Mariners Free Agent Target: Chris Davis


The Mariners need a new first baseman, but Chris Davis would be a poor fit in the Emerald City

It is well known throughout the league that the Seattle Mariners are searching for a new first baseman. Logan Morrison and Mark Trumbo spent 2015 playing first base for the M’s, but they both now reside in the American League East. One name that has been floated by fans is Chris Davis.

There has not been any official connection between the Mariners and Davis, but you can bet Jerry Dipoto and his staff have taken a long look at the All-Star first baseman. Most pundits anticipate Davis will cash in this winter, netting a long-term deal worth over $100 million dollars in free agency.

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Originally selected by the Texas Rangers in the 5th round of the 2006 draft, Davis reached the big leagues in June of 2008. It took a few years for Davis’ game to fully develop, but hitting for power was never a problem. He hit .285 with 23 doubles, 17 home runs and 55 RBI across 80 games as a rookie.

Davis took a step backwards in 2009, posting a .238 batting average with 21 home runs and 59 RBI in 113 games. His on base percentage dropped from .331 in 2008 to .284 the following year. His slugging percentage plunged over 100 points as he lost his starting job in Arlington. Much of his struggles can be attributed to his 150:24 strike out to walk ratio.

The Longview, TX product appeared in just 73 games with the Rangers during the next two seasons. Davis was unable to recapture the magic of his rookie season, as he posted a miserable .221 batting average with 4 home runs and 10 RBI in 2010 and 2011. Texas grew frustrated with Davis’ lack of production, and shipped him to the Baltimore Orioles at the trade deadline in 2011.

Davis found his stroke in Baltimore, and joined forces with Adam Jones to change the course of the Orioles’ franchise. 2012 was his first full season with the O’s, and Davis made a great first impression on the fanbase. He hit .270 with 33 home runs and 85 RBI across 139 games. His .326 on base percentage and .501 slugging percentage were both his best marks since his rookie season.

Things got even better from there for the Navarro College alum. Davis posted a .286 batting average with 42 doubles, 53 home runs and 138 RBI across 160 games in 2013. His .370 on base percentage and .634 slugging percentage both represent career highs. Davis represented Baltimore at the All-Star Game, won his first Silver Slugger and finished third in MVP voting after leading the league in home runs and RBI.

May 27, 2015; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles first baseman Chris Davis (19) hits a home run in the eighth inning against the Houston Astros at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Davis’ stock plummeted in 2014. Obviously, his .196/.300/.404 slash line left plenty to be desired. Davis managed to contribute 26 home runs and 72 RBI, but his season can only be described as a failure. His performance of the field failed to impress, and he was hit with a 25-game suspension in September for using amphetamines.

Many people wrote Davis off prior to the 2015 season, but the hulking first baseman proved the skeptics wrong. Davis hit .262 while launching a league high 47 home runs and driving in 117 runs across 160 games. His registered a .361 on base percentage and slugged .562 through 670 plate appearances.

Davis’ numbers during the last five seasons in Baltimore are amongst the best in baseball. The 29-year-old hit .257 with 161 home runs and 425 RBI in 617 games in an Orioles’ uniform. He does a fabulous job getting on base, as demonstrated by his .341 OBP. Davis was the definition of a middle of the order bat, as he slugged .526 during his tenure with the O’s.

Davis is unlikely to win a Gold Glove anytime soon, but he is considered an adequate defender at first base. He has registered a .996 fielding percentage through 642 career games at first base. His 9.23 range factor per 9 innings is slightly better than the league average of 9.07. Davis should be able to play a steady first base for at least another five years. He has played the outfield in the past, and despite not possessing top end speed, Davis is a reasonably athletic player.

Baseball Reference is very optimistic about Chris Davis in 2016. They believe the star first baseman will hit .250 with 37 home runs and 97 RBI. B.R. also expects Davis to post a .341 on base percentage and slug .526. FanGraphs is much less rose colored about Davis next season. They predict he will stumble to a .236 batting average with 33 home runs and 79 RBI.

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The O’s offered Davis a qualifying offer, which he declined. This means that if the Mariners were to sign him, they would have to surrender their first round pick in the 2016 draft. This is not a huge deterrent to interested teams, as Davis is a perennial All-Star and MVP candidate.

However, I do not believe the Mariners should pursue Chris Davis on the open market. Seattle already has Felix Hernandez and Robinson Cano‘s massive contracts on the books, and I do not believe they are willing to shell out the money necessary to land Davis. Combine the draft pick compensation with his price tag, and Davis is a poor fit in Seattle.

Next: Mariners Free Agent Target: Pedro Alvarez

I do not hate the idea of signing Davis, but I strongly believe the Mariners would be better off bringing in a player like Justin Morneau or trading for Adam Lind. Both players offer a similar on base percentage to Davis and play a quality first base, but will cost a fraction of the price.