Baltimore Orioles Aren’t Ready To Move On From Chris Davis
By Nick Stevens
The Baltimore Orioles are going to give their first baseman/designated hitter at least one more opportunity in 2020.
Among the crowd of Baltimore Orioles fans at Camden Yards on Sunday afternoon, many were there in anticipation of this being their final opportunity to see once feared sluggers Mark Trumbo and Chris Davis in an Orioles uniform. One of them is definitely on the way out, while it appears that the other is going to get at least one more opportunity to perform.
Mark Trumbo is the lone major league free agent on this roster and may be wrapping up not just his Orioles career this week, but his career as a major league ballplayer. Hopefully, he’s healthy enough to continue the dream, somewhere. That’s not news, but what was a shock on Sunday came from Orioles Executive Vice President/General Manager Mike Elias. Chris Davis will be returning as an Oriole next season.
Nothing is guaranteed, except the large amount of money remaining on Davis’ contract, so don’t go penciling in his name in the Opening Day starting lineup quite yet, but if we take Elias for his word, we at least know Davis will get another opportunity to turn things around.
Sunday could have been a fitting end to his Orioles tenure, hitting what would be the game-winning home run in front of a contingent of O’s faithful, just like old times. As someone who is still a fan of Davis, sending a home run into the seats in his final game at Camden Yards is how I would have like to send him off to his next journey.
However, the first baseman who has been worth -4.8 Wins Above Replacement over the last three seasons, according to Fangraphs, will be back as the Orioles continue to try and find a solution that works.
Davis hasn’t posted a league-average wRC+ since 2016, he’s been the subject of intense (and rightful) criticism over the years, and has yet to find a strategy for fixing his issues at the plate. He’s no longer the feared power-hitter with the ability to change the game up with a single swing and there’s no real reason to have him back on the roster in 2020.
There is an argument for keeping Davis. The money is a major one and seems to be one of the biggest deciding factors over whether or not to stick with him. I get it. Also, wins mean nothing next season, so it’s not like Davis is going to prevent this team from reaching any sort of notable goal in the win column, should he see significant time and continue to produce below replacement-level.
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However, as much as I still like Davis and would love to see him find the slightest bit of success again before calling it a career, I can’t see how this move helps the organization achieve other goals and milestones Mike Elias has set for the franchise.
Recently named Most Valuable Oriole, Trey Mancini has made adjustments across the board to better his game in 2019. Playing him in a position he’s better suited for will only add to that success. His play in right field also blocks much-needed playing time for one of several outfielders who have proven they deserve a chance with the Orioles.
Barring any unfortunate news, Austin Hays has a clear path to the starting center field job, leaving just one open spot in the outfield, if Chris Davis is back at first base and Mancini in the outfield. DJ Stewart, Anthony Santander, and possibly names like Dwight Smith Jr.and Cedric Mullins will also push to be in the conversation during spring training.
Throw in the 2019 International League MVP in Ryan Mountcastle, who appears destined for left field to begin his MLB career, and the Orioles have a logjam which can be cleared up a bit by moving away from Davis.
While wins/losses don’t matter in 2020, evaluating talent that can contribute to a winning Orioles team does matter and having Chris Davis back is a major hurdle standing in the way of that goal. Although, Elias did say that Davis would be back for spring training. That doesn’t mean he makes the 25-man roster and if he does, after the Orioles play the service time game with Mountcastle and he is brought up to the majors, if 2020 Davis still looks like 2017-2019 Davis, the Orioles may be left with no choice.
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