute must to future Oriole success.  Letting him walk, especially after letting Cruz walk a year ago, would create a power vacuum in the lineup that would badly hurt this Baltimore franchise and its chance to compete in the AL East.    While the truth probably lies somewhere in between the two camps, I tend to side with the latter group; Davis is a pure power hitter and an exceptional athlete who the Orioles should extend.

But before we dive into what we think is a fair price for Davis, we need to clarify two things.  First, the only player on the Orioles who is an absolute must sign at this point (considering current  contracts) is Manny Machado.  Manny hits for power and average.  He has speed and he plays platinum defense. His WAR is 16.2 over four seasons.  And he’s a mere 23 years of age. His contract extension will be in the $180- $220 million range if he stays healthy.   Second, I’m already assuming that Matt Wieters is playing elsewhere in 2016.  In my mind, if the O’s do decide to keep either Davis or Wieters, the player they will keep is Davis. There’s also a strong possibility that both players leave.  But for the purposes of this blog, The Wheat is gone.  (Chen’s contract is up too.  My cynical Orioles fan nature bets that he’s gone as well, but then again…..)

So what is Davis worth?  I’ve heard folks say that he’ll command as much as $100 million on the open market, but that’s stupidity.  If someone is willing to pay a 29 year old player that has struck out 673 times since 2012 $100 million over the next 5-6 years, then by all means, go for it.  The Orioles certainly won’t pay Davis that and they shouldn’t pay Davis that. Davis just isn’t complete enough at the plate to command $20 million per.  Plus, Davis has only ever hit more than 35 home runs in a season once in his career. Same goes with driving in 100 runs- he’s only done that once.  (He accomplished both during his magical 2013 season.)  His WAR over 8 seasons in 11.5 – that’s not overwhelming by any means.  And he’s 29.  No, he’s not old, but he’s old enough that his game is his game.  He is what he is.  He’s going to bat .250 (hopefully) and he’s going to hit around 30 home runs.  Some years he may go nuts and hit 45-50, but 30-35 a year seems realistic moving forward.   So sure, Davis is very good.  But he’s not $20 million good.  He’s 14-16 million a year good.

crush1

Ironically, Nelson Cruz’s 4 year/$58 million dollar deal seems like it could be a good starting point for both the Orioles and Davis’ agent, Scott Boras.  Cruz, offensively, is a middle of the order masher.  He strikes out less than Davis and his career batting average is about 20 points higher , but he’s a power guy who. just like Davis, has only hit 35 home runs in a year once and only driven in over 100 once as well.  (Both players are on pace to exceed those totals this season.) Very good player, but not $20 million good.

Davis, on the other hand, is a much better defender than Cruz and he’s five years younger.  Crush has played multiple positions this season and he didn’t complain while doing it either. He’s a team guy and he has bought into Buck- ball here in Baltimore for sure.  Davis has also publicly stated that he loves Baltimore and that he wants to stay.  Five years for $75-80 million-80 looks fair.  That pays Davis for five years and gives him the security he probably wants.  It also pays him fair market value for his services and makes him one of the top 50 paid players in baseball. With his power, that’s right where Davis belongs on the pay scale.  If the O’s can get that done than it should get done.  But if some other team offers Chris the moon, he will obviously walk, and the Orioles should let him.

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