Monday, December 21, 2015

Is Chris Davis Crazy?

Chris Davis is poised to strike it rich this offseason (Sports On Earth)
Is Chris Davis crazy for rejecting Baltimore's seven-year, $150 million offer?

I don't think so. Davis has been the game's top power hitter over the past four years, outhomering everyone in the sport and posting the highest ISo in the American League. He's coming off a 47-homer season and is only going to be 30 next year, meaning he should still have several peak-level seasons ahead of him.

He's also far and away the best slugger on the market, which is woefully short on power beyond him, Justin Upton, and Yoenis Cespedes. Free agency is an annual game of supply and demand, and this year's supply of heavy hitters is awfully light.

But what about the demand? Davis hasn't garnered much interest this month, as the Orioles appear to be the only team seriously pursuing him. Granted, it's still early, and everyone seems to be focused on pitching right now. With many prized starters off the board, however, teams should begin turning their attention to the remaining position players, of whom Davis is the most desirable.

Still, I'm not convinced he'll get the eight-year, $200 million contract he's reportedly seeking. Most of the big-market teams are set at first base--the Red Sox have Hanley Ramirez, the Yankees still have Mark Teixeira, the Dodgers have Adrian Gonzalez, the Phillies are stuck with Ryan Howard, etc. The Cardinals probably make the most sense, especially since they'll be eager to make a splash after losing Jason Heyward and John Lackey to the Cubs, but they generally don't overpay free agents the way other teams do.

That doesn't mean Davis should have jumped at the first big offer thrown his way. He's smart to wait it out, to let interest build and allow other teams to start bidding against each other. Scott Boras knows what he's doing, and he knows there's nobody else on the market like Davis.They may not get $200 million, but they can probably get more than 150.

The best comp I can think of for Davis is Prince Fielder, another slugging first baseman and Boras client. Like Davis, Fielder turned down a big offer from his original club to test the free agent waters. He didn't sign until late January, at which point he landed a ridiculous nine-year, $214 million deal from the Tigers. Davis won't get quite such a big deal since he's two years older than Fielder was then, but he should be in the same ballpark.

Davis deserves to get paid. The only question is how much? He's been worth close to four wins per season over the past four, so assuming he loses half a win each year he'll provide 14 over the next seven.  With teams currently paying about $8 million per win, that works out to be "only" $98 million for a seven-year deal. Taking into account inflation, the influx of TV money, and the scarcity of available sluggers this winter, $150 million is probably more reasonable, but $200 million appears to be a drastic overpay. We'll see, but it's hard to imagine Davis getting that much without serious interest from multiple teams.

Given that he's one of the few players around capable of parking 40 dingers a year, I'm surprised there isn't more. Maybe his price tag is scaring teams away. Maybe teams are leary of signing up for a Fielder/Teixeira/Albert Pujols type of commitment. Maybe his high strikeout totals are causing people to view him as a Ryan Howard/Adam Dunn type.

I don't know. All I know is that if I was running a baseball team, and I had an opening at first base or designated hitter, I'd want Davis to fill it. I'm just not sure I'd be willing to pay him $200 million to do so.

1 comment:

  1. I think you nailed it at the end...he is a notch (or two) below Fielder/Teixeira/Pujols. His overall stats just don't merit that long of a commitment, unless it is laden with incentives. Will be interesting to see how Boras plays it.