For the Orioles this offseason, Chris Davis is a lot like the sun. All discussions orbit around him one way or another. How much will he cost? Who else will try to sign him? What if they've spent so much on other players that they can't afford him? Who will play first base if they don't sign him? Asking any one of those questions requires answering them all.
There's little doubt that the best case scenario for the 2016 Orioles involves returning the player who hit 47 home runs last year, and who has combined over the past three seasons to hit 126 home runs. That's Davis. I know you already knew that. It's a bit more complicated than just that, since even if the Orioles are interested in bringing back Davis, they can't be certain that they'll get him.
They don't want to sit around thinking they'll sign Davis, and then, after all of the other free agents have also signed, they don't end up getting Davis. At some point they must weigh who else is out there. Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal indicates that they're at least thinking about that:
One industry source thinks non-tender of Pedro Alvarez complicated Chris Davis market. #Orioles began looking at Alvarez as alternative…— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 7, 2015
Remember always the first law of baseball rumors: Probably nothing will happen. The "industry source" could be Alvarez's agent, looking to drum up some interest in his client, like, you'd better give me a call or the Orioles are going to sign him! It could be someone who works for another team who doesn't know any dang thing about what the Orioles are thinking but wants to pop off to Rosenthal to make himself feel important. Or it could be Dan Duquette! That's the fun of it all.
Rosenthal went on to describe Davis as "the preferred choice," but raises the question that the O's must also consider. If Davis goes for a huge contract, while Alvarez could be had for a much smaller, shorter-term deal (Rosenthal guesses $16 million), might they be better off putting the difference towards improving a starting rotation that was among the worst in MLB and is losing its best and most consistent starter from last season?
That's not a very exciting reality to consider. This is true of most of the Orioles' moves and rumored moves so far this offseason. We want Davis and we want dingers. Alvarez, soon to be 29, does bring dingers, but not much else. He has averaged 32 per 162 games over his MLB career. He is kind of like a left-handed version of Mark Trumbo in that way.
Alvarez walks a bit more than Trumbo, and strikes out about as much, but he hits for such a low average that even with a decent walk rate he still sports a low career on-base percentage (.309). He is a first baseman/designated hitter type, and unlike Trumbo, probably can't even pretend to play in the outfield.
Signing Alvarez instead of Davis is not likely to sell many season tickets. Much more likely it would contribute to non-renewal of season tickets, in fact. But there is a non-zero chance that it could end up being best for the success of the team on the field in the short and long term, so the Orioles should give it some thought along with everything else. It seems like they're doing just that.