Should Orioles change stance on Davis after Gordon deal?

Source: AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

Source: AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

Free-agent outfielder Alex Gordon has agreed to a four-year, $72 million deal, pending physical, to stay with the Kansas City Royals, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network.

This deal shocks me in multiple ways:

  1. I didn’t expect the Royals to be Gordon’s landing spot, and
  2. I expected Gordon to get five years for around $100 million.

Did Gordon give the Royals a hometown discount? It’s very possible, but we don’t know for sure. Either way, as soon as I saw the news of Gordon’s new deal, the first thing that I thought of was how this should change the Baltimore Orioles’ stance on free-agent slugger Chris Davis.

First off, what exactly is the O’s stance here? Many reports have contradicted others around the majors. In case you haven’t kept up, here’s a quick rundown of all the reports:

  • 12/8/15: Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com reports that the Orioles have offered Davis a contract “in the neighborhood” of $150 million.
  • 12/9/15: Buster Olney of ESPN reports that the Orioles ~$150 million offer to Davis is for seven years.
  • 12/9/15: Heyman reports Davis is seeking an eight-year, $200 million contract.
  • 12/9/15: Heyman reports the Orioles offer exceeds $150 million.
  • 12/9/15: Brittany Ghiroli of MLB.com denies Heyman’s report, says Orioles have not upped their initial offer.
  • 12/9/15: Eduardo A. Encina of BaltimoreSun.com reports Orioles won’t go above $22 million annually for Davis.
  • 12/10/15: Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports the Orioles have increased their offer, possibly as high as $168 million over seven years.
  • 12/10/15: Kubatko denies reports from Heyman and Rosenthal.
  • 12/10/15: Olney also reports the Orioles have not increased their offer, and the club has also pulled back their initial offer.
  • 12/11/15: Kubatko reports that the Orioles offer to Davis was $150 million over seven years. The offer has been pulled, but sides could revisit talks.
  • 12/12/15: Orioles GM Dan Duquette confirms the club has pulled back their offer.
  • 12/12/15: Heyman reports Orioles offer was “precisely” a seven-year, $154 million offer, but confirms it is off the table.
  • 12/17/15: Dan Connolly (formerly with BaltimoreSun.com) reports the Orioles’ $150-million offer is only for Davis, and that the Orioles won’t likely spend over $100 million for any other free agents.
  • 12/29/15: Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com reports the Orioles are a front-runner for free-agent outfielder Yoenis Cespedes.
  • 1/5/16: Heyman reports that the last he’s heard is that the O’s were holding at seven-years, $154 million. Owner Peter Angelos won’t allow O’s front office to pursue other big names like Gordon, Cespedes, and Justin Upton.
  • 1/6/16: Jon Morosi of FOXSports.com reports the Orioles are still in contact with Upton as a backup plan in case deal with Davis falls through.

Confused yet? Yes? Good, same here.

Let’s just assume the Orioles are still in talks with Davis’ agent Scott Boras with an offer of seven years for between $150-154 million. I’d say let’s assume they are back in talks — mainly because the Orioles haven’t made any significant noise this offseason since the reported offer was pulled off the table. It doesn’t seem like the club wants to reallocate those resources elsewhere; they want these resources going to Davis.

But, if Gordon is worth a four-year, $72 million deal, is Davis worth a seven-year, $150 million contract? How many other teams are in on Davis this offseason?

For starters, I didn’t think Davis was worth $150 million — or even seven years, for that matter — when reports surfaced of the O’s offer to the slugger. But, Davis’ worth wasn’t for me to decide; the market dictates that.

Since 2012, both Gordon and Davis have been very productive for the Royals and Orioles, respectively.

2012-2015GPABAOBPSLGwRC+HRBB%K%ISODRSUZRfWAR
Alex Gordon5772486.275.354.436118669.6%20.1%.161+74+55.118.6
Chris Davis5862430.256.342.53313515910.4%30.8%.277-3+6.915.5

The Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) and Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) statistics are not too fair to judge Davis by, since he has improved his defense at first base since the start of the 2014 season, recording +12 DRS and +6.3 UZR at that position during that span. He is one of the top defensive first basemen in the American League using those advanced metrics. The DRS and UZR listed above also include Davis’ performances at first base, third base, left field, and right field since 2012, which makes him seem not so impressive defensively. However, he has played well defensively at first base over the past two seasons.

