About 40 or 50 times next year, Chris Davis will hit a stitched, hard sphere with so much force that it will travel outside the established boundaries of a large field. He will jog around and touch three white squares before stepping on a white pentagon. Because he can do this about once more every eight games than his peers with the same skill, he will make at least $150 million over the next several years.
What's a dinger worth to you? What's it worth to a team? How much will they pay to get the extra 20 to 30 home runs that Davis provides over the typical corner outfielder or first baseman? And, my goodness, how much money are they willing to pay a 36-year-old slugger with contact issues just to get an advance on those dingers next year?
Those are all valid questions when it comes to Davis, who is one of the only legitimate threats to hit 50 homers in a power-starved era. He can take a walk, and is more athletic than you might think, but he also became just the seventh player in MLB history to strike out more than 200 times. Oh, what a fascinating free agent. There's potential for 250 home runs over the life of the deal; there's the potential for two straight .190 seasons and mortified owners.
It's the age that gives me the willies most of all. Davis will be 30 next year -- not quite the age when you should start expecting players to slow down, but the age when you shouldn't be surprised. If you want the dream scenario of how Davis will age with his new, massive contract, take Player A.
Player A, age-29 season
.269 batting average
.398 on-base percentage
.531 slugging percentage
37 home runs
Player A would hit 274 home runs over the next seven years, with a .408 OBP and 157 OPS+. He would have been worth whatever contract Davis will get. He would have been a bargain.
Player B, age-29 season
Player B would hit 135 home runs over the next six seasons, and while it's possible that he hits 139 this season to catch up to Player A, it seems somewhat unlikely. According to Baseball-Reference, Player B has been worth a combined -0.6 wins in his six seasons since turning 30. He's become synonymous with "dreadful contract."
Player A is Jim Thome. Player B is Ryan Howard. One is the red pill. One is the blue pill. The GM and owner of a team will down one of the pills, without having any idea which one is which. Also, there's an orange pill that's somewhere in the middle. It tastes like Andres Galarraga. It seems like this could be the kind of decision that could cost a GM his job.
Before you make your decision, note that Davis' career path, a late-bloomer who put everything together in his mid-20s, is much more Howard than Thome. Happy shopping.
Who will take that gamble on short-term dingers and absorb the long-term risk? Which team should? It's time to figure out where Davis is going.
Rockies. Do not come at me with your weak alternative. Chris Davis on the Rockies should happen by fiat. We should set up a Gofundme to make it happen, but hopefully Commissioner Manfred will just do it before we even have to ask. Davis should be allowed the opportunity to gorge on thin air and flat curveballs, and we should be allowed the opportunity to gawk.
If you're going to be a weenie and demand that we explore realistic ideal scenarios, then fine. I'd love to spend time explaining why the Mets make sense, except unless there's some sort of Conforto/Matz deal for Jose Fernandez in the works, the Mets are set in the corners. Also, they don't have enough money to pay Davis' per diem. The Yankees would make sense, but they seem out on nine-figure contracts for the foreseeable future. The Giants could move Brandon Belt to the outfield or deal him for pitching, but they would be too wary of spending $150 million on any hitter over 30, much less a left-handed hitter at AT&T Park.
No, the ideal would be hilarious. There's a team out there with a potent lineup but a first baseman who shouldn't prevent them from considering a special bat like Davis. If they got him, they might not threaten 1,000 runs, but it wouldn't be out of the question, either. Plus, having Davis in the lineup would allow them to worry less about two of their own pending free agents after the season.
The Toronto Blue Jays and Chris Davis. A hilarious, ideal situation.
Troy Tulowitzki would probably have to hit sixth in this scenario, and the lineup 2-6 would go Donaldson/Bautista/Davis/Encarnacion/Tulowitzki. Those five players would have the potential to combine for 200 home runs, which would probably be more than any National League team. Those five players could combine for twice as many homers as the entire Braves roster.
It's unrealistic, considering Bautista and Encarnacion are going to be free agents, and the restrained spending from Rogers since taking over the Blue Jays. But if you want an ideal situation in theory-land, this is it. The Blue Jays would be an unfair dinger factory.
The Orioles. Boring, I know, but they're the only one with a confirmed offer out there. Scott Boras is looking for more than $154 million over seven years, and he'll probably get it. Just how much more, though, is an interesting question. I'll guess the Orioles whiff on Justin Upton or whatever Plan B they have in mind, and they'll circle back around to their Plan A. Eventually.
Because if not the Orioles, then whom? Who has that right mix of need and/or desperation, with the money and ability to slough off a monster contract that doesn't work out? I suppose the Nationals could sit Ryan Zimmerman and poke their antagonist in the nose at the same time. We know they have the money, considering they were in the mix for Jason Heyward. Still, the Orioles have the money as well, and they also have the sentimental attachment. It makes too much sense.
I mean, that Nationals idea is pretty compelling, though ...
They also make a lot of sense, considering that Zimmerman is a) projected to hit cleanup, b) coming off a lackluster 105 OPS+, 0.7-WAR season, and c) will have a 37-year-old hitter who was disappointing last season behind him. It's a lineup with holes. Here is some dinger spackle to help fill those holes.
The Nationals would essentially make a bench player out of a legacy player with $62 million left on his deal, and that seems unlikely. On the other hand, the move would make them much better and the Orioles would be pissed. Don't discount the power of a billionaire's ego. You can power a space station with one of those things.
Nationals, seven years, $168 million.
Previous free agent predictions: