With the recent report of the Orioles’ new front office hire, it is a time of excitement as an Orioles fan. Mike Elias is a young executive coming from a highly successful franchise to reportedly run the show here in Baltimore. And he’s got his work cut out for him.
One of the biggest questions he will face once he starts the job is what to do with Chris Davis. Let’s run through some of the options when it comes to Davis real quick.
The Orioles could keep trying to fix the big first baseman and run him out to first base everyday next season, hoping for better results than we have seen the past few years. They could seriously curtail his playing time, effectively reducing him to a role or platoon player. Or they could release him and eat the remainder of the $92 million he is owed over the next four years.
Another option would be trying to find a taker for his bad contract and receiving another bad contract in return. It doesn’t happen too much in baseball, but sometimes a team will try to rid itself of a burdensome player by taking on an equally burdensome contract from another team, in the hopes that a change of scenery will be enough to snap the new player out of their funk.
But why should a rebuilding team like the Orioles settle for another underperforming, overpaid player in order to solve the Chris Davis problem? Because the O’s are highly unlikely to just release Davis, as many have called for. It’s just too much money to throw away, in spite of the record-breaking poor production from Davis.
And sometimes you just need a change. As silly as it sounds, watching a new overpaid, underperforming player may be a little less painful than watching Chris Davis night after night. Plus, you never know — that new player may just be a little less awful than Davis has been recently. It’s unfortunate that this is the point that we have gotten to, but it’s the reality of the current situation.
Surveying the current baseball landscape, there are a small group of players who jump out as potential matches in this scenario.
Jason Heyward of the Chicago Cubs is owed $106 million over the next five years. In his first three years in the Windy City, he has compiled a .252/.322/.367 line at the plate — not nearly what the Cubs were hoping for when they signed him to an eight-year deal in 2016.
But Heyward is still only 29 years old and he plays incredible defense in right field. Plus, that batting line does not look as bad when compared to Chris Davis’ .202/.298/.397 over the past three years. This scenario may also appeal to the Cubs because Davis has one less year on his contract than Heyward at nearly the same yearly pay rate.
Ian Desmond of the Colorado Rockies is another potential contract swap. This past season Desmond slashed .236/.307/.422, although he did have 22 home runs. The Rockies are locked in with $38 million owed to Desmond over the next three years, not including a 2022 $15 million option.
There is a more obvious difference in yearly salaries between Davis and Desmond than Davis and Hayward, but the Rockies could dream on the potential of resurrecting Davis’ big bat in the thin air and friendly confines of Coors Field. Colorado has breathed life into many a player’s bat who were thought to have better days behind them.
Plus, the Orioles would get back a player with some versatility, seeing as Desmond played first base, shortstop and the outfield this past year.
The last player in this grouping is the Los Angeles Angels’ Albert Pujols, who has three years and $87 million left on his contract. In 2018, he hit .245/.289/.411 with 19 home runs and 64 RBI. The last three years, he has slashed .252/.300/.419 at the plate.
Pujols is a shell of his former MVP self, but there is an outside chance he could reach 700 career home runs towards the end of his contract. He currently stands at 633. That home run chase alone could draw fans to Camden Yards during the lean rebuilding years ahead.
None of the aforementioned players are great options by any means, but at least they would be something new, instead of trying the same old thing over and over again with Davis and expecting different results.