Hot stove season is the best because we all get to play. Not just passively hoping for and dreaming of improvements to our favorite teams, but the armchair, semi-informed analysis we get to provide when details of negotiations become public. If something leaks, it leaks for a reason, and when contradictory information leaks, it’s a great sign negotiations aren’t going smoothly. So what to make of this series of reports from the Orioles’ talks with Chris Davis?
There are only two things everyone has agreed upon. That the Orioles entered the winter meetings with a standing offer of seven years and $150 million for their free-agent slugger, and that Davis wanted more, possibly asking for as much as eight years and $200 million.
Since then? Who knows? Depending on which reporter you believe (or more accurately, which reporter’s source is feeding them the info with the least agenda attached), the Orioles have either upped their offer, are standing firm, or have taken it off the table altogether.
What seems likely is that Baltimore gave Davis a preliminary deadline on their offer, whatever it was. Dan Duquette spoke about his desire to get major moves done by yesterday’s final day of the winter meetings.
“Lot of interest, but now is the time of the year to buckle down and for people to make choices, what they are going to do with their teams and for players to choose what [teams] they are going to play for,” Duquette said.
That strategy is a risk, since Davis is represented by Scott Boras, who is notorious for having his clients wait well into the winter to sign in order to get as many offers on the table as possible. The Orioles will apparently take that chance: as of now, they won’t budge beyond a certain length and amount of money. That could change—so could Davis’s demands—as the demand for him crystallizes, but there doesn’t yet seem to be a market for him beyond returning to the O’s.
(It’s worth noting just how much free agency priorities have changed. A decade ago, a power guy like Davis, who’s the reigning HR champ and is an RBI machine, would have been the most in-demand player on the market. Now teams look at his strikeouts, his low-ish OBP and walk totals, his inability to play competent defense anywhere but at first, and they balk at committing really big money. Not that high power, middling average guys aren’t valuable—the Astros love ‘em—but the truly rabid bidding wars break out over pitchers first. Hell, the market for Ben Zobrist heated up faster and hotter than it did for Chris Davis.)
Davis returning to the Orioles still seems like the most likely outcome. But the apparent breakdown of talks at the winter meetings—or at the very least, some involved party’s desire to publicly leak word of a breakdown—is a strong sign that nothing will get done for a while. Plenty of time and room for another team to jump in there and snatch away MLB’s most eligible slugger, and I’m not so certain the Orioles would be too upset if that happened.