Now that the huge deal is signed, can Chris Davis live up to it?

So how will Chris Davis handle the pressure to produce now that he has signed what is easily the richest contract in Orioles history?

No one has a crystal ball on that front. In three of his four full seasons in Baltimore, he has produced an OPS of at least .827, hit at least 33 homers and recorded an OPS+ of at least 121. We all recall that when he was trying to follow up his 53-homer season in 2014, he hit just .196 with 26 homers, 72 RBIs and a .704 OPS. O’s fans certainly hope that will be the outlier and not happen again.

But Davis has come up with three good years, twice has been the Most Valuable Oriole and twice has finished in the top 14 for the American League’s MVP award. Davis was asked about trying to live up the pressure of the big contract at his press conference on Thursday night.

“I hope there is (pressure),” he said. “I hope there are expectations. I’ve always kind of thought of pressure as something that you really inflict on yourself. As a professional athlete, really a professional in anything that you do, you’re going to expect yourself to be great and you’re going to hold yourself to high standards.

“I’m happy to be here for the next seven years and be in a place where I’ve had success in the past and we’ve had success as a team in the past. And I think these next few years are going to be a lot of fun and hopefully very successful years.”

Chris Davis back white.jpgMaybe the second-half of last season showed that Davis can hold up to the pressure. At the same time that he was trying join his teammates in chasing a playoff spot, he also was playing for his next contract.

Despite that, Davis had a huge second half. In 266 at-bats after the All-Star break, Davis hit .293/.409/.669 with 16 doubles, 28 homers, 65 RBIs and an OPS of 1.078.

Since the 2012 season, Davis ranks first in the majors in homers (159) and fourth in RBIs (412). Davis ranks ninth in slugging (.533) and 15th in OPS (.876).

On March 17, Davis will turn 30. He should still be in his prime years for at least another season or two, maybe more, and likely to be productive for several seasons. But at what point will he start to show some declining skills and how will that impact his best tool - his power?

Davis will be 33 in the fourth year of the contract and play the final seasons of this deal at 34, 35 and 36. Some decline is certainly to be expected. Of course, who knows where the salaries will be in 2019 and beyond. By then, a salary of $17 million might seem modest for Davis, even if he is a declining player.

But Davis still adds to the team beyond just the home run ball. He is an above-average defender at first base and has been a Gold Glove finalist. He is athletic and runs well for his size, and that could help him stay productive deep into this deal. He can play other positions, which could help the team during the next seven years. He could also spend the final years of the deal as a DH, producing less wear and tear on the body and keeping his bat fresh.

Davis’ deal is for $161 million over the seven years with $42 million deferred. MLBTradeRumors.com asked its readers which of the three $100 million deals for position players was the best. The Cubs signed outfielder Jason Heyward for $184 million over eight seasons and outfielder Justin Upton signed with Detroit for $132.75 million over six seasons.

As of last night, with more than 18,000 votes, Heyward’s deal got 44.36 percent of the votes to 39.09 percent for Upton and 16.55 percent for Davis.

In the story, they wrote that “Davis’ deal might be the riskiest of the three, given his age and issues with strikeouts. But one could argue that there’s more upside in Davis’ deal, too, given that he does not have an opt-out. What you think about the Heyward deal likely depends to some degree on how you weight defense in your assessment of a player’s value (and in your assessment of how he’ll age). Upton’s skill set is perhaps the easiest of the three to grasp - he’s a good, consistent power hitter who gets on base and plays decent defense in an outfield corner. He hasn’t yet blossomed into the MVP-type player he looked like he might be when he was a prospect, although he’s young enough that we might not have seen the best of him yet.”

Of course, O’s fans don’t need to worry about whether the Davis deal is better than those other two. That doesn’t matter now. What truly matters is that Davis live up to the contract and remain a productive player for most of the next seven years.

As we mentioned earlier, some pressure to produce comes with a big contract. Fans are not likely to care about the dollars when Davis is mashing homers, but when he goes through slumps, you know the dollars will come up.

So circling back to the start of this entry, how do you feel Davis will handle the pressure of his huge contract?

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