Of course, now we know that Davis has not collapsed and he may well be out of the Orioles' price range.
Chris Davis' MLB Career
What would it take to extend Davis?
Using an updated version of Dave Cameron's simple contract estimator, we can get a rough idea of what kind of contract Chris Davis might expect this offseason. Let's say his projected WAR for next season is 2.5 and that we are now living in a 7 MM per win era. That would suggest that Davis should be imagining a contract length of five years and total earnings of 87.5 MM (17.5 MM annual earnings). If the Orioles chose to match those figures, then Davis would become the most expensive contract in Orioles history by besting Adam Jones by 2 MM. I expect this will not happen.
Should Davis accept a Qualifying Offer?
I set up the framework of a decision making process to determine whether or not it makes sense to accept a Qualifying Offer over a year ago. With the Qualifying Offer this year expected to be 16.4 MM and a slightly underperforming season (2 WAR) for him in 2016, we could expect an overall package of five years and 76.4 MM (1/16.4+4/60). That value is almost 11 MM less than what he could expect to receive in Free Agency and represents likely base earnings. As the only arguable first division first baseman in Free Agency this offseason, a team in need and perceives themselves as a playoff contender will easily hand over a draft pick, so I do not think QO restriction will hurt Davis. In other words, I think the likely course of events includes the team QOing Davis and wishing him well in his future endeavors. It likely is obvious to the front office that an elite deal for a 30-year-old first baseman rarely ever works out.
If not Walker, then who?
We can look around baseball to gauge some onerous contracts that parent clubs might be quite agreeable to let go of and may very well be available now. Six names immediately came to mind and are shown in the table below (all contracts assume first opt out date will be taken).
|Through||$ Left||WAR Left||Net|
Justin Morneau, Ike Davis, and Pedro Alvarez are tweeners. The Rockies have dealt several players to not only increase payroll flexibility, but also to keep themselves in gear for 2016. Dealing Morneau would mean a change of plans for 2016, a season in which they still seem to think has them in contention. Morneau is the kind of cheap, big reward first base option they would likely love to have and for which the free agent market appears slight. Oakland is likely very willing to discuss Ike Davis. At a likely arbitration value of 5 MM, he appears to be the kind of lottery ticket the Athletics would work with. However, he would also be a player where the upside is slim enough that the team would be open to converting Davis into something else. Two potential plays would be either Christian Walker or Steve Clevenger.
Pedro Alvarez has had another season that further rubs away the shine he had when drafted. He is no longer a suitable third baseman and simply gets along with the glove at first. His bat continues to flash promise, but more often show failure. Alvarez is a non-tender candidate at 7.5 MM and would probably get himself a deal around 5 MM or so in free agency. That might be a close enough difference that another club might be willing to pay in hopes that maybe, just maybe, Alvarez is a late bloomer. I imagine a power arm like Lazaro Leyva would easily get the Pirates' attention after the season. If Alvarez would make his way through waivers, then the Orioles would have to supply something useful for the Pirates bench. The club does not seem to have an abundance of that.
Pablo Sandoval might be a provocative option here. Only one year into his deal, Sandoval has been a massive (forgive the unintentional pun) disappointment. His hitting has been poor and he does not look capable of defending the hot corner. The Red Sox other big free agent play, Hanley Ramirez, has shown a slightly more competent bat, but looks a bit lost in left field as well. As they have done in the past, the Red Sox may be willing to eat some of Sandoval's contract and move Ramirez back to third. Sandoval's current projection has him being worth 26 MM over the rest of his contract. If you ignore his 2015 season, then he appears to be worth 53 MM (while costing 75 MM). The Red Sox can afford to wait and see if Sandoval's value will rise, so they might be willing to cover up to 30 MM in exchange for a couple interesting, but not important, prospects. I could see a power arm and a position prospect, perhaps Leyva and Jonah Heim.
Ryan Howard, through no fault of his own, is an obscene 2016 contract. He has a 25 MM base and an almost assured 10 MM buyout to prevent a 25 MM 2017 season. As such, he is worth no prospect of any value no matter what the Phillies assume. Would the Phillies eat 30 MM in order to save 5 MM? I imagine they could do a similar deal mid-season if he bounces back and at worst lose that 5 MM. If I was the Phillies, I would be more likely to listen to a deal where the Phillies covered 20 to 25 MM. At that level, it probably makes no sense for the Orioles to try for that.
I would be open to four options: Jon Singleton, Ike Davis, Pablo Sandoval, or Walker/Pearce. Thoughts?