When the Orioles acquired first baseman Chris Davis and pitcher Tommy Hunter from Texas for pitcher Koji Uehara in July 2011, Davis was a 25-year-old slugger looking to establish himself at the major league level.
Today he is an established home run hitter and looking to score a big contract through free agency. Back at the time of the trade, he was making the major league minimum and not even arbitration eligible yet.
The Orioles showed Davis some loyalty by giving him his first chance to consistently play every day. He repaid that by turning into a slugger that has led the majors in homers in two of the last three years.
Now, years after that trade, where does loyalty fit into all this?
Does Davis owe any to the team that gave him such a chance? Does the team owe it to the player that has hit at least 33 homers with 85 RBIs in three of his four full seasons in Baltimore?
The concept of loyalty sounds nice - all warm and fuzzy even - but we don’t see it play out too often. Teams DFA and trade players. Players sign with other teams all the time.
On the one hand, Davis is doing nothing more than what many players have done. He earned his free agency and earned the right to talk with any team. Players don’t get too many chances to go to the highest bidder, or to at least see what their true value is on the open market and pick their team, rather than have it picked for them.
On the other hand, the Orioles publicly stood behind Davis when he was suspended at the end of the 2014 season. While some of his own teammates were critical of him at the time of the suspension, they also welcomed him back and moved on when the time came for that. Many fans, seemingly a very large percentage, did the same.
Davis has said he loves it in Baltimore and he loves his teammates. He’s clearly found a professional home here and is a popular player. Orioles players, in my opinion, don’t face nearly the pressure that players in other cities do from fans or media. It’s a great place to play for most players.
I’m asking a question today that doesn’t have an answer like a math problem. It doesn’t have a clear answer. It has one that may be very different for different fans.
Davis has hit 126 homers over the last three years. In that time, no other player has hit more than 111, and that is Nelson Cruz. Edwin Encarnacion is next at 109, Mike Trout at 104 and Jose Bautista at 103.
Through arbitration raises for those three years, Davis earned $3.3 million, then $10.35 and last year $12 million. He got paid well but now is set to do much better.
Loyalty must fit in here somewhere. But in a high-stakes game of big dollars, does loyalty truly make any sense?