Thursday Thoughts: Defending the Davis Contract (Kinda!)

Chris Davis prepares to defend at first base.
Craig Landefeld/GulfBird Photo

This is a weekly column that dives into some random thoughts about the Orioles/MLB. I used to do eight as a nod to Cal Ripken Jr. As of last year, I cut it down to four or five, so consider it the Earl Weaver/€“Brooks Robinson era of Thursday Thoughts. – A.S.

1. Another week, another bit of time spent by me in this space explaining something I wrote on another website. I take the time this week because my piece over at on Chris Davis has generated a ton of response, more than I would typically get. It’s also generated a lot of what I like to call, “headline readers.” Those are the folks that read a headline on a piece, offer their comment or rebuke, and then move along.

My attempt, and I say attempt because I don’t think it was successful, was to defend the Davis contract in one specific aspect. There’s no defending the way he’s played since signing the deal. He’s been unequivocally awful. But that signing, at that time, was meaningful.

As I write in the piece, the O’s could’ve easily used the Ubaldo Jimenez deal as an excuse not to spend more money on baseball players. Instead, they spent more than they ever had on one single player.

I’ve also gotten a lot of feedback saying the O’s could’ve taken the money spent on Davis and used it to sign Machado. Except that’s not how it works.

It takes two to tango, and if you really believe Machado would’ve been willing to sign right up for $161-million while forfeiting his chance at getting to free agency, I’d like to know what you’re smoking.

2. Speaking of Manny Machado, there are tons of rumors of him being traded to the Dodgers this week following the season-ending injury to Los Angeles shortstop Corey Seager. Even ESPN’s “PTI” had Machado’s photo next to a Dodgers logo on Tuesday following the news.

The 24-year-old Seager will have Tommy John surgery and miss the rest of the season, so there’s certainly a need for the depleted Dodgers. They are not only off to a slow start, but have also been without Justin Turner at third base. But the Dodgers are also not going to hand over the farm for Machado, who is obviously just a rental. They wouldn’t be looking to him long-term, knowing they have Seager and Turner there. For the Dodgers, it would be a short-term thing and a way to inject their roster for this season and give it another go at an NL pennant.

There’s no question that Machado is doing his part to up his value in the early going. He’s absolutely tearing the cover off the ball and there will definitely be suitors this summer. In fact, there may be an even better fit within the Dodgers division. The Arizona Diamondbacks could use more from the shortstop position and would benefit greatly from holding off the Dodgers in the division race. They also have shown the willingness to go out and trade for a rental after doing so with J.D. Martinez last season.

I think there’s going to be a lot of Machado trade talks in the coming days and weeks, but I also don’t expect anything to happen before Memorial Day.

3. The Orioles are involved in a strange little triangle right now of relief pitchers who currently or once wore their uniform. If you haven’t paid attention, former Old Mill High School pitcher and Oriole draft pick Josh Hader has been tearing it up for the Milwaukee Brewers. The other night, he recorded eight strikeouts in 2.2 innings (all of his outs) to get a save. He was of course, traded by the O’s in 2013 to the Astros for Bud Norris. Now, Norris is the closer for the Cardinals. Norris also served as the closer for the Angels last season after bouncing around for a few years following his departure from the Orioles.

Here’s the big issue – the Orioles traded Hader away, then made no attempt to use Norris in any way he’s being used now. Norris wanted to be a starter, but is doing just fine now as a cheaper reliever. Instead, the Orioles were using Brad Brach in the closer’s role this season (in Zach Britton’s absence). Brach is now, like Britton, going to be a free agent at the end of the season and is a likely candidate to be traded.

No one knew Hader would be come the arm he’s become today, but there was always a chance. And no one knew Norris would be able to resurrect himself after failing as a starter into the type of reliever he is now. But there was also a chance of that.

Instead the Orioles are going to be left without any of these players, and have instead invested in Darren O’Day and many other unproven arms in the bullpen. It just struck me that this week, two players who were once traded for one another in a deal involving the Orioles, are in the news for positive things.

Yet neither remain with the team.

4. If you haven’t been paying close attention to what Kevin Gausman has done this season, you’re missing something. Even I didn’t really realize it until I checked. Following his first start of the season, it’d be understandable why you weren’t really focused on him. He gave up six runs in four innings while allowing three homers in a loss to the Twins.

Since then, he’s been pretty darn good. In the five starts since, Gausman is pitching to a 2.93 ERA across 30.2 innings with a 25/8 K/BB ratio. He’s still averaging a home run allowed per start, but he’s been extremely respectable if you remove that opening clunker.

This is the thing with Gausman. He has five seasons under his belt now and is no longer developing. He basically is the pitcher he’s going to be for the rest of his career, however long that lasts. He’s going to have pretty good outings where he looks like the guy who wowed everyone in 2014 when he became a regular starter. He’s also going to have clunkers like the one he did to start this season.

Much of the disappointment with Gausman probably comes from the fact that he lit the world on fire at the start of his career and hasn’t kept up those expectations. I’m going to do my best to give Gausman the benefit of the doubt the rest of the season.

If and when he has another bad outing like he did against the Twins, the hope will remain that they come few and far between the five he’s had since.

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