The Orioles placed Chris Davis on the 60-day injured list before the 2021 season even began with what was described then as a lower back strain. He has not been around since games began and it is hard to imagine any fan has missed him. His absence was only conspicuous for the lack of specific information provided.
On Wednesday afternoon, there was at last some more specific news. GM Mike Elias told O’s reporters via Zoom that Davis has undergone arthroscopic surgery on his left hip labrum. No one seems to have asked, and the information was not shared, as to whether this was connected to the vague lower back strain from late March.
The recovery time for this kind of surgery is typically in the range of 4-5 months and Elias said that means Davis is done for the season. Davis is guaranteed to avoid being a negative drag on the team for the first time since 2016 by virtue of not playing at all.
Davis’s expected return is now next spring training. The Orioles can kick the can down the road about what to do with him at least that long, although he’ll cost them a 40-man roster spot over the offseason, when there’s no 60-day injured list to stash a player.
Presumably, we will start to hear beat writer types offering the comment that the team may be looking to hold on to Davis in case there’s a labor stoppage following the baseball CBA expiring after this season. If games are not played, the guaranteed amount of an albatross contract like Davis’s is reduced proportionally. For a $23 million annual salary, a theoretical month missed is not a trivial amount of money for player or team.
This same excuse was deployed over the past offseason, only then the hypothetical was what if the pandemic resulted in a shortened 2021 season. So even though it’s been clear Davis is what he is since long before Elias took over as GM, they didn’t shed him from the roster, and I guess now they still won’t.
There is a real opportunity cost to that. Maybe with an extra 40-man spot this past offseason, the Orioles would not have lost Zach Pop in the Rule 5 draft. Pop has a 0.878 WHIP through 12 relief appearances with the Marlins, though he also sports a 4.61 ERA and 4.89 FIP. Maybe it doesn’t really matter all that much and it’s just a little thing to complain about when things are not going great with the Orioles in general.
It is absurd to even be talking about Davis. Since the 2018 season, he has batted a combined .169/.251/.299. It’s been clear for a long time that there was nothing left in the tank. You can only get away with that kind of hitting if you’re Mark Belanger winning eight Gold Gloves at shortstop, and even Belanger was a better hitter for his career than that.
Davis reported to spring training, made some noise about how he’d finally changed his swing, took literally two at-bats, then disappeared into vague injury land. It is a small relief to know there is no way he will appear for the rest of the season to gum up the MLB roster or take playing time away from younger players who need to be evaluated or developed.
I wish him a smooth recovery from the surgery.