SAN DIEGO — Baseball super-agent Scott Boras made an extended metaphor about major league teams as different species of birds Tuesday at the winter meetings, but his comments on one bird in particular — Orioles first baseman Chris Davis — were straightforward.
The representative that negotiated Davis’ massive seven-year, $161 million contract in 2016 that has proven to be disastrous for the club as the one-time slugger’s performance has slumped said what he essentially says every year at the winter meetings: that he and his team were talking with Davis and the Orioles on a path forward.
“I’m always concerned when a player’s not performing to the level of his ability,” Boras told reporters. “I’ve already had talks with the organization and levels of my staff have had talks with the organization. We’ve been in communication with CD, always trying to garner an approach and an improvement of his performance.”
Where the Orioles are concerned, however, those talks have a bit more behind them than last year’s meetings, when it was just executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias, assistant general manager Sig Mejdal, and some holdover staff trying to manage the entire organization.
“I think now that [manager Brandon Hyde] and I have been here a year, and have experienced a year with Chris, we have a lot more feel for the situation,” Elias said. “There was still some hope last year that 2018 was a little bit of an aberration and that new people, new environment might have some affect. And here we are again, again in 2019. The message is the same, that we all want to figure out a way for him to get better. But we want to try some different specific things, or some tweaks specifically, to aspects of his program.”
Those changes, Elias said without getting into specifics, are the kind in which the Orioles will routinely check in on Davis’ progress as the offseason rolls into spring training.
“Being that Chris spends the winter in Dallas, we don’t necessarily have the same people and same resources available to him that he has when he’s with the Orioles organization,” Elias said. "We’re trying to figure out how to replicate those things in Dallas, and a lot of it’s going to involve our people periodically flying out there and not only checking on him, but setting him up with similar people in Texas.
“The offseason goes quick, so once a month ... that’s the plan. But that takes us into January, and we’re talking about maybe reporting early for spring training or something like that. It’s really not that much, but we plan on that with a couple of our guys, checking on that on a monthly basis.”
Davis spoke confidently at the end of a 2019 season, in which he was essentially a part-time player, about the path forward he’d set with Elias on the best way to maximize his performance going forward.
The season began with a baseball-record hitless streak, featured a dugout dustup with manager Brandon Hyde in the middle, and ended with miniature surge that included a pair of home runs in the final week that raised his season batting average to .179 with a .601 OPS and 12 home runs.
But the season as a whole continued a downward trajectory since that contract was signed. Davis had 38 home runs and a .778 OPS in his first year of the deal in 2016, but struck out a league-high 219 times. In the three seasons since, he’s hit .188 with a .626 OPS and an average of 18 home runs per season.
Elias said at the end of the season that Davis would be on the team come spring training, and that the Orioles took the fact that he was signed for three more years seriously, regardless of performance.
When asked about whether similar conversations happen with other players’ representatives, Elias noted that the Orioles facilitated outfielder Cedric Mullins and catcher Chance Sisco working with private hitting instructors this offseason.
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“It’s in everyone’s best interest for players to get better, so it’s one area where teams and agents are on the same page, keeping them healthy and having them play well," Elias said. "That’s just something we do, but the Boras Corporation is a large agency. They’ve got a lot of resources in this area.”