Have the Orioles finally reached their breaking point with Chris Davis? Some have speculated this offseason could be the time Baltimore parts ways with its embattled slugger after Davis was a non-factor for much of 2020, hitting .115 without a homer across 16 games.
To hear the general manager say it, that doesn’t sound likely.
“He is under contract and there is a lot that goes into that, and we do not have plans to alter that fact,” club executive vice president/GM Mike Elias said Saturday. “It was not a successful year for Chris on a number of fronts, and it’s a frustration for everyone involved and a tough situation for everyone involved, and that includes him. We are taking it as it comes.”
By doing so, Elias echoed the club’s position on Davis since Elias assumed control of baseball operations in November 2018, inheriting Davis and his contract. There are two years and roughly $42 million left on the seven-year, $161 million deal Davis signed in 2015, with $4 million more in deferrals.
The former home run champion has been one of the Majors’ least productive players since signing that deal, hitting .196 with a .670 OPS and a 36 percent strikeout rate over the past five seasons. This year he was relegated to a reserve role early and spent two stints on the injured list with left knee tendinitis. Davis received just three at-bats after Aug. 19 and has not addressed the media since late July.
Meanwhile, the Orioles have watched several young corner types come into their own at the big league level. Assuming Trey Mancini and Anthony Santander return healthy in 2021, they could have five players for two corner outfield spots, first base and designated hitter: Mancini, Santander, Ryan Mountcastle, Renato Núñez and Davis, and more prospects on the way.
Keeping Davis in the fold would appear to be a challenge, particularly if the roster reverts to pre-pandemic sizes.
Reacting to the news of Mancini completing chemotherapy treatment, Elias remained optimistic the slugger can return in full next season. That has been Mancini’s goal since he was diagnosed with colon cancer in mid-March, then missed the entire 2020 as he underwent treatment.
“We are hopeful he can help us,” Elias said. “He fits in well with us. He was everything for us last year and to add him back next year gets everyone excited. He went through a lot and he’s going to have to get his strength and baseball activity back, and there is still going to be some process involved with that.
“But he’s such a strong, dedicated kid that we have nothing but confidence he’s going to do it and have a great year next year.”
Elias confirmed No. 9 prospect Michael Baumann suffered a flexor strain at the alternate training site and was shut down, but clarified it shouldn’t muddy the righty’s 2021 outlook. Elias said Baumann suffered a muscular injury, not involving structural damage to the elbow. Baumann is expected to be ready to go by spring 2021.
“There is no ligament damage,” Elias said. “He’s expected to be healthy for Spring Training.”