"As a player, anytime you get to a place where you feel real comfortable and a place where you really feel like it's home," said Chris Davis after signing a 7-years, $161 million deal with the Orioles. (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun)
On the day before his unprecedented deal with the Orioles became official, Chris Davis walked out of a local hospital, where he said was visiting a sick child, and was approached by a parking valet who couldn't stop telling Davis how happy he was that the slugger was staying in Baltimore.
It was nothing new for Davis, who has been bombarded throughout the offseason with inquiries asking whether he was going to re-sign with the Orioles, but this particular fan's excitement resonated with Davis.
"This guy said, 'You know what, it's so much fun to watch you guys. Don't ever lose that. Don't ever lose that happy-go-lucky attitude,'" Davis said. "That really struck a chord with me because I feel like the fans here really relate to the players. … I have a special place in my heart for Baltimore fans for a number of reasons, the way they've treated me and the way they've treated my family and really accepted me. It was something I really can't put into words the way I feel about them."
That's been the general feeling about Davis this offseason locally, that the Orioles shouldn't hesitate to open their checkbooks to keep their fan favorite in Baltimore long-term. And while it took time — like most big-money deals do — the Orioles finally completed their seven-year, $161 million deal with Davis on Thursday afternoon.
The club formally announced the signing later that evening. Davis put on his No. 19 jersey with some help from executive vice president Dan Duquette with manager Buck Showalter beside him, and his wife Jill and young daughter Ella watching from the front row. His agent, Scott Boras, glowed in the back of the room.
"This feels familiar," Davis said with a smile as he put his arm through the sleeve of his white home jersey.
The deal is the most lucrative in team history. Davis will be paid an average annual value of $23 million per year, but the deal includes $42 million in deferred money, which will be paid out over 15 years after the contract ends — from 2023 to 2037. The deal is by far the largest the Orioles have given a player, shattering Adam Jones' six-year, $85.5 million extension signed in 2012 and Miguel Tejada's six-year, $72 million free-agent deal in 2003.
"I don't know how many places I went this year where people said, 'You've got to sign Chris Davis,'" Duquette said. "So I know he's got a lot of fans in Baltimore that follow the team and love to see his prodigious home runs. … When you make an investment like the Orioles have in Chris Davis, obviously it's a commitment by the ownership and [managing partner Peter G.] Angelos to field a competitive team year in, year out."
Davis conceded that he thought he might have played his final game in an Orioles uniform in the team's early October regular-season finale, but said he always thought it was possible he'd return.
"As a player, anytime you get to a place where you feel real comfortable and a place where you really feel like it's home, it's always hard when you know that might be coming to an end," Davis said. "At the end of last season, I was going through so many different emotions, to win the last game at home with the situation that we were in -— it was kind of a funny feeling.
"I didn't ever want to go there," Davis said about thinking he'd play elsewhere. "We knew that we [have] really enjoyed being in Baltimore. For the last four years, that's really all I had known and we've had a lot of success here and it's just was a comfortable place to be. My family enjoys it here. I think the fact that we knew they were interested, obviously, made it a little bit easier. It was a little bit different process than I expected."
The process took longer than expected, but Davis saw the Orioles make a commitment to keeping its own, locking up reliever Darren O'Day to a four-year, $31 million deal and making catcher Matt Wieters the $15.8 million qualifying offer he accepted, meaning two of his best friends on the club would be back.
"I'm extremely excited about that," Davis said. "The feelings that everyone had the last few days were well-warranted because of really the group of guys we've had the last few years. … The fact that we have such a good group of guys and a warm, inviting clubhouse should draw players to Baltimore and it should make you want to be a part something special. I think the longer we can keep that going and the more that we can keep that focus our central theme, the better off we're going to be as a team."
Duquette said retaining Davis was a "primary target" this offseason, and the Orioles' negotiations with Davis took its turns with the Orioles making an initial seven-year, $150 million offer. Frustrated by a lack of movement — and determined they weren't going to bid against themselves — the Orioles later pulled that offer off the table before negotiations took off late last week with Angelos, who played a significant role in the negotiations, and Boras ironing out final details late Friday night.
"It was about crossing the last bridge if you will," Boras said. "Probably both sides knew what was going to happen in the end."
Boras said flying to Baltimore early this offseason to meet with Angelos and Duquette laid important groundwork in letting the Orioles know Davis wanted to stay in Baltimore.
"Each negotiation has its own agenda and spirit, but the one thing that I did in this negotiation is I flew out here and met with Peter and Dan and let them know that Chris and I had talked, and this ballpark and this community, I wanted him to know," Boras said. "I said, 'I don't do this very often. It's not exactly a great free agent tactic to fly here and meet with an owner and let him know that we're very interested in re-signing here.' … Sometimes, it's good for a lawyer to know from another lawyer, what the real intent of free agency is. Being able to have that meeting, I think, set in motion the clear intentions of Peter and Dan."
Asked whether Davis ever had other serious suitors other than the Orioles, Boras said, "When you go to a wedding you never talk about your girlfriends."
All of that is now fodder, as the Orioles landed their top offseason target — and ensured that Davis will remain in Baltimore throughout his prime years.
"One of my buddies said something the other day about being in Baltimore and very few players get to spend the majority of their career in one place," Davis added. "Not only do I get the opportunity to spend the majority of my career in one place, but the opportunity to be with a franchise that has had so much success in the past and has so much history, it's something that not a lot of guys get the opportunity to do."