Now, Davis is just trying to get through this season, in which he’s posted the worst wins above replacement in baseball, according to FanGraphs.
“I’m just honestly trying to get to the finish line right now. I’m not trying to think too much about what’s gone on all year,” Davis said the day after going 0-for-4 with four strikeouts and a walk in the Orioles’ 10-8 loss to the New York Yankees. “Just trying to keep my head up and get to the finish line. I feel like as long as I’m healthyish, this time of year I think everybody’s got bumps and bruises, but as long as I’m able to go out there and play, that’s the least I can do. So that’s what I’m going to do.”
Davis, 32, said he was starting to feel comfortable at the plate after back-to-back two-hit games at the Kansas City Royals and Seattle Mariners earlier this month, and on Sept. 8 he raised his batting average to .180, his highest since May 11. But from Sept. 8 through Friday, Davis went 1-for-32 with 17 strikeouts over nine games, a stretch that goes to 1-for-34 including his final two at-bats of his previous game.
The Orioles have given Davis days off and started him at designated hitter — Trey Mancini has played more at first base, allowing the Orioles to look at some younger players in the outfield — in hopes of getting him going. And while it appeared as though it might work for a while, the struggles that have consumed most of his season have returned.
“I think, honestly the DH for me, it has always kind of been a day off just because you’re not out there on defense, standing around, running after balls, holding guys on,” Davis said. “But at the same time you still get the at-bats, so your timing doesn’t take a hit, and for me, that’s always been something valuable. So, I felt like in Seattle, Kansas City, there was a five-game, six-game stretch where I was DHing quite a bit, playing first couple of times there, I felt I was swinging the bat the well and then, had a few games off, missed a game with the stomach virus, just little things here and there, and I think that’s kind of set me back a little bit.
“I understand what’s going on around here. We’ve got a lot of guys that they want to take a look at, a lot of guys who have an opportunity to be evaluated. I’m one of the only guys that’s going to be here for the foreseeable future. If I feel like I’m healthy enough to go out there and play, that's the least I could do.”
Entering Saturday, Davis’ average had never been above .186 this season. His .545 OPS is the worst of his career, his 36.6 strikeout rate is the highest in the game and Davis’ FanGraphs WAR of minus-3.0 is the worst in baseball by 1.3 wins.
How much playing time Davis receives down the stretch remains to be seen, but manager Buck Showalter said Davis would get Sunday’s series finale in New York off.
“Kind of like last year, we attacked some things and we’ll continue to do it again,” Showalter said. “He’s not going to play tomorrow and we’ll see what the season holds for him. I talked to him today. He really didn’t want to end, I don’t want to say ‘his season,’ but he didn’t want to end on the type of game he had yesterday, so I won’t play him tomorrow. Play him today.”
Davis said he’s tried to not overanalyze his season, but pointed to several games when he made hard contact and had nothing to show for it. And while he attempted to dig himself out of an early-season hole, his frustration grew.
“Honestly this year for me has just been kind of one disaster after another,” Davis said. “There are several games I go back to earlier in the year, there’s one game specifically in Chicago where I lined out three different times to three different spots on the field. In Tampa a couple weeks ago, I hit three balls that were not even 15-20 feet off the left-field foul line and the left fielder was standing right there, and it’s kind of been that way for me all season. You see the strikeouts are up and the weak contact, or whatever you want to call it, into the shift. But I mean, it’s just been one of those years. I continue to work, continue to do whatever I can to get a leg up on the competition. But as far as the rest of the season is concerned, I’m just trying to get to the finish line and hopefully we’ll re-evaluate it in the offseason.”
The Orioles’ nonwaiver deadline trades netted a surplus of prospects, but an important part of the deals was shedding payroll. If the Orioles are truly to rebuild — and reassess how they invest their resources — the club might need to look at the albatross that is Davis’ club-record seven-year, $161 million deal moving forward. Davis has limited no-trade protection, and it would be nearly impossible to get a team to take on his money, leaving the Orioles in a difficult situation with him entering the fourth year of his seven-year deal.
Asked whether he’s thought about whether his future with the club is in doubt, Davis said he’s “thought about that for a little bit.”
“I honestly haven’t heard a whole lot,” Davis said. “I think that’s kind of been the plan all along. We didn’t necessarily know we were rebuilding until a few months ago. I don’t think that was the plan coming into the season. I think there was a lot more hope that we would be a better team and then they saw what was right in front of them and tried to do the best with what they had. I honestly don’t worry about that. I’ve been fortunate to play here for several years, so see a lot of faces come in and come out, to win, be on postseason teams. To be on a rebuild, it’s tough, especially as an older player. But I understand the commitment I’ve made to the team and the city of Baltimore and I’m going to honor that as long as I can.”
Davis said he realizes that after the Orioles complete their worst season in the franchise’s 65-year history, changes could come through all levels of the organization, the biggest decisions being on the futures of Showalter and executive vice president Dan Duquette. But for now, he’s just trying to get through the year.
“I think change is definitely needed,” Davis said. “What specific changes I don’t know right now. I’ve really tried to put that out of my thought process the last month going into what seemed like what was going to be a lot of unknowns. Honestly, I’m not thinking about whether Buck’s going to be here or whether Dan’s going to be here, who’s going to be here, who’s not going to be here. I’ve got enough on my plate. I’m just trying to finish the season and not worry about all of that. I definitely think change is needed. There’s no doubt about that. If you’re losing 100-plus games and you decide not to change, I think that’s foolish. So we’ll see what the offseason brings and we’ll go from there.”