The continuing narrative in Baltimore is to bolster the right field position.
“The Orioles remain on the hunt to upgrade their corner outfield spots, specifically in right field, and free-agent Rajai Davis is among the players the club has interest in to fill that hole,” wrote Encina.
With the Cleveland Indians last season, Davis, 36, batted .249/.306/.388, with 12 homers (a career best), and 48 RBI. Although his numbers don’t pop off of the page, he brings a nice element from the leadoff spot.
He batted .253/.312/.434 as the leadoff man and stole 43 bases (league best). The Orioles are hurting in the stolen base department and his addition should solve at least a few issues. The O’s ranked dead last in stolen bases with 19. The St. Louis Cardinals, who had the second lowest stolen bases in 2016, had 16 more than Baltimore (35). Davis’ stolen-base percentage of 87.76, which was the second-best in the American League. Baltimore as a team had the second lowest stolen-base percentage at 59.38.
His baserunning is also highly rated. Fangraphs had Davis rated as the second-best baserunner last year. He was only behind the blazing center fielder from the Cincinnati Reds Billy Hamilton. Davis also holds a career slash line of .288/.343/.437 against lefties. This could give the Orioles a bit of a boost in that stat. Baltimore batted .234/.301/.391 against lefties last season.
The biggest issue with Davis is his defense, which isn’t really much of an issue. His defense is an upgrade over the past few attempts at right field for the Orioles, at least since outfielder Nick Markakis left. Davis is at -3 in defensive runs saved and has an ultimate zone rating of 1. Davis has produced nine total zone runs, which is a plus-minus stat that measures the number of runs a player is worth over the average based on the plays that the fielder makes at his position. He ranked fourth in the AL among center fielders with seven total zone runs. It is also safe to say that Davis could spell Adam Jones in center if needed.
The Orioles have expressed varying levels of interest in Davis in the past — he’s been a free agent three times since the end of the 2013 season — but there might not be more of a need for Davis’ skill set than now. In fact, it is believed that the Orioles’ interest in Davis has now surpassed their interest in free-agent outfielder Angel Pagan.
The defining moment of Davis’ career is when he hit a two-run homer off of then, Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman in Game 7 of the World Series in 2016.
Baltimore could make this move relatively quickly, but they have to figure out what direction that they want to go in with designated hitter Mark Trumbo. With Edwin Encarnacion off of the board and going to Cleveland with a 3-year/$65M deal, the market has been set for Trumbo, who will probably play first base and DH. In comparison, during the past five seasons Encarnacion had a slash line of .272/.367/.544, while Trumbo batted .252/.307/.474 during the same time. Its fair to say that Trumbo will receive less than Encarnacion.
The Orioles offered Trumbo a four-year/$52M deal earlier this month. He rejected the offer and then the Orioles took it off of the table. Baltimore seems to be in a constant state of flux with the Trumbo situation and although I believe that he will return to the Orioles, it is getting into crunch time. He wanted a four-year deal worth $70-80M. It is almost assured that he will not receive that deal now.
Baltimore should try to offer Trumbo a three-year deal in the range of $45-60M. Trumbo, as good has he’s played, won’t receive the same amount of money that Encarnacion has received. Unless the Rockies were to come and absolutely sweep Trumbo off of his feet with an offer, I expect to see Trumbo back in the black and orange, at least for a few years down the line.