Andrew Stetka: Chris Davis’ hot streak means big bucks this winter

Orioles fans have been bracing for the moment when Chris Davis possibly walks out of town, but if his recent play is any indication, the slugging first baseman will be surfing on a wave of cash if he departs Baltimore instead. The 29-year-old pending free agent has put up monster numbers this season, more than bouncing back from what many saw as a disappointing 2014 campaign. Davis has clubbed 15 of his 34 homers this season since July 22 and has his OPS hovering near the .900 mark. He likely won’t reach the career-high 54 homers he bashed in 2013, but he’s putting up numbers that are reminiscent of that historic season.

Davis is among a number of pending free agents looking to cash in this offseason. Some of those players that were free agents entering the season have already departed the O’s, having either been traded or designated for assignment due to poor performance. Davis is definitely not in that boat. He’s actually been singled out as one of the players Dan Duquette wants to bring back next season and beyond. The executive vice president of baseball operations made that known Saturday during a talk with season ticket holders. The question remains, is that just Duquette playing politics or is there really a desire to bring Davis back?

I’ve long believed that Davis would be gone after this season. I started thinking it as soon as he was suspended at the tail end of last season for testing positive for amphetamines. As Davis served his 25-game ban, you could sense the disappointment radiating from the Orioles clubhouse. It’s not that there wasn’t disappointment from Davis in himself, but the words used by his teammates seemed to send a message. I don’t think Davis would’ve made much of a difference against the Royals in the ALCS, but who knows how things could’ve been different. That series was a mystery in itself, so it’s unfair to play the “what if” game. That said, while watching from afar, there still seems to be a distance between Davis and the team since his suspension. I’ve noticed it in interviews and in the way other members of the team, including Duquette and Buck Showalter, speak about him. It almost seems like a foregone conclusion that he won’t be back in 2016.

Everyone points to Davis’ strikeout numbers as his major negative, but when you look at the production he puts out, those are well worth it. Strikeouts are a major part of today’s game, and as much of a tough pill as that is to swallow, someone will pay Davis handsomely for all of those whiffs. And paying is really the biggest issue many believe the O’s will have to overcome when it boils down to it. With the sheer volume of free agents and the value of those players to the Orioles, it’s difficult to see who comes back, if anyone. We aren’t talking about a franchise that is used to dishing out big bucks for free agents, even if it’s one of their own. I think the only pending free agent that is less likely to return than Davis is Wei-Yin Chen, who is so valuable on the market because he’s a left-handed starter that can be a solid middle of the rotation on any team.

If you are in the camp that believes the Orioles can re-sign two or three of their six pending free agents, Davis and Chen are at the bottom of the “likely” list. The team would be much more likely to bring back Steve Pearce or Darren O’Day. Perhaps Gerardo Parra returns, and I’ve always said there’s a small chance Matt Wieters signs a one-year “make good” deal. If Wieters can’t prove his worth as an everyday catcher on the open market following his Tommy John surgery, there’s a slim chance he’s back. Davis doesn’t fit into this equation. The only chance the Orioles had to afford him is if he repeated his 2014 season or was even worse. He’s doing the exact opposite of that. Orioles fans should get used to the idea of Pearce or Christian Walker taking the field at first base for the first game of the 2016 season. Davis is proving that he has value as one of the best power bats in baseball and is going to make himself a ton of money. It won’t come from Baltimore.

Andrew Stetka blogs about the Orioles for Eutaw Street Report. Follow him on Twitter: @AStetka. His thoughts on the O’s appear here as part of MASNsports.com’s continuing commitment to welcome guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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