Aside from the strikeouts and batting average, Davis has shown to be the better hitter of the two, which is a big reason on why he has — or had — a $150 million contract offer on the table.

This is no insult to Gordon, however, as he has shown good on-base capabilities from the left side with a little bit of pop. Over the last four years, Gordon has averaged 16.5 home runs per season. It doesn’t seem like much, but it is for a Royals player who plays half his games in a huge ballpark like Kauffman Stadium. The last Royals player to hit at least 30 long balls in a season was Jermaine Dye in 2000, so I consider Gordon’s power pretty valuable.

Gordon has an impressive bat, but Davis has a much more impressive stick, especially with the .277 isolated power and 159 homers since the start of 2012. However, there are two main reasons why Gordon has an fWAR that is 3.1 higher than that of Chris Davis.

The first is Davis’ awful 2014 campaign. Coming off an outstanding 7.0 fWAR, .286/.370/.634, 53 homer, 168 wRC+ season in 2013, you would have thought the left-handed slugger would’ve been amazing again in 2014. He was the complete opposite, though. In 2014, Davis slashed .196/.300/.404 with 26 long balls, 94 wRC+, and 0.8 fWAR. To cap it all off, he received a 25-game suspension in mid-September for testing positive twice for Adderall usage without a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE), which he had in the past, but not in 2014. The drop off in 2014 made many doubt he would have success in 2015. But he would prove those doubters wrong, totaling a .262/.361/.562 slash-line, 47 homers, 147 wRC+, and 5.6 fWAR last season.

The second reason to Gordon’s higher fWAR over the last four seasons is his defense. +74 DRS and +55.1 UZR, which show why he’s earned a Gold Glove in four of the last five years — and I hardly ever use Gold Gloves to make an argument. They’re silly awards, in my opinion, but metrics and the eye test prove Gordon’s awards to be very well earned. Having his amazing defense in left field in that huge ball park at The K has been a very big factor in the Royals’ success over the last two years.

There is an age difference between Gordon, who is entering his age-32 season, and Davis, who is entering his age-30 season. With the two-year difference, it makes sense that Davis will likely receive more years in a contract than the four-year pact Gordon agreed on with the Royals. What doesn’t make sense, however, is a seven-year contract agreement worth $150 million to a 30-year-old high-power, high-strikeout hitter.

After seeing Gordon’s four-year, $72 million deal, a stronger case is made for why Davis shouldn’t receive $150 million over seven years. Unless it comes from the Orioles, I don’t see a situation that has Davis signing a deal worth that much over that many years. On top of that, no other team has been linked to the left-handed slugging first baseman this winter. The only talk we’ve consistently heard with Davis’ name involved is mentioned with the Orioles. That being said, I don’t think an eight-year, $200 million deal should be anywhere near what Davis and Boras are thinking — especially after seeing Jason Heyward‘s eight-year, $184 million deal with the Chicago Cubs.

Compared to what Heyward and Gordon received from their respective clubs this winter, Davis doesn’t deserve around $150 million over seven years. Could an Upton or Cespedes signing change that? Of course it could. If they sign megadeals, Davis’ stock rises. But unless that happens, Davis shouldn’t become a $150 million man this offseason. If I’m the Orioles front office, a $150 million contract shouldn’t be on the table — if it is — anymore. Keep in mind, the Orioles still have holes to fill at first base (or DH), right field, and starting pitcher. If the club commits $150 million to Davis, will they have the resources to spend on a quality outfielder and starting pitcher? It doesn’t seem likely.

In my opinion, the Orioles should just forget about Davis altogether unless his price significantly drops. Signing guys like Pedro Alvarez, Denard Span, and a bounce-back candidate like Mat Latos seems more valuable — and less risky — than signing Davis to a $150 million deal while putting a replacement-level player in right field with one of Vance Worley, Tyler Wilson, and Mike Wright in the starting rotation. However, it seems like the Orioles don’t care about my opinion and want to keep Davis long-term. Unless they know something about other teams pursuit that we don’t know, the Orioles should be dropping the length to no more than six years (although I’d prefer a five-year deal), while keeping the annual value of the offer between $19-and-23 million. If it’s a six-year deal, make a $114-120 million deal ($19-20 million AAV). If it’s lowered to five years, you can go as high as $23 million to make it a $115 million deal over five years.

Could I be low balling? It’s probable. But that’s because I’m in the crowd preaching that a seven-year, $150 million contract for Davis is absurd.

 

All stats courtesy of www.fangraphs.com.

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