The Orioles didn't make any news on Friday, but the Cubs signing of free agent outfielder Jason Heyward for an eight year contract worth $184 million may bring at least a little bit of clarity to the market for position players - which, in turn, will impact the complicated will-they-or-won't-they dance the team is currently engaged in with Chris Davis. Part of that dance is whether the O's will instead sign another big-ticket free agent. MASN's Roch Kubatko writes that the O's are "making a push to sign" the other big free agent outfielder, Justin Upton.
This may not be a brand new rumor. We addressed on Wednesday a rumor that the O's have met with Upton's agent. Kubatko certainly doesn't treat his "making a push" comment as being a star rumor on its own. It's buried at the bottom of an article that also includes the likelihood of Darren O'Day's signing being announced at Saturday's FanFest event and multiple paragraphs written about an I-395 traffic closure that will affect FanFest.
Talk about burying the lede. Unless it's buried because he knows he's not saying anything new. Does "making a push" go beyond "met with agent"? Why am I spending so much time trying to parse all of this out? Because it's December and there's nothing else to think about, that's why.
One other thing Kubatko addresses is whether the signing of Heyward will affect what the O's offer Davis. He says that they will not be increasing their offer based on that Heyward signing. Heyward, at least as far as the prognosticators are concerned, was expected to end up with significantly more money in his next contract than either Davis or Upton. MLB Trade Rumors projected Heyward would get ten years and $200 million.
Although Heyward's gotten less guaranteed money than that prediction, he gets a much higher average annual value (AAV) and the contract's reported two potential opt-out years give him multiple chances to capitalize on exceptional performance to hit the free agent market again and secure himself even more guaranteed money.
What's that got to do with Davis? Well, it probably means he's not getting the $200 million he was said to be seeking unless agent Scott Boras pulls a rabbit out of his hat. Boras has done that before, though one thing about the Davis chase to date is that we don't know if any other teams are involved.
Suppose the Cardinals, spurned in their pursuit of Heyward, turn their focus to Davis? Their first baseman last year was Mark Reynolds. There is room to improve for them. So far at least, that doesn't seem to be the case, as the immediate reaction is reported to be that they'll go after free agent outfielder Alex Gordon instead.
All of which leaves Davis with only one known suitor, a suitor which may be soon gallivanting about with a 28-year-old outfielder who's batting .262/.344/.470 over the past three seasons. That would be Upton. He is a good player, although he is not the left-handed bat that the Orioles claim they are seeking.
So really it's hard to unpack how serious or sincere the O's interest may be in Upton, or even whether that interest has intensified since we last heard about it. The big question remains of whether it's all part of a negotiating game to get Davis at a price more favorable to them, at a time more favorable to them, or if they're really seriously moving on to Upton.
I mean, they couldn't possibly sign both of those guys, right? They COULD, of course, because Orioles owner Peter Angelos, like every other owner of a major sports franchise, has a lot of wealth, but that would be crazy, the kind of thing that happens in wild alternate universes, not the one in which we live.