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Chris Davis and the 'hometown discount'

Chris Davis #19 talks to the press after the final game of the season. The Orioles beat the the New York Yankees 9-4 at Oriole Park.
Chris Davis #19 talks to the press after the final game of the season. The Orioles beat the the New York Yankees 9-4 at Oriole Park. (Algerina Perna / Baltimore Sun)

A hometown discount.

It's a no-win phrase purposely avoided by those involved in pro sports negotiations.

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Ultimately, if a player gives "a hometown discount" -- a lesser monetary deal to sign or re-sign at a familiar place -- he and his agent have settled. If he doesn't, well, the player is viewed by some as greedy and disloyal.

All teams want the hometown discount, of course. But if that's their angle and it falls through, they'll be criticized for being too cheap and not spending the money it takes to complete the deal. Also, if a club pushes for a hometown discount, the player might feel his loyalty is being used against him

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So you definitely won't hear the "hometown discount" phrase coming out of the Chris Davis-Orioles negotiations. But know this: For the slugger to return to Baltimore next year, the hometown discount is going to have to be in play.

According to sources, the Orioles ultimately don't believe they'll be the highest bidder for Davis, who is 29 and has hit more homers than any other major leaguer in the past four years. One source said that the organization would not be comfortable agreeing to a $150-175 million deal with Davis, which seems like it could be the market range.

Yet, sources also say the Orioles believe they have a fighting chance to retain Davis -- and that's where the hometown discount will have to come in.

Key members of the Orioles brass have said -- on and off the record -- they believe their offers to Davis will be competitive with his ultimate market value. Maybe not top dollar, but close enough to make him think hard about a return.

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And the hope is that the rest of the overall package in Baltimore makes up the difference. Davis and his wife, Jill, seemingly like Charm City, and Baltimore certainly loves them. If you weren't sure, just go back to the last series at Camden Yards in 2015.

Anytime Davis did anything, the place erupted. I had the opportunity to present him with the Most Valuable Oriole trophy on the field before the season finale and as we walked off the field, the cheers were deafening. And I'm pretty sure they weren't for me.

Furthermore, Camden Yards and the Orioles fit Davis and his left-handed power stroke. He's practically guaranteed that 20 of his fly balls a year will land on the cozy flag court in right. He has earned the trust of manager Buck Showalter at first base –- and in right field –- and he re-earned the trust of his teammates after his 2014 amphetamine suspension for Adderall.

Given that situation in September 2014, you could make an argument that Davis could yearn for a fresh start. But the way his teammates seemingly moved on from that disappointment, and supported him again in 2015 while he led the majors in homers, meant a lot to Davis, who is more introspective than he might appear publicly.

Almost to a man, Orioles players were adamant that re-signing Davis had to be the team's top offseason priority and that commitment would be a welcome statement from management. So there's plenty riding on this decision.

Now, let's not be naive, either. Showalter often stresses that "it's about the money," even when players say it's not about the money. This is Davis' best shot at baseball's version of the Hope diamond, and he has employed the best jeweler in the business in superagent Scott Boras.

Boras has made his career by getting the most lucrative deals for clients. He's tremendous at it. And he has already met with Orioles owner Peter Angelos, who obviously must be involved in a contract of this magnitude.

Boras is not one to endorse a hometown discount. But he and his clients will tell you that he works for them and, ultimately, the final decision is the player's.

This one likely will take time. Boras' top clients usually aren't signed by the winter meetings -- it's too fertile of ground for further discussions -- and sometimes roll into January.

If the Orioles land Davis, it will be for the largest contract ever given out by the club. And it will also be of lesser value than what he could have gotten from another club.

So it's possible -- when the process is over -- a hometown discount occurs. That doesn't mean it will be a bargain, though. With his prodigious power, Davis has earned a huge payday. And he'll get one.

What will decide this is the size of the gap between what Davis could get elsewhere and what the Orioles will make their final offer.

Hometown discounts have their limits.

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

twitter.com/danconnollysun

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