BALTIMORE — Amid the praise being heaped upon the Orioles for offering free-agent Chris Davis a reported $150 million deal, Matt Wieters made the truest statement of all at Saturday’s FanFest.
Asked if the pursuit of the slugging first baseman was a message to future free agents that the organization will spend the necessary money to keep great players, Wieters was complimentary of Davis’ talents and of Baltimore as a place to play while stating the truth about any offseason activity.
“Ultimately, you’ve got to get it done,” Wieter said, “and you’ve got to be able to sign the final contract to say you’ve gone out there and spent that money.”
Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette confirmed Saturday that the Orioles had pulled their offer to the 29-year-old who led the major leagues in home runs in both 2013 and 2015.
It’s become apparent that the Orioles aren’t willing to wait around. Whether that means talks will resume with agent Scott Boras remains to be seen, but Duquette made it clear that the organization is exploring alternatives, particularly in the outfield after Mark Trumbo was acquired earlier this month as a viable option to play first base.
The door may not be locked shut for Davis to return, but it appears that Boras may need to use the doorbell to regain the Orioles’ attention if no other club makes a higher offer in the coming days and weeks.
“I’m not exactly sure where that’s going to end up,” Duquette said. “We’ve been very aggressive on that front and that didn’t yield a deal. At some point, we’re going to have to look at some other options. I can tell you this, we’re going to have a good ball club, either way.”
Determining that they’ve reached their spending limit with the first baseman is fine, but walking away from the negotiating table without any alternative already in place feels like a risky proposition. Asked during a fan forum on Saturday whether the $150 million allocated by owner Peter Angelos for a Davis deal is available for other free-agent targets, Duquette said that it was, but the money may not all be spent this winter.
And this is where the Orioles must prove themselves to be serious about doing what it takes to improve their club for 2016 and beyond. To praise the fact that they tried to re-sign Davis is well and good, but it’s meaningless if Duquette and the Orioles do not make any other high-impact acquisitions in the aftermath of Boras and Davis passing on their offer.
If Davis is ultimately deemed too expensive, the organization can’t then say the likes of Justin Upton, Alex Gordon, and Scott Kazmir are too costly as well. Otherwise, it’s just the same old unwillingness to spend for premium talent on the open market after allowing the likes of Davis, Nelson Cruz, and Andrew Miller to depart in recent offseasons.
Did the Orioles make a fair offer to Davis? Yes, but Boras is notorious for waiting as long as he can for the best deal. Duquette had to know this was a distinct possibility and has no excuse not to be prepared.
If the Orioles want to be praised for offering $150 million to Davis, they will turn his rejection into other high-impact additions to help their cause for 2016.
Anything less will make the Davis pursuit feel like it was all for show before ultimately throwing up their hands and saying, “Hey, at least we tried.”
Talking about spending money is one thing.
Actually doing it is another, especially when there are plenty of attractive options remaining on the market not named Chris Davis.
They’ve got to get it done.