Chris Davis is back, now what?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock lately, you know that the Chris Davis saga finally came to an end early Saturday morning when Davis agreed to a 7 year $161 million contract with $42 million deferred.  That only gives him a payroll commitment of $119 million over the 7 years of the deal, or $17 million per season, giving the Orioles some extra payroll flexibility during that period.

With Davis back in the fold, the Orioles projected lineup also looks a lot more powerful than it did at the end of 2015:

3B Machado
LF Kim
CF Jones
1B Davis
DH Trumbo
C Wieters
SS Hardy
RF Reimold
2B Schoop

Bench: C Joseph, OF Rickard, UT Flaherty, OF Urrutia

Still, the Orioles could use a leadoff or #2 hitter so that they can hit Manny Machado third in the batting order where he should remain for many seasons.  Nolan Reimold might be able to fill that role, or maybe Henry Urrutia, but the Orioles really could use a more proven player in RF, and preferably left handed.

So who is available?

There are still plenty of free agent OF bats out there, but really a trade would work out best for the Orioles as they aren’t going to spend for another OFer like Upton when they have needs elsewhere, and all of the lower tier players are platoon or reserve players at best. The Orioles still could get Upton on a 1 year deal, but he’s likely to get a multi-year deal from somebody this offseason.

Cespedes is someone Buck Showalter reportedly wants no part of, so I don’t see him on a 1 year deal either.

With the free agents and internal options off the board, that leaves the trade route, and the Orioles could fill two needs at once:

Trade with the Dodgers for OF Andre Ethier and LHP Alex Wood.

I’ve mentioned Ethier numerous times, but he fits the need in right field and could either bat second or leadoff .  It’s such a natural fit and this time with Wood coming back as well, it would be an even better fit.

Alex Wood was bumped out of the rotation when the Dodgers signed Scott Kazmir and Kenta Maeda and he struggled a bit in 2014 after being traded to the Dodgers with a 4.35 ERA and a dip in his K/9 and increase in his BB/9.

Orioles’ pitching coach Dave Wallace helped Wood gain the form he had in Atlanta when he was the minor league pitching coordinator for the Braves, so one would think Wallace would be able to help Wood if he were to be acquired by the Orioles.

His last full year in Atlanta, Wood had a 2.59 ERA in 24 starts with a 1.09 WHIP and 8.7 K/9.  He’s also not eligible to be a free agent until after 2019.

Dylan Bundy is the first name that comes up in a return for this package because he’s expendable, being out of options and having to slot in the Orioles bullpen.  With Davis back, a first base bat like Christian Walker also becomes expendable, or even Trey Mancini. The Orioles also have a number of other minor league arms like Tyler Wilson, Mike Wright or Parker Bridwell they could use to complete a deal.    I would also see if I could dump Brian Matusz’s salary as part of the deal considering the money left on Ethier’s contract.

Even with Wood acquired, the Orioles still could use more rotation depth:

Sign a couple of “injury ward” pitchers

Dan Duquette has had success in this area before,signing Bret Saberhagen to a 1 year deal before the 1997 season to essentially rehab with the Red Sox and re-signing him after that to a multi-year deal when he contributed to the Red Sox winning a wild card berth in 1998 and 1999.

The Orioles have a good sized list of pitchers in this category they could go after such as Doug Fister, Bronson Arroyo, Cliff Lee and Justin Masterson.

I’ve mentioned Fister and Masterson before here and both make sense but the idea of bringing in Cliff Lee really is intriguing. Lee would most certainly require a major league deal, but he also mentioned the situation would have to be “perfect” for him not to retire and sign with a club. Well with Chris Davis back, as well as one of the best bullpens in baseball, the Orioles seem like a “perfect” situation to me. Lee could spend some time to in the minors if need be and come up in June to help the Orioles secure a playoff berth.

