Standing at his locker Friday afternoon after learning he had won the Most Valuable Oriole Award for the second time in three seasons, slugger Chris Davis admitted that he wanted the honor badly, given the uncertainty of his future with the organization.
"That's one of the reasons I think it was so special to me this year, knowing the circumstances," Davis said. "I think that's why it was so important to me this year to win the award. I don't know what the future holds, but I know I've had a lot of great times here."
Davis, 29, is one of six pending free agents on the Orioles roster, but he is widely considered the most crucial. Heading into Friday, he was leading the majors with 45 homers, two years removed from hitting a club-record 53 and winning his first MVO Award in 2013.
Dating to that season, Davis has said repeatedly that he wants to return to the Orioles for the right deal. But according to one industry source, there has been no tangible negotiations between the club, Davis and his agent, Scott Boras, in that time.
"It is [disappointing]. I know I said in spring training that I didn't want to talk about it, I didn't want to be a distraction, and I don't think it has, inside the clubhouse," Davis said. "But when you see guys like [Adam Jones and J.J. Hardy], who have been locked up in the season and have at least had communications during the season, it's a little frustrating, a little disappointing.
"There hasn't been any communication," Davis added. "Whether they're trying to focus on these last few games and just let us finish the season up — any sign of life, but that's, I guess, for the offseason."
Orioles manager Buck Showalter disputed that claim, saying that Davis might not know about all the behind-the-scenes discussions.
"I'm not sure he is aware of all the conversations that may have gone on, OK?" Showalter said. "... This time of year, players get asked about it. They say things that they feel, sometimes without the knowledge of a lot of the other things that may be going on that you're not aware of. I know a little more than I think Chris does, but now's not the time."
Executive vice president Dan Duquette has said that re-signing Davis is a priority, but in August reiterated his club policy of not negotiating contracts during the season.
Davis said ultimately he believes his contract situation is a business decision that has to be made by Duquette and team managing partner Peter Angelos.
"I understand that's part of it. I don't have any hard feelings against Dan or Peter or anybody," Davis said. "I feel like I've really done everything I can to make them want me back. So, like I said, it's up to them."
Given his age and rare prodigious power, Davis could command a contract in excess of six years and more than $20 million per season, which easily would make him the highest-paid player in the organization's history.
The Orioles have eschewed such large deals in the past, but Davis said he refuses to dismiss the club as a possibility until he hears otherwise.
"I would love to be back here," said Davis, who joined the Orioles in July 2011 when he and pitcher Tommy Hunter were acquired from the Texas Rangers for Koji Uehara. "I've said that from Day One. My wife and I love Baltimore, we love playing here. We love playing for the Orioles, for these fans. But like I said, it's out of my hands now."
There's no question — all things being equal — that the Orioles want him to return as well. Jones, a team leader, spoke out Thursday on behalf of Davis, saying he should be the club's No. 1 offseason priority. And Showalter on Friday praised the season Davis had this year after a rough 2014, which included a .196 average and a suspension for using the ADHD drug Adderall without an exemption.
"We couldn't have been as competitive as we've been this year without him," Showalter said. "Chris, through the ups and downs and some of the tough periods, he's been very consistent in his approach and trusted his abilities, trusted the faith that we had in him. He very quietly came in this year, I think he was very disappointed at the right things that happened last year. He wanted to be there for the club all year and be somebody we could count on, and he was."
Davis was one of several Orioles to have impressive seasons; he topped third baseman Manny Machado for the MVO, which is voted on by media that cover the team and named in honor of former Baltimore Sun baseball reporter Lou Hatter. Others receiving votes included Zach Britton, Jones, Caleb Joseph and Darren O'Day. Davis becomes the 13th Oriole to win it multiple times and the first since Jones in 2011-12.
Whether Davis will be eligible for next year's award is the biggest question facing this team in the winter.
"I don't think I've really let everything set in. I don't think it really will until the final out is made and I'm making my way out of here," Davis said. "The last month, every time I go up to the plate or I go on deck I hear fans screaming, 'Don't leave,' and 'We love you,' and all those kinds of things. Those things tug at my heart and it obviously means a lot to me to know that people are behind me. … I think a lot of that stuff is going to set in Sunday after the final out is made."