Chris Davis, hitter of 159 home runs over the past four seasons, is having a harder time finding free-agent offers than you would expect. The Baltimore Orioles, the team Davis has hit all those home runs for, offered him seven years and $150 million. There were reports that the offer had grown to $168 million by the end of the Winter Meetings, but the Orioles denied those rumors.
Regardless of how much the offer was for, it is off the table now. The Orioles have made the decision, for the time being, to look for other options to replace the two-time American League home run champion. Dan Duquette and the Baltimore front office felt they made their best offer to Davis and agent Scott Boras, did not get a decision quickly enough for their liking, and have moved on, presumably to Justin Upton. The door was left open to resuming talks at a later date.
Part of the reason Davis was not quick to sign on for seven more years in Baltimore was due to the fact that the market for his services has not really emerged. Many of the big-market teams are not in the mood to spend this winter (New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers). The Boston Red Sox have no logical position for Davis to play with David Ortiz, Pablo Sandoval, and Hanley Ramirez still on the roster. The St. Louis Cardinals have been trying very hard to give money away so far this offseason, but Davis is not a fit for their offensive approach. The San Francisco Giants have now spent $220 million on starting pitching. Both Texas teams do not seem interested in bringing the man called Crush back to his home state.
Other than the offer from the Orioles, there has been very little concrete evidence that a team is seriously interested in Davis, let alone prepared to make him a seven- or eight-year contract offer. The Los Angeles Angels may use Davis as a fallback option if they miss out on Justin Upton, Alex Gordon, or Yoenis Cespedes. Maybe the Texas Rangers, Houston Astros, and Cardinals are just being coy when dismissing Davis publicly.
One team that has at the very least had some discussions about Chris Davis is the Toronto Blue Jays, a team that has mostly sat on its hands so far this offseason. Coming off their first postseason appearance since 1993, the Blue Jays have signed Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ, while declining to even make David Price an offer. Price was deemed too risky for the new Mark Shapiro-led front office. Would Davis be viewed as any less risky over seven years?
There are certainly causes for concern with Davis. He had the miserable sub-.200 season in 2014 that ended with an embarrassing suspension for unapproved use of ADHD medication. Despite hitting 47 home runs in 2015, Davis also struck out 208 times. This is a player who runs extremely hot and extremely cold. The left-handed slugger will be 30 on Opening Day, and recent history has shown big sluggers aging into their mid-thirties carry a great deal of risk.
Despite the obvious risks associated with Davis, he should be of interest to the Blue Jays. All of Toronto’s star players — Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Russell Martin, Josh Donaldson, and Troy Tulowitzki — are right-handed hitters. Even Chris Colabello and Kevin Pillar hit right-handed. The Blue Jays have the league’s best offense, but it is extremely skewed to one side of the plate. Adding a left-handed power dynamic into the heart of the order will make the lineup even more dangerous.
Despite having a roster full of All-Stars that is a threat to hang a crooked number on the scoreboard every inning, those stars are relatively underpaid. Russell Martin actually makes more than Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. Tulowitzki is the highest paid player on the roster, checking in at $20 million. Donaldson could get an extension soon that will surpass the $20 million annual value, but for now, he is still in arbitration. The Blue Jays are not a team that cannot spend money if they so desire.
A team has to take risks to be great. Toronto must know that having watched this year’s trade deadline action turn a .500 club into a division-title-winning club. The San Francisco Giants took a risk on Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto, but those risks make sense for them. The Giants call an extremely pitcher-friendly park home. In adding two quality starting pitchers, San Francisco is playing to their strengths. That is exactly what the Blue Jays would be doing in signing, or at least aggressively pursuing, Chris Davis. At some point, Shapiro is going to have to step up and spend some money this offseason.
While there is no guarantee that Davis will be a 50-homer threat for all seven years of a new contract, a team cannot think that way when signing him. Every seven year deal inevitably spans into years of declining performance. Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion are getting older, and will not be around forever. Davis could certainly help bridge the gap with at least 40 home runs per season for the next four years. He is a lock to do that hitting in the middle of a potent lineup. David Price was not necessarily worth the risk for the Blue Jays because the rotation had plenty of holes behind him. Chris Davis may be worth the risk because he would make a great lineup historically great.