Chris Davis knew he was returning to the Orioles. He’d quietly begun working out a few times a week with hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh. Davis wouldn’t do that if he was signing elsewhere.
Davis let his agent, Scott Boras, do his talking, and on Thursday night, the first time we’ve heard from the slugger since Oct. 4, he said he didn’t ever want to leave.
“We knew that we have really enjoyed being in Baltimore. For the last four years, that’s really all I had known and we’ve had a lot of success here, and it was just a comfortable place to be. My family enjoys it here. I think the fact that we knew they were interested obviously made it a little bit easier,” Davis said.
Of course, the Orioles were interested.
If ever a team listened to its fans, the Orioles did. While there are many decrying the deal, saying the Orioles paid too much for Davis, there are many, many more who would have been pained had he left.
Never had there been so much angst over a free agent. And, in the end the Orioles came through.
The skeptics said the Orioles were bidding against themselves. Boras didn’t discourage that talk.
“You know, when you go to a wedding, you never talk about your girlfriends,” Boras joked.
There was speculation that Detroit would make a last-minute push, but owner Mike Ilitch, who is never afraid to spend was talked out of the pursuit by General Manager Al Avila. The Tigers ended up with Justin Upton instead.
Boras’ tactic has been to deal directly with ownership, and he spoke to Peter Angelos, who in a phone call, told Davis, how much he wanted him back.
"Each negotiation has its own agenda and spirit, but the one thing that I did in this negotiation is I flew out here and met with Peter and Dan [Duquette] and let them know that Chris and I had talked, and this ballpark and this community, I wanted him to know. I said, 'I don't do this very often. It's not exactly a great free agent tactic to fly here and meet with an owner and let him know that we're very interested in re-signing here.' We did at the forefront of free agency. Sometimes it's good for a lawyer to know from another lawyer, what the real intent of free agency is. Being able to have that meeting, I think, set in motion the clear intentions of Peter and Dan. I was able to communicate that to Chris,” Boras said.
Boras knew that a solid offer in December probably wasn’t going away, and that as his client got antsy for the process to end, the team would be getting nervous, too. When word got out, that the Orioles were serious about moving on, and that Yoenis Cespedes might get many of those Davis dollars, the end game was at hand.
It helped that the players Davis knew the best were coming back, too. Matt Wieters accepted a $15.8 qualifying offer, and Darren O’Day signed a four-year, $31 million extension.
At O’Day’s press conference, the reliever, who was wearing a mustache, publicly campaigned for Davis’ return, and that didn’t hurt.
“Number 19, he’s actually a mustache enthusiast so I’m hoping that maybe he’ll see a picture of this and think that he couldn’t stand not seeing it for a while. So maybe he sees it and thinks that’s where I want to play,” O’Day said last month.
The mustache enthusiast was wearing a neatly trimmed full beard, one that will have to disappear a month from now when he reports to Sarasota for spring training. He’ll be looking forward to seeing O’Day.
““He pretty much says what everybody's thinking but doesn't want to say, and then he shows up at a press conference with a Wyatt Earp mustache and he doesn't ever pull any punches. The biggest recruitment tool is like I talk about, the clubhouse atmosphere. When you do what we do, day in and day out for as long as we do it, there are going to be go days, there are going to be bad days, but really having that atmosphere where you feel like you can come in and relax and be yourself. I think that to me is the biggest recruiting tool that anyone of us can have because you want to be comfortable in a place where you work and place where you spend so much time,” Davis said.
Say what you will about the money, but the players do enjoy spending time around each other. Now, the trick will be to find a few more that can fit in and can help the team win.