Back on July 30, 2011, the Texas Rangers sent Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter to the Baltimore Orioles for Koji Uehara. At the time, Davis was beginning to be viewed as a bit of a bust. The first baseman had always shown prodigious power in the Texas system, but was still failing to put it all together at the big-league level.
After being drafted in the fifth round out of Navarro College, the Texas native quickly climbed the Rangers’ ranks. He hit 37 home runs and drove in 120 in 2007, his second professional season. Davis struck out only 154 times in 133 games that year while batting .295 with a .943 OPS. The next year, Davis reached Triple-A for the first time, and was batting .333 with 23 home runs, 73 RBIs, and a 1.029 OPS in 77 minor league games at the time of his call-up to the big club.
Davis was impressive upon reaching the Major Leagues. In his 80-game audition over the final months of the 2008 season, Davis batted .285 with 17 homers and 55 knocked in. It was all downhill from there, however. Davis could not crack .250 and struck out 150 times in 113 games when handed a starting job in 2009. In 45 games in 2010, Davis fell below the Mendoza line and hit only one solitary home run. By the time the Rangers parted ways with Davis in 2011, he had hit only four home runs over his final 196 at-bats and had struck out in 64 of them.
Obviously, things got a whole heck of a lot better for Chris Davis after being traded to the Orioles. In his 617 games in Baltimore, Chris turned back into Crush and hit 161 home runs, leading the league twice. He homered once every 21 at-bats with Texas, but turned on the power to the tune of a homer every 14 at-bats following the trade. Strikeouts are still a slight bother with Davis, but can be overlooked as his OPS climbs to .900.
The list of teams who are interested in Davis is still quite nebulous. The Orioles have made him their number-one priority this offseason. The Toronto Blue Jays have surprisingly emerged as a contender, though how serious they are is unknown. The Los Angeles Angels need left-handed power, and the Houston Astros just released Chris Carter. Until further notice, it should be assumed that Davis will land with an American League team, as it is unclear which National League team will be comfortable with committing to him as a long-term fielder. Designated hitter seems to be in his future no matter how athletic he is at this moment.
Could a reunion with the team that drafted him be a legitimate possibility for Davis?
The Rangers are now working on a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates to move Mitch Moreland, the incumbent first baseman. Current super prospect Joey Gallo, a new-and-improved version of Davis in the raw power/strikeout department, does not have a clearly-defined position. The team’s current depth chart lists him at third base, first base, left field, and right field. Basically, all of the positions typically reserved for big, lumbering guys who are not the best fielders are in play for Gallo next year. Third base is obviously out, as Adrian Beltre just keeps ticking. Gallo will probably play first base or outfield in the long run.
If Moreland is traded, the Rangers can go one of two ways. The team can re-sign Mike Napoli or pursue a big name like Chris Davis. Napoli, of course, could still return for a bench role even if a big name is signed. Trading a quality player like Moreland to hand an aging Napoli an everyday job just does not seem like the ultimate end game for the Rangers.
Davis also has the ability to play some outfield, so could fill in there if Josh Hamilton, Gallo, and Shin-Soo Choo cannot hack it in the corner outfield positions. The Rangers currently have only $120.2 million committed to the 2016 payroll, and clearly stated their intentions to build a winner by trading for Cole Hamels at the trade deadline. Davis should be affordable if ownership is willing to take on one more expensive, but potentially extremely impactful bat. Instead of having Gallo at first, the Rangers can scrap the Josh Hamilton experiment in left field. The Angels gave the former MVP to Texas as a gift, but that does not mean the team needs to keep playing an injury-prone ex-star who has clearly lost most of his best abilities as a hitter.
When the Rangers traded Chris Davis away, he was a hitter who had totally lost confidence in his power stroke. It did not take long for him to find the swing that had begun to elude him with the Orioles. Baltimore is not a team unfamiliar with trading away a failed prospect only to see him go from “struggles-to-throw-strikes” Jake Arrieta to “best-pitcher-in-the-league” Jake Arrieta. The Orioles have no chance now to correct their mistake, but the Rangers do. Now may be the time for Chris Davis to return to his home state and a ballpark that should serve as a very nice launching pad for the remainder of his career.