Now that the Red Sox have experienced their biggest free agent bust in team history after designating Pablo Sandoval for assignment last week while still owing him $48.5 million, the Orioles may be in the early stages of their worst signing ever.
The post-All Star break return from the DL of slug-or-miss first baseman Chris Davis was met with little fanfare, even though the losing Orioles were in desperate need of anything positive. You would think that a team struggling this bad at the All-Star break, but just four games out of the wild card, would expect a player in the second year of a seven-year, $161 million contract to give them the boost needed to contend.
Granted, the Orioles’ main problem has been starting pitching, but Davis was given big money for his bat and the 2017 team needs it. Let’s face it, this year's rotation is unlikely to experience a complete turnaround, so the offense should be poised to score at least six runs a game to win some slugfests.
Since coming back from his oblique injury, Davis has continued his home run-or-nothing approach. He has gone yard three times, but has hit only .154 (4-for-26) in seven games, with a disappointing .214 OBP while striking out 11 times. The three long-balls in the last two games may give hope to fans that recall Davis’ torrid stretches in the past.
Remember when Crush Davis used to go on a tear for a month hitting prodigious home runs seemingly every night while getting on base at an impressive clip? It’s been a while.
The last time was June 2016 when Davis hit nine homers, drove in 24 and hit .284/.388/.632. Even though he struck out at his typical hyper rate of 37 times, he was a true offensive threat Peter Angelos expected when approving his mega contract.
And while Davis hit 29 home runs the rest of last year, his other numbers were lacking. He didn’t hit higher that .235 in any other month and his OBP was .316 or less in three of them.
He played through a hand injury for much of the year that may have contributed to his drop in production, but Davis’ current numbers since the beginning of the 2016 season – not including June of ’16 – result in a just a .211 AVG and a .317 OBP.
Thus far this season, Davis is hitting .218/.309/.469 with 17 home runs. The power is still impressive, but he is supposed to be much better than Chris Carter.
His 2014 season, batting just .196/.300/.404, shows how long Davis’ slumps can last. While he rebounded in 2015, hitting .262/.361/.562, his AVG, OBP, SLG have all dropped since then.
Some of this can be blamed on his inability to adjust to the shifts opposing defenses have employed, but his contact rate has also declined in the same stretch making him fall far from earning the superstar money he is being paid.
And we’ll be hearing about that contract for a long, long time. By deferring $42 million of it, the Orioles saved money in the long run by spreading out the payments beyond the seven years. As a result, the team will pay Davis until he's 51 years old.
He will receive his last paycheck for $1.4 million on July 1, 2037 – 20 years from now. Mark your calendar if your smart phone is programmed that far in the future.
Let’s hope Davis turns it on again and makes it last or the Orioles might wish they only wasted $48.5 million like the Red Sox did with Sandoval.