Chris Davis’ season is over. Orioles manager Brandon Hyde confirmed on Saturday that Davis will not return from the injured list before the conclusion of Baltimore’s regular-season schedule, putting a close to the latest chapter in the long saga between the Orioles and their embattled, highly paid first baseman.
“He’s not going to be back with us,” Hyde said.
On the injured list from Aug. 21 to Sept. 8 with what the club called left knee patellar tendinitis, Davis got just three (hitless) at-bats before landing back on the IL on Sept. 14. That would’ve made him available to return only for the season’s final weekend; Hyde said on Saturday that would not happen.
Davis has not addressed the media about his injury status since early August, when he missed several games in COVID-19 protocol. He hit .115 without a home run across 16 games in 2020, mostly in a reserve role.
So what happens now? Davis, 34, is still owed $42 million through 2022, with roughly $4 million more in deferred money on top of that. He has not been a league-average offense player since 2016, the year after he signed the seven-year, $161 million contract that currently anchors him to the roster.
Though the Orioles have long stood by Davis publicly, some have speculated they could cut ties now that Davis’ isn’t merely just unproductive -- he’s ostensibly standing in the way of young players. Come 2021, the Orioles should field a crowded homegrown outfield of Anthony Santander, Trey Mancini, Cedric Mullins and Austin Hays as it is, and that’s not including Ryan Mountcastle, whom they’ve been giving reps at first base again lately.
Mountcastle has simply been the Orioles' best player since being promoted in late August; Santander held that status before his season-ending oblique injury, and Mancini himself before being diagnosed with colon cancer in March. Space for Davis seems to be dwindling, at least on paper.
The Orioles on Saturday also optioned struggling utility man Andrew Velazquez to their alternate training site, recalling righty Evan Phillips in a corresponding move. Velazquez brought flashy versatility but was overmatched offensively at the big league level, hitting .159 without a homer in 77 plate appearances in 2020.
Velazquez's season is likely over given the late date in the calendar, though he can be recalled as an injury replacement. Velazquez was largely used in that role to spell hobbling José Iglesias at short and cover outfield duties with Hays on the shelf. But with Hays back and Mullins playing every day in center, Velazquez's roster spot became expendable.
“With Hays and Mullins being here, we feel comfortable with our outfield depth with [Pat] Valaika being able to play short,” Hyde said. “We wanted the extra arm for coverage down the stretch.”
The Orioles also want to get more looks at Phillips, who struck out all four of the hitters he faced as the 29th man in Game 2 of Thursday’s doubleheader against the Rays. The right-hander is 1-3 with a 7.09 ERA and 1.8 strikeout-to-walk ratio over parts of three seasons with the Orioles.