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Orioles make 'aggressive' offer to Chris Davis while working on contingency plans

Orioles beat reporter Eduardo A. Encina talks about the reported deal offered to Chris Davis by the Baltimore Orioles. (Eduardo A. Encina, Baltimore Sun video)

NASHVILLE, TENN. — Over the past three days at the winter meetings, the Orioles have repeatedly talked about how much they want to retain Chris Davis, how they are focused on keeping him and are ready to reward the free-agent first baseman with a deal within the payroll parameters of a club not known for lucrative spending.

On the last full day of the winter meetings Wednesday, executive vice president Dan Duquette's tone was a little different — seemingly less uncertain of the market for Davis and noticeably more confident that the Orioles have done their part to reach a fair-market deal with the 29-year-old slugger.

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"We made a really aggressive offer to sign this player and still field a competitive team," Duquette said in the team's top-floor suite at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center. "That's really the issue. How [many] resources are you going to put toward one part of your team, right?

"Everybody needs power. Everybody needs guys to get on base. Everybody needs good defenders. You need starting pitching. You need middle relief. You need a bullpen. That's really what the issue is, and we want to provide affordable entertainment for families to come out and enjoy at Camden Yards. So we're going to try and find that sweet spot where we can put as much as we can toward the payroll and toward having a competitive team."

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After meeting with Boras multiple times Tuesday, the Orioles had made an offer to Davis for less than an average of $22 million per year, according to sources. ESPN reported the Orioles offered Davis a seven-year, $150 million deal.

For a franchise that just passed the $100 million mark in payroll two seasons ago — the Orioles are already past that mark for 2016 and it's still early in the offseason — that's an unprecedented offer, one that would dwarf Adam Jones' club-record six-year, $85.5 million extension signed in 2012.

"Everybody's [payroll is] going up somewhat," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said Wednesday. "… I know we're trying to correctly pay people. … We've got every resource we need to compete with these people. We just have to be good at things that they may not have to be."

Davis' agent, Scott Boras, has had ongoing conversations with both Duquette and Orioles managing partner Peter Angelos, but doesn't appear to be in a hurry to get a deal done, especially considering the market for Davis hasn't evolved much in recent days.

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"We're learning more from other teams about his market, that kind of thing," Boras said Wednesday. "We've had many discussions with the Orioles and Peter and Dan and we're certainly working through the process. … We're trying to get as much done as we can while we're here. We still have continued dialogue that's ongoing with Baltimore, too."

The Orioles, however, have holes to fill beyond Davis. They need to acquire a starting pitcher, either by trade or free agency, as well as add outfield help. They need a left-handed bat to balance their righty-heavy batting order in case Davis doesn't return.

So the Orioles are looking for a resolution sooner than later. Their offer to Davis, while generous, might not be on the table for long. The Orioles have made contingency plans for other options, but are trying to remain patient on Davis since he is their No. 1 target, a known asset and a fan favorite.

"I know what the timeline is for the team and the timeline for the players isn't always aligned with the team," Duquette said. "But when they do choose to sign with the team, that's when they line up. … The team has to make choices to staff the club this season and beyond, and it's about time the players are going to need to come to a decision, too.

"A lot of players like to make their decisions prior to the holidays, which makes sense. And once the market starts moving, the economics are so powerful, teams can't wait forever because these are huge financial commitments. From the club perspective, you have to look out for the long-term interest of the team. That's what we're trying to do in our deliberations."

During his annual winter meetings media scrum, Boras said he is willing to wait. And he has been successful at getting his clients big-money deals by practicing patience.

"I don't draw lines in the sand," Boras said. "My job is really to take information. Unless Chris directs me to, we usually keep the door open for everyone to listen and advance what they want to advance. I think when you put time frames on this, it really prevents maybe the better idea, the new idea, that sometimes puts deals together."

As the meetings wound down, the Orioles kept sending feelers out for possible fits — they reportedly met with right-handed-hitting outfielder Justin Upton on Wednesday — and Duquette said he has made multiple free-agent offers to outfielders, and has held trade discussions for both pitching and outfield help. Duquette said some of those possibilities might not materialize before the Orioles leave Nashville following Thursday morning's Rule 5 draft, but could over the upcoming days.

"Those haven't come to fruition, yet," Duquette said. "They're moving toward a resolution, probably by the end of the week or the first of next week."

Asked whether movement on any of those fronts would affect the Orioles' ability to retain Davis, Duquette made sure he made it clear the club was determined to remain active.

"That's a good question," Duquette said. "I hadn't thought about it that way. I can tell you this: I'm not going to answer that question directly, but I can tell you we have offers out to have a competitive team and have some depth to our lineup."

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