With these moves let’s take a look at what the Orioles’ roster would look like:

Lineup:
RF Ethier
LF Kim
3B Machado
1B Davis
CF Jones
C Wieters
DH Trumbo
SS Hardy
2B Schoop

Bench:  C Joseph, OF Rickard, UT Flaherty, OF Reimold

Rotation:
SP Tillman
SP Jimenez
SP Wood
SP Gausman
SP Fister/Lee/Masterson

Bullpen:
LR Worley
MR Gonzalez
MR Jones
MR Brach
MR Givens
SU O’Day
CL Britton

That’s a pretty deep lineup, and moving Gonzalez to the bullpen would make it one of the deepest in baseball.  The rotation would be solid, and the Orioles could always add a TOR at the deadline if they felt they needed one.

Most importantly with all these moves, the Orioles never give up their first round draft pick.

There’s plenty that needs to be done before Opening Day, but there are some good options still available to the Orioles to complete their offseason re-tooling and put a World Series contender on the field on Opening Day.

It’s time to finish the job.

Why Chris Davis is still the best fit for Peter Angelos and the Orioles

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Happy New Year, Orioles fans!  With a new year comes another season of Orioles baseball for all of us to enjoy.   First, though the Orioles need to complete their offseason moves, as they still have a gaping hole in right field, the lineup and the rotation.  There is no need for the Orioles to rush to fill these holes however, as the free agent market continues to simmer for several Orioles targets and players are still available to trade for from other clubs.  One of those players is of course, Chris Davis

The backlash against Davis from some fans that are growing impatient is somewhat understandable.  The Orioles offered him a more than generous offer, but how many Boras clients have actually taken the first offer that was presented?  Even Mark Teixeira turned down the first offer he got from the Yankees, the team he wanted to play for according to a New York Times article written back in 2009:

“Once Leigh chose the Yankees, Teixeira instructed Scott Boras, his agent, to try to make the deal happen. Eleven days later, after a strained meeting, in which the Boston Red Sox walked out on Teixeira, he agreed to an eight-year contract with the Yankees.”

“Teixeira noted how he would not have taken “half as much” to play in New York, his first choice. But, once the Yankees increased their offer to $22.5 million a year from $20 million, he called it an easy decision. The improved offer came less than a week after Boston’s unsuccessful meeting with Teixeira.”

Soon, like Teixeira did with the Yankees, Davis will have to instruct Boras to work something out with Peter Angelos if he does want to play for the Orioles.

I’ve also seen backlash against Angelos for not moving on from Davis entirely.

Fans are saying instead the Orioles should sign one of the three premium outfielders on the market – Alex Gordon, Yoenis Cespedes or Justin Upton.

Had the Orioles not signed Hyun Soo Kim, I would agree any one of these outfielders would be a good fit, especially Gordon, but by signing Kim, the Orioles filled the hole they had in left field, as that is where he fits the best defensively.  Once that LF hole was filled, two of the outfielders, Gordon and Cespedes, were no longer good fits.

Why, you might ask?

There are no available records that show Cespedes has played right field professionally in either Cuba or the United States.  Gordon has only played right field in 3 MLB games and 7 minor league games.  He’s had more experience at first base with appearances in 54 games and 30 starts total.  Regarding their defense playing LF in MLB, Cespedes has a total of +32 defensive runs saved (DRS) in 409 games while Gordon has +97 DRS in 775 games.

As you can see, both of these players get most of their value from their tremendous defense in left field, so why would Angelos commit to have the Orioles play either player $100 million or more and move them to a position where they may not have the same value? 

Right field is not the same as left field, especially at Oriole Park at Camden Yards where you have to play the angles, the tricky right field corner and the out of town scoreboard.  So when fans say that Angelos should commit $100 million or more for a player to essentially play out of position, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.  It would be a similar situation as if the Orioles signed Miguel Tejada in the 2003-2004 offseason to play third base.  Could he have done it?  Probably, but his defense (or reputation of) at shortstop was where the value was.  Now Tejada did wind up playing third base for the Orioles eventually, but it was on a one a 1 year deal for $6 million and the Orioles wound up trading him in July, so they didn’t even pay for the whole contract.  The Orioles aren’t going to make and shouldn’t risk making a tremendous investment for defensive value, when they have no idea if it will translate to another position.

