Most of the Orioles-related rumors that have trickled out over the last week or so have, when taken together, painted a picture of a team that's trying to work out some kind of Plan B in case the O's don't sign Chris Davis. In his Tuesday evening comments to Orioles reporters at the baseball Winter Meetings in Nashville, Dan Duquette signaled as much in his typical way.
"I think for the clubs and the players you have to decide at some point where you're going to play ball and who's going to be on your team," Duquette told the Orioles beat crew in Nashville. "We're getting closer to decision time."
Duquette in fact met with Davis' agent, Scott Boras, at the meetings today. Of course, Boras represents a host of other baseball players, including another player with whom the O's were linked over the last couple of days: Pedro Alvarez. But you can probably imagine they talked a bit about Davis.
Asked specifically if Duquette has any idea of the market for Davis, Duquette replied, "We have a clear idea of what the market is for Chris Davis in Baltimore." Have you ever noticed how frequently Duquette says words without actually telling anybody much of anything?
OK, so that last quote at least gives the suggestion that the Orioles have put a maximum dollar amount on what they'd want to give up for Davis, although we've already seen them change their minds at least once this offseason when they went the extra guaranteed year at the last minute to make sure they keep Darren O'Day instead of the Nationals getting him.
Not really knowing who else may be in on Davis is one wrinkle in the talks. MASN's Roch Kubatko wrote on Sunday night that there were a number of baseball people with other teams "wondering if the Orioles are the front runners by default."
You never really know what might happen, but it's interesting that there doesn't seem to be a host of teams lining up to break down the door to talk to Davis. Then again, maybe it's not that surprising. Davis has been said to be out there looking for six or seven years, and he'll be 30 by next Opening Day. Not everyone needs a first baseman right now and not everyone is willing to pay a guy until he's 36, no matter how many home runs he's hit lately.
If a limited market really is the case, Duquette's comments about being "closer to decision time" combined with what the Orioles have been rumored to be exploring over the meetings could actually be putting some pressure on Davis' camp to take an offer that benefits both sides before the O's decide to move on.
It's not so much about a burning need to find a first baseman that the Orioles need to decide what to do. Between Mark Trumbo, Christian Walker, and Trey Mancini, they can probably get by well enough there. If there's $20-25 million annually that they're holding onto in case they can sign Davis, they need to know if they can free up that money to use on other players before every other free agent has signed. It won't do the 2016 O's much good if they later miss out on Davis and have a bunch of money to spend but no one is left to spend it on.
Whatever is going to happen with Davis, it probably won't be happening by the end of the meetings, so this seems like a mystery that will drag on for a while longer.