Chris Davis steered hard into the regression curve in 2014. His return to slugging prominence wasn't enough to get the Baltimore Orioles in contention, but the team still decided to keep him in the fold. The slugger agreed on a seven-year, $161 million contract Saturday that will put him among the highest-paid players at his position.
Jon Heyman of MLB Network first reported the high-profile re-signing, and Roch Kubatko of MASN confirmed an agreement was in place. Heyman also passed along the contract figures, while Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports said Davis received a partial no-trade clause. Rosenthal also added Davis' salary would be deferred. Buster Olney of ESPN provided the breakdown:
Chris Davis contract structure: $17m annual salary 2016-2022. Annual payments $3.5m 2023-32, then $1.4m 2033-37. No interest on deferrals.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) January 16, 2016
Rosenthal noted Davis will be 51 when he receives his final payment from the contract.
ESPN Stats & Info pointed out Davis' $161 million price tag was more than twice the previous highest contract in Orioles history, which went to Miguel Tejada for $72 million back in 2004.
Davis, 29, hit .262/.361/.562 last year with an MLB-high 47 home runs and 117 RBI. It was a huge comeback after a lost 2014 campaign marred by a performance-enhancing drug suspension and injuries.
"He's had a great year, and he's been a great player for us, so obviously, we'd like to have him back," Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette told the Baltimore Sun in October. "Whether we can do that in the market, that remains to be seen, but we're going to try."
Of course, Davis had all the incentive in the world to find the best possible contract. The Orioles had shopped him in back channels as they floated out of contention, and power hitters are as few and far between as at any point in recent MLB history—and Davis is among the biggest bats in the game.
What's more, we understand better than ever that striking out isn't necessarily the killer it used to seem. An out is an out in most cases; a strikeout is only slightly worse than your garden-variety flyout. That Davis swings and misses a ton isn't a good thing, but he's still a usable player who has gotten better at being patient.
Baltimore has some reason for optimism. Davis' batting average on balls in play last season was .319, a vast improvement from 2014 and right in line with his career mark. A strong second half helped push Davis' batting average back toward respectability, and he set a career high for walks with 84.
Davis might never hit .286 again, but he is an asset because of the dearth in power around baseball. It won't be the safest play in free agency, but the Orioles could do a lot worse, and the signing ensures they won't have to fill a major power void.
Advanced stats via Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.
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