Let’s push aside for a minute the uncertainty within the front office and in the manager’s chair, and how the impact could echo throughout the organization.
Anyone who’s interviewing to become president of baseball operations is going to wonder how Chris Davis and the $110 million remaining on the richest contract in franchise history can fit into the rebuilding process. How a square peg fits into a round hole.
This individual will be told that it doesn’t. That giving one player, coming off the worst season in major league history, $17 million annually over the next four seasons with $42 million in deferred payments running through 2037 is working against the mission.
(The deferred payments are broken down as $3.5 million each year from July 2023 through 2032 and $1.4 million each year from July 2033 through 2037, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts.)
This individual will want to know how much of the contract ownership is willing to eat. Do the first bites come next summer if Davis remains lost at the plate? Is there a set amount of years before the idea becomes more appetizing?
The sunk-cost theory will be floated. If the money has to be paid anyway, find a replacement player with a higher WAR than minus-2.8 and a higher WAA than minus-4.6. Put Trey Mancini at first base and a defensive upgrade in left field. Hit Ryan Mountcastle a ton of ground balls at first and see whether he can move across the infield. Give Mark Trumbo more starts at first base after he’s ready to come off the disabled list and rotate players in the designated hitter role.
Former executive vice president Dan Duquette was stuck with the contract and someone else is going to inherit it. And this person will want to know more about ownership’s attachment to it.
The answer won’t be a deal-breaker in interviews. The new hire will try to work around it while hoping that something clicks with Davis, that the necessary adjustments are made and hold through the summer no matter the early returns, and maybe it becomes a little easier to justify the cost.
I haven’t found anyone in the organization or familiar with its thinking who believes the Orioles will release Davis before opening day or that he’s going to walk away from the contract and surrender the remainder owed to him. No one believes that Davis will accept an assignment to Triple-A Norfolk.
Could the Orioles reach out to agent Scott Boras to try to find a solution? Not that I have any idea what it would entail that pleases both sides.
Scouts in other organizations, and I’m sure there are a few working for the Orioles, wonder if Davis can stop being so vulnerable to pitchers with plus velocity. The mid-to-upper-90s guys work him inside and he can’t catch up to the fastball. Can he get back to his 2013 and 2015 form, with the combined 100 home runs, 255 RBIs and 11.8 WAR? Or are the best days behind Davis, with perhaps a softening of past stances against eating long-term contracts awaiting the new hire?
It’s bound to come up if it hasn’t already.
The Orioles never intended to bring back manager Buck Showalter without having a president of baseball operations or executive VP already in place to offer approval. The new hire will be on the same page as the manager because he’s going to compile the list of candidates and make the choice. And that list, or at least part of it, will be shared with John and Louis Angelos during the interviews.
And again, this is why speculating on managerial favorites is just an exercise and not actual analysis. It doesn’t matter if someone tosses their hat or other apparel into the ring. It doesn’t matter if someone has ties to the Orioles or a track record of winning in the majors or minors or draws comparisons to other hires who came straight out of the television booth or a coaching position.
The top executive first must be identified. And then we can resume floating Mark DeRosa’s name.
The Marlins held a reported $4.3 million in international signing bonus money less than a week ago, putting them behind the Orioles while the teams courted outfielders Victor Victor Mesa and Victor Mesa Jr. and pitcher Sandy Gastón, but they’ve made trades with the Reds and Nationals to close the gap.
Sources told the Miami Herald that the Marlins now have “almost as much money as the Orioles at their disposal in their pursuit of the three prospects.” The Nats sent $1 million in slot funds to the Marlins yesterday for reliever Kyle Barraclough, according to the Associated Press.
Showalter engineered the waiver claim of reliever Darren O’Day in November 2011, shortly before Duquette’s hiring. With Duquette and Showalter gone, it’s assumed that director of player development Brian Graham - who’s handling the day-to-day oversight of the baseball operations department - is the person who can make trades after receiving ownership approval.
The Mesa brothers are getting most of the attention, but Gastón really impressed at Friday’s showcase. A talent evaluator from outside the organization raved about Gastón’s upper-90s fastball, improving secondary stuff and understanding of how to pitch. He wondered why the Orioles didn’t sign the young right-hander before leaving Miami, given the lower cost and how the Mesas are considered a package deal with their father, Victor Mesa, pointing them toward the Marlins.
The kid might not be ready to make a decision, but he’d be a terrific consolation prize if the Mesas hunker down in Miami.
AFL note: Steve Wilkerson led off again yesterday for the Glendale Desert Dogs, but he started at second base instead of third and went 3-for-5 with two doubles, an RBI and a run scored.
Tanner Chleborad allowed one run and three hits with three strikeouts in 1 2/3 innings.