It's Time To Trade Chris Davis

Well, it’s fine with me if we never play the Mets again. 

Following our sweep in this week’s two-game set, our all-time record against the Poor Unfortunate Souls of Flushing stands at 9-21, our third-worst overall head-to-head mark. For those curious, we’re 457-549 against the Yankees, although we’re 33-26 since 2012. For those curious how I knew these numbers, I guessed off the top of my head, then checked Baseball Reference’s handy tool and found that my guesses were 100% accurate.

Listen friends - as we did on this week’s podcast, it’s time to have a difficult conversation about Chris Davis. Following last night’s three-punchout performance at Citi Field, he’s now K’d 40 times on the young season, putting him on pace to annihilate Mark Reynolds's single-season record of 226. Successfully doing so would enable Davis to claim the dubious honor of joining Reynolds, Adam Dunn, and Ryan Howard as the only players to appear more than once in the all-time top 10 for most strikeouts in a single season.

Worse, with 18 whiffs in his last 10 games, Davis’s rate of useless at-bats seems to be increasing. One might take comfort in his .273 batting average and seemingly-healthy .340 on-base percentage, but a likely unsustainable .409 BABIP suggests both of those figures are likely to fall. 

Three True Outcomes players are, as a general rule, pretty entertaining, both on the field and off. Adam Dunn garnished his elite power and punch-out legacy with an appearance in an Oscar-nominated film. Rob Deer, who was truly outcoming before we started calling ‘em True Outcomes, spent his offseasons working for his father’s construction firm. And I feel like there was…something noteworthy about that Bo Jackson guy. It seems clear that Davis is fit to join the group by virtue of his ability to lift trucks with his bare hands. But it’s also clear that membership in the hallowed halls of TTO is largely dubious - the only Hall of Famers on Baseball Reference’s list of all-time Truest Outcomers are Lefty Grove and Sandy Koufax, who had, er, other talents to recommend them. As this 2014 analysis from Beyond the Box Score shows, Chris Davis is well on his way to membership in this cadre of maddening misfits:

So what do we do? While it’s not yet clear that Davis’s presence in the lineup is actively hurting the 2015 Orioles, I’d argue that it is clear he could help the team most as part of a trade package. There are plenty of punchless lineups littering the middle-tier of baseball’s divisions, and if the Orioles wait until the offseason to address the Davis situation, they’ll have the unenviable task of convincing Scott Boras of the reality the rest of us are starting to grasp: Chris Davis isn’t an elite hitter. Flipping him now gets the Orioles something they can actually use for the future, and allows the team to focus its extension efforts on Matt Wieters, who I’d argue is more deserving…especially if we move him to first base once Davis departs. Whaaaaaaaaat?!

Stay with me now. If the removal of Wieters's defense from the catcher’s position was going to become a glaring issue, it certainly would’ve showed up last year, when were without him for the majority of the season and managed to win the division by twelve games. The main defensive skills that first base requires are certainly areas in which Wieters already excels: quick footwork and scooping balls in the dirt. We also know that Wieters’s 2014 injury didn’t affect his swing - it was the inability to reliably throw to second base from behind the plate that forced him to have Tommy John surgery. The move to first base would alleviate that concern handily. 

Offensively, while Wieters hasn’t been the elite slugger we hoped for, he’s certainly been a consistent source of power and run production when healthy, and I’d feel a lot more comfortable signing a hitter like that to an extension, as opposed to a relatively volatile commodity like Davis. Additionally, Boras (who also represents Wieters) loses a significant amount of negotiating leverage if the Orioles are looking to extend Wieters as a fledgling first-basemen rather than an All-Star catcher. 

Is any of this likely? Who knows - while Dan Duquette does appear regularly on our podcast, I don’t think he’s a regular reader of this blog. But what I’m proposing certainly doesn’t seem far-fetched, and it would answer a lot of pretty gnarly short and long-term questions for the Orioles.