Chris Davis, the Orioles' beleaguered first baseman, outlined Monday what the beginning of the offseason looks like for a player coming off one of the worst years in major league history and who sat out the last week of the season.
"I know there's a lot of work to do for me," Davis said Monday, when he was in Baltimore for the Players Philanthropy Fund's second annual Beltway Brews and Boards Celebrity Cornhole Tournament. "I sat down with a strength coach who I trust a whole lot, and I've dealt with in the past, and formulated a plan for what I think it's going to look like for me in the next few years, taking care of my body as I get a little older. But one of the biggest things for me is really, what can I do to kind of restart this thing and get back on track? Obviously, the last few years, my offensive production has declined and this past year was unacceptable. Extremely frustrating, extremely disappointing in so many different areas."
Davis’ trajectory has been going in the wrong direction for several years since he signed a club-record seven-year, $161 million contract in January 2016, but cratered in a 2018 season where the Orioles seemingly tried everything they could to get him back on track. He began the year as the team's leadoff hitter as an incentive to take advantage of his on-base ability and get him on track early. The experiment lasted all of five games before he was back in the heart of the lineup, but he never hit like that kind of presence this year.
He had two home runs in April, homered in back-to-back games May 10 and May 11, then didn't go deep again until June 11 — a 24-game span that featured 10 days out of the lineup as he worked to regain his swing with executive vice president Brady Anderson.
Davis homered on his first swing back from that, and had four extra-base hits in his first week as his power slowly returned. But the high-water mark ended up being when he pulled his average up to .180 on Sept. 5. A .200 batting average was at least within reach with a solid finish to the season, but instead, Davis had one hit in his last 10 games, striking out 20 times in 40 plate appearances before he was removed from the lineup for good. He ended the year batting .168/.243/.296 with 16 home runs in 128 games.
Davis said he and then-manager Buck Showalter talked about what was about to happen when the team was in New York heading into the final week of the season.
"There were obviously a number of guys the front office wanted a chance to look at and they wanted to see these guys play some big league games," Davis said. "For me, being an older guy, I knew I was going to be here for the foreseeable future, and not having a whole lot to prove, I think it was a good opportunity for me to sit back, take a deep breath, get to know these guys a little bit and just enjoy being around them. Enjoy the last few days of maybe Adam [Jones] as an Oriole and put a ribbon on a tough season not only for me but me personally. It was a good chance for me to step back and take a deep breath, and I appreciate Buck for giving me the opportunity to do that and really take it out of my hands. As a player, especially when you're healthy, you want to go out there and play. But you understand there's a big picture. It's bittersweet."
Showalter said on the final day of the season that Davis might have benefited from watching without the pressure of playing to see what he'd need to do going forward. The first reset with Anderson produced some improvement, so it stands to reason another might entering the offseason. Davis is at his offseason home in Texas, and said he's not far from starting the process of rebuilding for the coming year.
"For me, it starts as soon as I start working out," Davis said. "This offseason, I'm going to take about three weeks off. I usually take about three weeks off from any activity to let my body heal up. There were some injuries that obviously I battled throughout the season that went unnoticed, but that's with any player. You kind of battle things throughout the course of the season where once the season's over with, you want to give your body a chance to heal and kind of recover. But I know there's a lot of work to do for me. ... I think there's a lot of information out there. I think there's a lot of things that are very beneficial to me, and I'm looking to explore those."