The Baltimore Orioles‘ remaining paths of intrigue following a 115-loss 2018 season have been traveled.
O’s fans will “Walk With Elias” as the team’s executive vice President and general manager and sail with Brandon Hyde as the skipper. There’s nothing left to do now except, ahem, Buckle Up. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.
With Hot Stove intrigue in Baltimore ranking lower than the team’s likely attendance figures for 2019, let’s revisit a time when our beloved contenders were chasing baseball’s “top free agent.”
Hop in the Wayback Machine with me and set the dial for 2015 to see what people were saying about the Orioles’ pursuit of Chris Davis.
Scott Boras says …
That “top free agent” comment. That’s a Boras gem that appeared in a Nov. 11, 2015, ESPN article.
“Chris Davis grades out as the top free agent because he’s the top outfielder, the top first baseman and the top DH,” Boras said. “He’s all of those. He’s three in one.”
I suppose if you’re trying to sell a client to prospective suitors, the three-in-one approach is better applied to positions he can play than it is to his slash line. That slash line is .202/.298/.397 since he signed in Baltimore, in case you were wondering.
The flexibility Boras described turned Davis into a supersized utility player. Why it’d be like having Ryan Flaherty on steroids.
“If a team has a first baseman, they can sign Chris Davis as an outfielder for one or two years, then bring him back to first base,” Boras said. “He gives them that flexibility. He’s an above-average outfielder. He also can play third base. And he’s one hell of a relief pitcher, too.”
A free-agent slugger who can move seamlessly between the outfield and first base? That’s a rare Boras commodity that only comes around … every five years or so. Right, Scott?
On Bryce Harper’s current free agency …
“Bryce and I had the discussion on working at first base two years ago,” (Scott) Boras said. “He was a catcher for years prior to signing with the Nationals, so first base is very comfortable for him as he can make the infield skill throws.
“This was done years in advance of free agency and had nothing to do with the Yankees’ outfield situation. The versatility of Bryce is value-added to any team. He has a history of playing all three outfield positions and has caught (if an emergency catcher is needed).”
The fans say …
In mid-December, Sun columnist Peter Schmuck took to the mean streets of Charm City … okay, he visited the Baltimore Convention Center during FanFest … to get the fan perspective on the O’s offseason maneuverings including the efforts to sign Davis.
Among the fans Schmuck interviewed was a woman “getting ready to enter the prestigious Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania to study business.” Here’s her take on whether the O’s needed to up their $150 million offer to Davis.
“Well, for anyone else, I’d say you probably shouldn’t, but for Chris Davis, you’ve got to give him everything. That guy’s awesome. For Chris Davis, you’ve got to do it. He’s worth it. He’s a franchise player.”
In those quaint days of 2015, prior to the dawn of Fake News, journalism objectivity required that even sportswriters deliver quotes from the competing perspective. Thus, Dan Smith, with his presumed non-business-school acumen (his career ambitions are not mentioned in the article), offered this alternate take on upping the ante for Baltimore’s single-season home run leader.
“I don’t think [the Orioles] should up their offer. If they don’t sign him, they should get a couple of pitchers. With that money, you can sign two or three more players, so I think that’s what they should do.”
The prognosticators say …
Regardless of anyone’s belief in what the Orioles should do, the general consensus seemed to be that a cheap outfit like the O’s would get alligator arms when it came time to pay the tab for Davis.
Dan Connolly, two months prior to the launch of The Athletic and the onset of sportswriters’ foreshadowy Tweets about “personal news,” wrote in The Baltimore Sun about the likelihood of the O’s re-signing Davis. He ranked the team’s chances at 4 on a scale of 10.
“Best landing spot: Anywhere. Really, there’s no team that wouldn’t want to pencil in 40 homers next season, although there doesn’t seem to be one perfect fit. Houston would be interesting if the Astros wanted to add to a strength — awesome power — and supplement their young roster with a veteran who has been through the game’s ups and downs. And it would send Davis back to Texas. A reunion with Cruz in Seattle would make the Mariners offense formidable. And you can’t rule out Boras casting a spell on a deep-pocketed owner in places like Detroit, New York or Los Angeles. It all comes down to which club will pay what it takes to get perhaps the best power force in the game.”
Ah, Boras Magic. Feel it happen.
I collected some 2015 Tweets before hopping back into the Wayback Machine. You can see those below.
Also, for what it’s worth, I offered a typical lukewarm take on the O’s re-signing Davis in January 2016: “I experienced mixed emotions about the Davis signing, equal parts pleased that the team spent big to retain one of their own free agents and concerned that this particular expenditure may not have been the wisest use of their traditionally limited resources.”