Orioles, Chris Davis reunion happens only if club accepts big-money trend

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Despite agreeing to a four-year deal with reliever Darren O'Day this week, the Orioles still aren't among the big spenders in the free-agent market.

Arguments can – and have been -- made about why the Orioles should or shouldn't spend.


One side can claim the Orioles bank tons of revenue through their club-owned television network, MASN, that can easily be funneled into the payroll to bring big-ticket free agents to Baltimore. Another side can claim that given Baltimore's market size, the Orioles ownership must keep the team payroll under control to keep ticket prices affordable for fans.

The Orioles aren't locked into any bad, dollar-sucking long-term deals, which is a good thing. And over the past four years, the team's payroll has grown, incrementally, to well over $100 million.


After never previously going over that mark, the Orioles will cross it for the third consecutive year in 2016.

At the same time, the game is dominated by big-money contracts. There are 17 players playing for 12 teams who will make an annual average value salary of $24 million or more.

Take that one step further. There are 25 players who make an annual average of at least $22 million or more. Those players play on 14 different teams. That's nearly half of the 30 major league clubs, creating a growing disparity between the haves and have nots.

Those teams play in big markets – Boston, New York, Los Angeles – and smaller markets like Minnesota, where the Twins pay Joe Mauer an average of $23 million a year, and Cincinnati, where the Reds pay Joey Votto an average of $22.5 million a year.

The Miami Marlins, which has had an Opening Day payroll of more than $100 million just once in over the past 16 years, pays Giancarlo Stanton an average of $25 million a year.

Adam Jones, the Orioles' highest paid player, makes an average of $14.25 million a year. Jones will make $16.3 million this year in the fourth year of an $85.5 million contract he signed in 2012, the largest deal in club history.

Among the 24 highest-paid players, a quarter of them play in the American League East. As you would expect, all six of those players are employed by either the New York Yankees (Alex Rodriguez, C.C. Sabathia, Mark Teixeira) or Boston Red Sox (David Price, Hanley Ramirez).

Neither the Orioles, Toronto Blue Jays nor Tampa Bay Rays have a player who averages more than Troy Tulowitzki's $15.775 million a year.


The difference in spending is stark, but the Orioles don't hide their hesitance to spend lucratively in the free-agent market. If they re-sign free-agent slugger Chris Davis, it will trump Jones' signing easily, even if Davis gives the Orioles a hometown discount.

Still, it will take some unprecedented spending to retain Davis, spending levels this club has never come close to reaching.

And even though the market on Davis is unclear -- there's been few teams connected to the slugger -- that $22-24 million a year might not get it done.

How far the Orioles are willing to go to keep Davis remains to be seen. It's still early in the offseason, but will they join that growing list of teams investing major money into at least one player?