A week after baseball's Winter Meetings, we are not much closer to figuring out the answer of what the Orioles are going to end up doing about Chris Davis. Who else is out there trying to sign him? How long will the Orioles wait before moving on? Neither of those are yet answered, but throughout Friday, different ideas of what the Orioles might do if they don't sign Davis have trickled out, and that, on its own, may reveal something about their plans for the Davis negotiations.
First and foremost, The Baltimore Sun's Dan Connolly reiterated what we have seen hinted here and there over the last couple of months. That is the notion that the money the O's have offered to Davis is not necessarily going to be spent by the team regardless this offseason. Connolly notes that it's not very likely for the Orioles to splash around with another $100+ million free agent. He specifically names Justin Upton, Alex Gordon, and Yoenis Cespedes as being players out of the O's price range whether or not they get Davis back in the fold.
That goes against a different tack taken by ESPN's Buster Olney, who tweets that "with Davis talks at a standstill," the Orioles are looking at "high-end free agent outfielders, including Cespedes." It would seem that both of these things cannot be true.
Or can they? Olney wrote on ESPN on Thursday about how the market for the free agent outfielders has not materialized the way that some had predicted it would so far. Players just haven't signed quickly, nor for the kinds of contracts envisioned. One reason for that may be that there are so many outfield options, more than teams that are seeking that kind of help - a buyer's market, so to speak. While Jason Heyward got a large contract, he's the youngest of the bunch. Others don't have that benefit in their favor.
Though Davis is not one of many slugging first basemen on the free agent market, a similar process is playing out with him in that it seems like the Orioles are the only ones interested.
So possibly, if the price tag for a player like Gordon or Cespedes drops from the $100 million range to the $80 million range, they might then have more interest for the Orioles. Gordon, in particular, is a left-handed bat, which the O's have said they want to acquire, even after signing free agent outfielder Hyun-soo Kim.
Gordon, at least according to ESPN's Jim Bowden, only got an offer in the range of four years and $48 million from his former team, the Royals. Even if that's accurate, it might just be the Royals horribly lowballing Gordon, which, as SB Nation sister site Royals Review writes, is in line with a tight-fisted owner's behavior this offseason.
But maybe it means that where Gordon was once expected by MLB Trade Rumors to get a contract of five years, $105 million, now he will instead only get four guaranteed years, or he will get a much lower average annual value (AAV). A four year contract at that AAV would be $84 million; a five year contract at a lower AAV like $17 million would come in at $85 million over the length of the contract. If that's what happens - a big if - maybe the O's are in at that price.
For Cespedes, a righty, the price would have to drop a lot more from the predicted six years, $140 million. He may be more appealing to the Orioles as he will not require them to give up a draft pick, but it seems like more of a stretch to think the O's would seriously go after him. If he's more appealing to them, he'll be more appealing to others. That's why he'll cost more. On the other hand, he was the one specifically named by Olney. Cespedes, 30, hit a combined .291/.328/.542 across both leagues this past season, including 35 home runs. Everybody likes home runs.
A slow-developing outfield market does mean one thing for the Orioles, and that's that they can wait around for Davis longer than they might have thought. If the market for these outfielders drags on, the O's can just sit back and see who ends up being a bargain that fits what they're willing to pay. Unless they decide to use the money on a starting pitcher like Yovani Gallardo or Scott Kazmir instead, both of whom the Orioles were linked to on Friday.
To recap it all, the Orioles still aren't waiting around for Davis because they're going to look at outfielders instead. Unless it turns out they're waiting for both Davis and outfielders. They aren't going to spend $100 million on a non-Davis free agent, unless they do, and they still might throw all of this out the window and sign a starting pitcher. Glad we could clear that up.