The prize of the Orioles' offseason, a reunion with slugger Chris Davis, finally came to fruition on Saturday morning.
Baltimore, seemingly waiting all offseason on Davis, reached an agreement on a seven-year, $161 million contract to keep the first baseman hitting in Camden Yards for quite some time, according to a source. The club has not confirmed the deal, which is pending a physical and was first reported by MLB Network's Jon Heyman. A middle-of-the-order bat, Davis led the American League in home runs and strikeouts last year, and he has always been seen by ownership as a top priority to bring back.
The agreement comes on the heels of Friday's news that the Orioles were prepared to move on from Davis and had offered Yoenis Cespedes a five-year, $90 million deal. Davis' camp had balked at the O's previous offer -- valued at approximately $154 million -- but the club sweetened the deal enough to reach an agreement with Davis and his agent Scott Boras on Saturday morning. The deal for Davis means signing Cespedes long-term is unlikely to happen, but the Orioles -- who remain in the market for a starting pitcher -- could explore a shorter contract for the outfielder.
Davis' $161 million pact will be the largest in Orioles history, surpassing the six-year, $72 million deal they gave Miguel Tejada in 2004. FoxSports.com reported Saturday that Davis' deal includes a partial no-trade clause, though there is no opt-out. There is also a substantial amount of deferred money involved in Davis' record-breaking deal, with an average annual salary of $17 million for the duration of the contract and $42 million in deferred money paid without interest until 2037, according to ESPN.com.
Davis, 29, was named the Most Valuable Oriole last season -- for the second time in three years -- after hitting 47 home runs. He joins Matt Wieters and Darren O'Day as free agents who have returned with the O's this offseason.
Davis, a well-liked member of the clubhouse, has developed into an everyday big league player under manager Buck Showalter. Acquired in a midseason trade from the Rangers in 2011, he quickly became a fan favorite. Following a historic 2013 in which he hit 53 home runs with 138 RBIs, Davis had a down year in '14 that ended with a suspension for 25 games by Major League Baseball for testing positive for amphetamines associated with the drug Adderall. After a slow start to 2015, Davis -- robbed of three homers in July alone -- got hot in the second half. He's the only player since 2011 to hit over 45 home runs in a season, and he's done it twice. He's hit 161 home runs since joining Baltimore.
The Tigers were considered a sleeper team for Davis' services in recent days, as Boras tried to sell his client as an everyday outfielder to drive up his market value. But talks never got close with any other club, so Baltimore didn't panic as it waited on Davis to come down from the reported $200 million he was seeking. With the Orioles, Davis -- who can play a solid right field -- will see time at first base and outfield. He could also see some time at designated hitter, though the O's preference is to have Mark Trumbo in that role.
With Davis back in the fold, the Orioles will address their rotation next, and according to FOXSports.com, Baltimore has been in touch with veteran righty Yovani Gallardo. However, signing Gallardo would mean that the O's would lose a first-round Draft pick. They have six selections within the top 100; they would have had eight had Davis and Wieters signed elsewhere.
Arguably the most powerful player in baseball, Davis has ripped more than 45 round-trippers twice in the past three seasons. To put the slugger's pop in perspective, no other Major Leaguer has posted a 45-homer campaign since the outset of 2011. Set to stay at hitter-friendly Camden Yards, the native Texan is the favorite to lead the AL in homers in '16. Unlikely to post a helpful batting average, the career .255 hitter cannot be considered in the first round of mixed-league drafts. But Davis' difference-making power numbers make him a viable second-round selection.
As much as prodigious power makes Davis a game-changer in fantasy baseball, he also transforms the outlook of the Orioles' lineup. Having a superstar slugger in the heart of the batting order will give Adam Jones a better chance to rebound from a slightly disappointing 2015 season, and Davis' presence should also help Manny Machado's quest to match last year's breakout performance.