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Orioles’ Chris Davis, polarizing slugger who signed club’s richest contract, retires after 11 seasons in Baltimore

Orioles first baseman Chris Davis, who has missed all of the 2021 season because of a hip injury that marked the latest disappointment during his club-record seven-year, $161 million contract, announced he’s retiring from baseball Thursday, effective immediately.

“After an extended time dealing with my injury and recent hip surgery, I informed the Orioles about my decision to retire effective today,” Davis, 35, said in a statement.

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“I want to thank the Orioles partnership group, led by the Angelos family, the Orioles organization, my teammates and coaches, the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital with whom I will continue to be involved following my retirement, and of course, Birdland,” Davis continued. “Thank you all for the many memories that I will cherish forever.”

The Orioles said in a statement that the club supports Davis’ decision and thanks him for his 11 seasons in Baltimore, in which he won two home run titles and was named an All-Star before struggling mightily at the end of his career.

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“Athletes have the power to change lives and better their communities, and Chris and his family have done just that,” the team said. “We admire their dedication to those most in need, with hundreds of hours of community work completed, millions of dollars donated, and countless other charitable efforts performed, often without fanfare.

“For every inning played and home run hit, hour of service completed and amount donated, the Davis family has made an immeasurable impact on our city and on Orioles baseball. We send our best wishes to Chris, his wife Jill, and their daughters Ella, Evie, and Grace, each of whom will forever be part of our Orioles family.”

According to MLB Network, Davis agreed to his remaining salary for 2022 to be restructured with the club and spread out over three seasons. He’ll still get his full salary for 2022 in total, just not in one lump sum, and the club will begin paying out the $42 million in original deferred money on July 1, 2023. The Orioles are scheduled to pay Davis $3.5 million on each July 1 from 2023 to 2032 and $1.4 million on each July 1 from 2033 to 2037. Davis will be 51 on July 1, 2037.

Davis’ 13-year major league career ends with 295 home runs and a .233 batting average in 1,417 games between the Texas Rangers and the Orioles. He boasted a .774 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, a statistic that combines his ability to get on base and deliver extra-base hits.

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Davis spent the middle of the last decade as one of the most feared hitters in the game, but his performance has precipitously declined since and he played his last regular season game last Sept. 11.

Before Thursday’s game against the Detroit Tigers at Camden Yards, Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said he texted Davis in the morning and wants the best for him and his family. He said he hopes it’s a day of “celebrating Chris and his career and all the great things he did here.”

“Those really good years, those [2012-2017] years, he was a fixture in the lineup and a major run producer, a middle-of-the-order bat on a really, really good team that had All-Star caliber years,” Hyde said. “He’s done so much off the field as well, great teammate, well-liked in the clubhouse — well-liked around the league. I think that’s going to be his legacy, as somebody that put together some great years as well as being well-liked around the league and in his own clubhouse.”

Trey Mancini, the current Orioles player who has been Davis’ teammate the longest, said he was sad to hear the news.

“It’s somebody that I always really liked being around,” Mancini said. “He always kept it light, and was just always a good person to be around. I was sad, but I’m also happy for him. He had a great career, and I hope everybody remembers that. It was a really good career.”

Davis arrived at Camden Yards as part of a 2011 deadline trade that sent reliever Koji Uehara to the Rangers. In his first full season with the team, Davis hit 33 home runs with a .827 on-base-plus-slugging percentage to help the Orioles break a 15-year playoff drought.

A year later, he led all of baseball with a team-record 53 home runs and 138 RBIs and a 1.004 on-base-plus-slugging percentage while finishing third in American League Most Valuable Player voting, establishing himself as one of the league’s most formidable sluggers.

Baltimore Orioles infielder Chris Davis at the batting cage during spring training in 2016 at the Ed Smith Stadium complex.
Baltimore Orioles infielder Chris Davis at the batting cage during spring training in 2016 at the Ed Smith Stadium complex. (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

However, as the club reached new heights in 2014, Davis struggled. He hit .196 with a .704 on-base-plus-slugging percentage and was suspended in September for violating the league’s performance enhancing drug policy because of unauthorized use of the ADHD drug Adderall. As a result, he missed the playoff run after the Orioles won the AL East for the first time since 1997.

He was back to form in 2015 for his final year before free agency, leading the league again with 47 home runs and producing a .923 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, albeit with a league-high 208 strikeouts. Lengthy negotiations that winter with Davis’ agent, Scott Boras, didn’t appear promising until the sides eventually struck a seven-year, $161 million contract ahead of the 2016 season, one that included significant deferred money.

Davis was around a league-average hitter the first year of that deal, finishing with 38 home runs and 84 RBIs, but his decline from there was steep. He hit .215 with a .732 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in 2017 before batting .168 with a .539 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in 2018, a season that in many statistical measures was one of the worst for any player in major league history.

Chris Davis poses for a portrait before the 2014 season.
Chris Davis poses for a portrait before the 2014 season. (Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore Sun)

When the Orioles overhauled their management in 2019, hiring Mike Elias as general manager and executive vice president and Hyde to replace Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter, Davis was only slightly better. He batted .179 with a .601 on-base-plus-slugging percentage and 12 home runs after what was the longest hitless stretch in major league history, running from the end of 2018 into the beginning of 2019.

He appeared in just 16 games in the shortened 2020 season, batting .115 without a home run. He took two spring training at-bats in 2021 before missing the rest of camp with what the team called a lower back strain.

Eventually, Davis had hip surgery in May, and he was expected to recover in time to be part of the 2022 season.

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Though Davis’ impact on the field waned in later years, his efforts off it did not.

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He was an ambassador for the Casey Cares Foundation, which supports children with life-threatening illnesses, and in 2019, he donated $3 million to the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital to help build the Evelyn Kay Davis Congenital Hybrid Catheterization Suite to treat children with congenital heart defects. His daughter Evie Davis was born with a ventricular septal defect in 2018.

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