Here's a Chris-match list for slugger Davis
126 home runs since 2013 leads Major League Baseball
For weeks, Chris Davis' return to Baltimore looked all but certain. The fit seemed perfect: As a lefty slugger in a ballpark very friendly to lefty sluggers, on a roster that badly needs offense and with reports of an offer north of $150 million on the table, there was no reason to expect he'd packing his bags. But a deal never got done, and now the Orioles have reportedly pulled the offer and instead added Mark Trumbo and outfielder Hyun-soo Kim.
While it's not out of the question that the two sides will figure it out, the perfect fit suddenly doesn't seem so perfect, and now Davis has to find himself other possibilities. But where? Let's help him find a happy home.
Despite his prodigious power, the market for Davis' services may be surprisingly limited. In order to really consider adding him, a team needs to hit the following three checkmarks:
1 -- Be a reasonable contender, who
2 -- Needs a first baseman, and
3 -- Can afford a contract of well over $100 million
That first requirement knocks out a half-dozen teams, squads in the midst of rebuilds like the Brewers, Braves and Phillies. The second eliminates several more, clubs like the Cubs (Anthony Rizzo), D-backs (Paul Goldschmidt) and Royals (Eric Hosmer /Kendrys Morales). And the third squeezes out not only the usual small-market teams in Oakland and Tampa Bay, but other contenders who would be absolutely perfect fits otherwise in Cleveland and Pittsburgh.
Perhaps, however, we should add a fourth item: Plays in a park conducive to lefty power. Year after year after year, Davis has been pulling the ball to right field more often, a trend that's unmistakable:
The Major League average for pull percentage over that time is just under 40 percent, and among the 384 players with at least 1,000 plate appearances since 2010, Davis' rate of 54.1 is 24th, or in the top 6 percent.
Now it's not exactly a concrete requirement to put Davis in a park that's favorable to lefties, because his power -- fourth on Statcast™'s average distance list (minimum of 150 balls in play) at 248.4 feet -- really plays in any park, but it's an idea worth pursuing. Remember that while Davis has a good eye at the plate and is a decent enough defensive first baseman, power is his only really truly elite skill. Remember also that power tends to not age well, with most players showing a decline once into their 30s, and Davis without his power is akin to Nationals outfielder Michael Taylor -- another high-strikeout guy who can take a walk -- with a better eye.
While that's a bit hyperbolic, any team willing to give Davis nine figures over five or more years would do well to put him in a position to succeed, gaining more value upfront and hopefully helping to stave off decline as much as possible, so putting him in a ballpark that accommodates his increasingly pull-happy tendencies would be a good start. While some parks are good, we're looking for great.
So, where else would a lefty hitter looking for a favorable right field go than Yankee Stadium? We can put numbers to it. Per FanGraphs, lefty hitters at Yankee Stadium over the past few years had a 17 percent higher likelihood of hitting a homer than they would elsewhere, second highest behind Colorado. Per ESPN, lefties in Yankee Stadium had a .371 Isolated Power (American League average: .279) and a 40.1 Home Run to Fly Ball Ratio (AL average: 30.2) between 2012-14, by far the most hitter-friendly marks. And per the back of any baseball card, lefty Curtis Granderson hit 41 and 43 homers in his final two healthy seasons as a Yankee, when he's only once ever hit more than 26 otherwise.
So would Davis "fit" with the Yankees? Well, if we're talking pure roster fit, the best bets are with St. Louis (which has a replaceable first baseman, money to spend and the Cubs and Pirates to deal with), Toronto (which lost David Price, is headed into the final contract years for Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, and has a win-now lineup with Russell Martin, Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki) or Houston (which non-tendered Chris Carter).
But despite a seemingly crowded roster, the Yanks could make it work, even with the presence of Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Greg Bird. Despite a very good season in 2015, Teixeira is nearly 36, signed for only one more season, and coming off a broken leg. Bird could be traded for pitching, or kept as Minor League depth. Davis also started 29 games in right last year, and could be used in conjunction with an aging Carlos Beltran, or Beltran could be dealt.
It'd be crowded for the first year, but the Yankees have more than $60 million coming off the books following 2016 when Teixeira, Beltran and CC Sabathia depart (depending on Sabathia's option), and finally are done with Rodriguez after that. For a team that's done little other than acquire Starlin Castro, Davis taking aim at that porch would be a boost not just now in a winnable AL East, but for the next few years.
Thing is, though, while that all makes the Yanks a good fit, they're not the best fit. The best fit plays in the park that finished just barely behind Yankee Stadium in both of the park factor metrics referenced above. They're the team that currently has lineup questions pretty much everywhere other than catcher, third base and center field. They're the only team we know of that's been publicly willing to offer Davis a life-changing amount of money.
The best fit, then as now, is back with Baltimore. It makes entirely too much sense not to end up happening.