The Baltimore Orioles weren’t too far off from a playoff berth in 2015, but since the season ended, that’s been my question: Is Chris Davis Enough?
That was my question when the seemingly never-ending saga of his contract was playing out; that was my question when the Orioles were reportedly back in on him after rescinding their initial offer. And finally, that was still my question when Baltimore signed him to the tune of $161 milliona��the richest contract in franchise history.
So, is he? Is his re-signing going to make the Orioles a winning ballclub in 2016? Is his presence going to help them make a run at the AL East crown, a division they last won just two years ago? If it can’t be that, will he be solely responsible for the Orioles not finishing five games back of the second AL wildcard spot?
The answer to that question, I’ve concluded, is No. Not yet, anyway. Then again, that isn’t squarely on Davis. It’s not because he’s old and his skills are diminishinga��he turns 30 in March, and figures to have at least three solid seasons left.
It’s obviously not because he’s a bad playera��his down season might have been more worrisome had he not bounced back so well last year. Sure he strikes out a lot, even setting a career-high and leading the league with 208 in ’15. But his power numbers combined with the ability to get on basea��a clip of .360 or higher two of the past three seasonsa��will make up for that, assuming those numbers hold up a little while longer.
Actually, the answer to this question has nothing to do with him. No, Davis isn’t enough because he is not a starting pitcher, something the Orioles so desperately need right now. It’s true, Baltimore’s offseason hasn’t been all that bad.
It started with bringing back their best reliever, Darren O’Day, on a four-year deal. A few days later, they announced a two-year pact with 27-year-old Korean outfielder Hyun-Soo Kim. In his 10 professional seasons, all within the KBO, he slashed .318/.406/.488 with 142 home runs. Last season, the power came to life a little morea��a .326/.428/.541 slash line was complimented with 28 home runs and 26 doubles.
The return of Davis coupled with Kim’s addition should only help Baltimore’s offensea��one that ranked ninth in runs scored in 2015a��but on the mound is a different story.
Their most effective starter from a year ago, Wei-Yin Chen, is now in Miami. Despite his high FIP of 4.16 compared to a respectable 3.34 ERA, his 2015 numbers were solid: a BABIP of .290 coupled with an 80.5 percent strand rate helped. With him, the Orioles finished T-17th in team ERA (4.05). They surrendered 693 runs, which put them in the middle of the pack, and a batting average against of .257 ranked them in the bottom half of the league.
Without him, I just can’t see Baltimore climbing back into the playoffs this season. Currently, their depth chart projects Chris Tillman, Miguel GonzA?lez, Ubaldo JimA�nez, Kevin Gausman, and Mike Wright. Tillman was an All-Star in 2013 and followed that up nicely in 2014, but fell off drastically this past season.
GonzA?lez’s good luck caught up with him in 2015 and his performances (plus an FIP of 5.01) reflected his horrendous ERA (4.91). Marks of the latter included 3.25, 3.78, and 3.23 in his first three seasons coupled with FIP totals of 4.38, 4.45, and 4.89. We still aren’t really sure what JimA�nez is going to show up over the course of a full season; Gausmana��the 25-year-old who was the fourth overall pick in 2012a��has yet to realize his full potential. Then there’s Wright, 26, who’s only got 44.2 major league innings under his belt.
Of course, the offseason isn’t over, but unless Baltimore swings a trade the pickings are slim on the free agent market. Yovani Gallardo, Doug Fister, and Mat Latos are probably the three best unsigned names remaining, but Gallardo would cost any team a draft pick. Otherwise there’s Fistera��who only made 15 starts in 2015 and struggled overalla��and Latos, who was a shell of his 2014 self.
So yes, Chris Davis and his .262/.361/.562 batting line; his league-leading 47 home runsa��well, a near-replication of said totals would be excellent for Baltimore in 2016.
But it isn’t enough. Not quite yet.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference and Fangraphs