The Orioles continue to say hopeful things about Chris Davis, but the moment nears when they’ll have to make the decision they’ve been putting off too long already.
It won’t come during Fan Appreciation Weekend, this weekend’s series against the Seattle Mariners, but this would be a good time for fans to show him a little love in case it is the last time he takes the field here in an Orioles uniform.
The company line is Davis will go into the offseason with a team-approved plan to fix what ails his anemic offensive production. But he’s been down that road before.
It has been three seasons since he resembled the player who won two major league home run titles during the salad years of the Buck Showalter-Dan Duquette era. So it’s hard to imagine him suddenly morphing back into that Bunyanesque slugger at age 34.
The team has a couple of options, the first of which is to release him before the deadline to set their 40-man roster in advance of the Rule 5 draft.
That would allow the Orioles to protect an extra minor league prospect, which might be a big deal if the 40-man were currently bulging with players other teams would like to steal and keep at the major league level for the whole 2020 season.
The reality, however, is that there aren’t all that many players on that roster even the Orioles would commit to keeping all season next year, so the need for roster space might not be enough to justify punting the nondeferred $51 million left on Davis’ contract.
Throw in the $42 million deferred into the middle of the 21st century and we’re talking about a lot of money to pay somebody to not play for you. So it seems more likely the Orioles will monitor his progress over the next five months and bring him back to spring training to joust that windmill one more time.
Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias has shown he isn’t afraid to make tough decisions. But the path of least resistance is always an attractive one when there is no pressing reason to act, especially when you’re dealing with that much of somebody else’s money.
There’s no rational reason to believe Davis can rediscover his inner Babe Ruth, even against the high concentration of minor league pitchers who will take the mound against the Orioles during the exhibition season. But there’s no compelling reason to keep him from trying.
There will come a time next spring when the front office will decide whether top hitting prospect Ryan Mountcastle is ready for prime time, and — if he is — that will be the moment the club should remove all doubt by removing any obstacle to his big league playing time.
If that happens, the next time you’ll see Davis around here is when they induct him into the Orioles Hall of Fame, an honor he will richly deserve regardless of his sad reversal of fortune over the past few years.
Let’s not forget the contribution he made during the best period of Orioles baseball since the late 1990s. Let’s try to remember Davis has been a great supporter of many community efforts, as evidenced by his three straight nominations for the Roberto Clemente Award. He’s a good guy who — giant contract aside — has been dealt a bad hand.
It would be great if the old “Crush” suddenly reappeared in Sarasota, Florida, in February and showed up in the Orioles’ Opening Day lineup in Baltimore. But everyone knows that — rebuilding or not — the team cannot let this go on forever.
So, when he comes to the plate this weekend, remember the good times and bid him a fond farewell ... just in case.