1.) What happens after the Chris Davis domino falls?
Davis is the team’s number one priority this offseason, as he should be. The lineup is constructed to depend on the home run ball, and no one hits them better than Davis. The Orioles have never given out a nine-figure contract. That will have to change with Davis. The entire offseason plan hinges on what Davis decides to do. The Orioles need Davis back desperately, but Scott Boras won’t be handing out any special hometown discount.
What happens if Davis comes back? The Orioles could look to plug an outfield hole with a lower cost option like Span. A mid-tier starter could be signed to replace Chen.
If Davis decides to leave, things get a little bit trickier. There is not a player on the open market who is likely to duplicate the 50-homer potential of Davis. Only Justin Upton could potentially come close, but he has never put it all together. There are older players like Alex Gordon and Ben Zobrist on the market. The Orioles will be hard-pressed to outspend the teams that covet Gordon. Zobrist is too good a fit for the New York Yankees to envision him getting away from them. Same goes for the entire class of free-agent aces. Big market teams like the Chicago Cubs, Yankees, Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Blue Jays have holes in their rotation as well. It’s unrealistic to expect the Orioles to spend with the likes of those franchises. If it’s a starter the Orioles are after, they will likely be looking at options that fall in the same category as Chen — second or third starters who will get paid a lot of money. If the Orioles don’t really want to spend money on Chen, it’s going to be hard to justify spending similar money on a pitcher like Brett Anderson, Marco Estrada, or Yovani Gallardo.
Davis is the linchpin of the Orioles offseason. Once that domino falls, much more of the plan will come into focus. The Orioles have to be aggressive in pursuing Davis. Cruz was replaceable after he left because the Orioles were getting Machado back, and Davis was not going to be a sub-.200 hitter two years in a row. There are no real replacements in the system or on the open market. If the Orioles want to keep pace with the rest of the division, they must have Davis back.