Justin Upton however, has extensive experience in right field, having played the position with the Diamondbacks before being traded to the Braves and Padres, so it’s fair to say he could be an alternative to Chris Davis because he actually fits the hole the team has, even though he doesn’t bat left handed.

Both Davis and Upton have been looked at as being inconsistent offensively, so let’s see how the two stack up by looking at their career splits by month according to Fangraphs:

Chris Davis – Career
Month AVG OBP SLG OPS BB% wOBA wRC+
March/April .265 .350 .506 .856 10.4 .365 128
May .259 .333 .534 .867 9.0 .367 129
June .237 .310 .491 .801 9.3 .343 113
July .230 .287 .450 .737 7.0 .316 94
August .237 .321 .492 .813 10.0 .347 116
Sept/Oct .294 .369 .554 .923 9.5 .393 145
Justin Upton – Career
Month AVG OBP SLG OPS BB% wOBA wRC+
March/April .277 .357 .529 .886 10.4 .381 138
May .279 .366 .490 .856 11.4 .369 129
June .269 .366 .409 .774 11.7 .343 112
July .273 .340 .479 .819 9.5 .353 119
August .280 .356 .500 .856 9.8 .368 129
Sept/Oct .250 .322 .434 .756 8.8 .326 99

As you can see, Davis in spite of his down year in 2014, has had the more consistent pattern of peaking in the spring, tailing off in July before rebounding in August and especially in September. Especially of note is that he has a wRC+ of 145 in September and October  which bests Upton’s wRC+ of 138 in March/April and is much larger than Upton’s wRC+ in the same month.

Just looking within that timeframe of September into October, let’s see how the two players have performed over the past 4 seasons:

Chris Davis – September/October
Year AVG OBP SLG OPS BB% wOBA wRC+
2012 .320 .397 .660 1.057 9.5 .440 181
2013 .216 .304 .451 .755 11.3 .331 106
2014 .256 .326 .436 .761 7.0 .339 116
2015 .318 .469 .787 1.211 17.6 .494 220
Justin Upton – September/October
Year AVG OBP SLG OPS BB% wOBA wRC+
2012 .320 .362 .522 .884 8.7 .379 135
2013 .260 .336 .406 .743 10.3 .330 110
2014 .169 .233 .325 .559 5.6 .252 57
2015 .239 .337 .420 .757 11.9 .329 112

Upton’s production in September 2014 was downright terrible, and above average in the other years, with his best year in 2012, and he hasn’t come close to that yet.  Chris Davis had a monster September in 2012 and topped that performance in 2015 with his best September to date.  Davis’ BB% and wOBA have also been higher than Upton’s each year.

While Upton is a good player, and would be a good fit on the Orioles, he isn’t Chris Davis, nor can he produce like Davis can when he is locked in, so he still isn’t the best fit.

Davis, when healthy and locked in, can be one of the best hitters in baseball, and in 2015 during the month of September into October, Davis did have the best production in baseball with .001 wOBA and 1 wRC+ just above Bryce Harper.  His 220 wRC+ meant he had the production of more than two league average hitters.  The Orioles could have fielded only an 8 man lineup of league average hitters in that timeframe, and still would have had league average production.  Now that’s called making a difference.

Also Davis is one of five Orioles hitters to have at least two seasons with a wRC+ of 145 or more with the other four being Frank Robinson, Boog Powell, Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken.  That’s pretty good company.

So when you see that breakdown, and look past the batting average, strikeouts and look past the ADD drug issues that ruined his 2014 campaign, you can see the ability Davis has for carrying a team, and why Peter Angelos continues to keep the conversations going.

Chris Davis is the best fit for the Orioles, and Orioles fans deserve to see some more history made in Baltimore with him wearing the orange and black.

Image:  CC Image courtesy of Keith Allison on Flickr