If you want to just stop there, that's fine. This doesn't have to be complicated. Watching sports is supposed to be fun, and the Orioles (on offense, at least) should be enjoyable to watch for the next few years (and maybe longer). But we do our best to dig a little deeper here, and you probably wouldn't be reading this if we didn't.
I've been trying to figure out what's bothering me most about the Orioles' decision to re-sign Davis. It's not the enormous amount of money, which seemed comical at first but is at least less bad after the reported amount of deferred money. Jon discussed Davis's contract in detail on Saturday, and you should give it a read.
It's not that Davis turns 30 soon and plays first base, and it's extremely risky to hand out such a lucrative contract to those types of players. That's not stating anything new.
It's not that the Orioles have spent a lot of money and, for now at least, seem very similar to last year's team.
It's not even that the Orioles seemed to bid against themselves to get the deal done, with no clear competitor in the market for Davis's services. It's tough to see that $161 million figure and wonder which other team was willing to come close to that offer.
All of those things matter. But I have more of an issue with Peter Angelos willing to spend a huge sum of money for one player -- only to reel in Davis. If Davis were far and away the best player on the market, maybe that would be easier to defend. But he wasn't. There was nothing hidden about the priority to keep Davis at seemingly whatever cost; Dan Connolly, formerly of The Baltimore Sun, was on top of this a month ago. Angelos inserted himself in the negotiations with Scott Boras early on, demonstrating the level of seriousness in keeping Davis in an O's uniform.
Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs expanded on this topic in his analysis of the Davis deal. Here's a section of his excellent post:
The idea presented: the money budgeted for Chris Davis wasn’t being budgeted for just anyone. Angelos has a particular fondness for Davis, and a particular appreciation of everything he’s done. It’s not quite that Davis is being paid right out of Angelos’ pocket, from a completely separate budget, but there are hints that the Orioles’ payroll might go higher with Davis than it would’ve without Davis. If that’s in any way true, then it has to also be a factor, because it means the Orioles would spend more on a team with Davis than they would on a team with, say, Yoenis Cespedes. Again, if that’s true, it would mean Davis is getting money that wouldn’t have been put elsewhere.Sullivan later hits on a point that gets to exactly what has been eating at me: "...as a fan it could be frustrating to think about this situation because you’d want the same amount of money to be available regardless." And that option evidently was not available here, regardless of whatever offer the Orioles had extended to Yoenis Cespedes. You couldn't pick between Justin Upton, Cespedes, and Davis, because Upton and Cespedes were never real options for similar money (barring a tremendous discount or a bizarre short-term deal). It's better to have Davis than none of the three.
If the Orioles didn't have a particular amount of money set aside, and whatever else Angelos was willing to give to Davis was just icing on the cake, then maybe this is all easier to swallow. It seems likely that Connolly was right all along that the Orioles (Angelos, really) did not want to go above $100 million for any other player. But it's unsettling both because we'll never know for sure, and that also maybe isn't the best way to go about things.
Overpaying for sentimental reasons and past performance isn't a great pattern to follow, though willing to go above and beyond for a skilled player is a positive (especially if that extra money would not have been available for anyone else). The best use of all funds would be to use them in a way to build the best possible team, but that option likely was not on the table.
Do you really care about Angelos losing money on the Davis deal if it starts to go south in a hurry? Would you rather him just pocket that extra money? Probably not. But if this contract affects the likelihood of Manny Machado signing an extension, it will look much worse. This is the type of contract that can hamstring a team. That concern is real.
Then again, maybe Machado will be one of Angelos's guys, and he'll be willing to go above and beyond for him, too. At least in that case, he'll be making an exception for one of the very best players in the game. But let's not get ahead of ourselves or anything. Let's instead start with hoping that the 2014 version of Davis doesn't resurface anytime soon.