Back on January 21st, it became official.
— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) January 22, 2016
The Orioles agreed to a deal with Chris Davis to make him the highest paid Oriole in franchise history. With a contract this large coming from a team that rarely, if ever, gives them out, it came as a surprise to many O’s fans along with a wide range of opinions on the matter.
You have the people who think that the deal was necessary to keep one of the best power hitters in baseball on the O’s to provide a left handed power bat in a stadium built for left handed power hitters. Then, you have the people who think it was a bad deal considering guys like Christian Walker and Trey Mancini are in the Minor Leagues or that Davis just strikes out too much and is too streaky of a player to play everyday.
However you feel about the discussion, I think the Davis deal has not turned out to be terrible…yet. With this kind of signing, you always have to go in with a bit of cautious optimism considering similar deals have been struck and did not work out as well.
The contract Davis’ is always compared to is Ryan Howard‘s with the Phillies. Back in April of 2010, Howard signed a 5 year extension worth $125 million. On the surface, these may seem like similar contracts but they very much are not.
The Orioles have the luxury of $42 million from Davis’ deal being deferred money that he will make, with no interest added, over the course of 13 years after he retires. The Phillies do not have that luxury with Ryan Howard, which means he is set to make all of his money while playing for the team. Howard’s contract has a $23 million option for 2017 with a $10 million buyout and it is pretty obvious which rout the Phillies will take.
Another flaw when comparing the two, and this is more unfair to Howard, is that he was injured in the 2011 postseason, the year after signing the deal and the year before the contract would go into effect. This, on top of an already declining player, made for a bad situation. With how odd Davis’ career has been to this point, there are not enough years, in my opinion, to tell if a decline has happened yet. His final results for 2016 could tell more of the kind of player he will most likely trend towards in the coming years.
As for this season, however, Davis is playing very well and earning his keep, in my opinion. Davis is 2nd on the O’s in WAR (3.0), 2nd in OBP (.340), 3rd in wOBA (.352), 3rd in wRC+ (118) and of course, is 2nd in home runs (35), min. 300 PA.
Among first basemen in all of the MLB, Davis ranks among them relatively high as well. Davis is 9th in WAR, 15th in OBP, 10th in wOBA, 10th in wRC+, 6th in BB% and 2nd in home runs.
Defensively, Davis stacks up really well against his first base counterparts around the league. Davis is 4th in DRS (4), 2nd in RZR (.807), 4th in UZR (4.6), and 4th in RngR (3.8). These numbers, for a first basemen, are good since first base is one of the more easy positions to defend, easily putting Davis in the gold glove conversation.
Now, you can evaluate Davis as a player however you want to say whether the contract is good, bad or whatever. My personal opinion is that he is playing well enough offensively and defensively to make me not worry about it. Along with the deferred money, it can open up salary on the O’s more instead of a situation where he would be paid all at once, leaving guys like Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop more prone to free agency.
Every year for the next six years, Orioles fans will be thinking about this deal due to its high notoriety and huge risk. For now though, I am just glad Davis is on the Orioles producing like this instead of doing it against them.