BALTIMORE – Everyone wants Chris Davis to stay with the Orioles. Dan Duquette does. Buck Showalter does.
But does Davis really want to stay?
On Monday, Duquette and Showalter discussed the 2015 season, and Davis was the primary topic.
Davis, who led the major leagues in home runs with 47, is the club’s most significant free agent.
“I don’t know what the final market is going to be for Chris Davis, but having looked at some of the other contracts, it’s going to be a lot of money,” Duquette’s the club’s executive vice president of baseball operations said.
“I don’t know where the money is going to end up, but we have enough money in this market to field a competitive team.”
“Chris Davis is a very compelling player because he hits prodigious home runs, and the club understands that value,” Duquette said.
“There’s a lot bigger markets that are out there than this market. I don’t know where that’s going to end up, but we like Chris Davis. We tried to sign Chris Davis, and we’d like to have him back for next year.”
Duquette also mentioned Wei-Yin Chen and Darren O’Day as free agents the team was interested in re-signing. Gerardo Parra, Steve Pearce and Matt Wieters are also free agents.
As Duquette pointed out, the Orioles’ payroll, which was about $120 million at the start of the season, is about in the middle of baseball despite Baltimore being one of the smaller markets in the game.
“The idea is to have a competitive team, O.K.? It’s to have a competitive team that’s also accessible and affordable to the fans. We’re going to fund a payroll that’s going to allow us to field the best team we can field and have the best experience that we can have for the fans in our market. We’ve done that effectively for a couple of years,” Duquette said.
It’s possible that the Orioles will proffer qualifying offers for Chen, Davis and Wieters. Duquette said that he hasn’t decided whether to do so. None are expected to accept a qualifying offer, but the Orioles would receive a draft choice if they decline the offer.
Duquette said that with the expected loss of Chen, the team has to improve its starting pitching.
“Our off-season, we need to focus on a stronger pitching staff. I know we’ve got plenty of free agents to sign. Any informed analysis of a team, you’ve got to have a strong pitching staff. That’s where it starts, and that’s where we’re going to put our focus in the off-season,” Duquette said.
“If we’re going to improve our pitching staff, we’re going to have to add to our pitching staff. You’d love to have a top of the rotation starter.”
A frequent theme for Duquette since his arrival nearly four years ago is the need for the Orioles to improve their on-base percentage, which this year fell to .307.
On Sunday, Manny Machado said that he would consider signing an extension with the team.
“I’m encouraged that he’s interested in committing long-term to the Orioles. We tried to do that one time, and we didn’t quite get to a deal. We also tried to sign Chris and Matt Wieters a couple of times, but we didn’t quite get to a deal,” Duquette said.
“It’s heartening that Manny wants to play here, we’ve got him for three more years, and it’s something we can consider, but I’ve got to tell you, we’ve got a lot more work to do.”
Duquette and Showalter repeated that they wanted the coaches to return, but had no timetable for an answer.
They also disputed reports that there was friction between them and each said they wanted to return to their respective jobs in 2016. Each is signed through 2018.
“I like our body of work. It’s a great honor to manage the Baltimore Orioles, and I don’t plan on doing anything else,” Showalter said. “As long as I can be a contributor, this I what I want to do.”
Fans are anxious about the makeup of the team. Duquette and Showalter sought to allay those fears—especially when it came to those players who could leave.
“We like those players on our team whether we can have them next year or not, we’re going to try to sign them. I can tell you this, we’re going to have a good team when we start the season. I don’t know who exactly will be on it,” Duquette said.
Duquette said that a .500 record was the minimum for acceptability, but Showalter took it a step further.
“If you think this year was good enough, you haven’t been watching,” Showalter said.
“We’re going to have a good, competitive team next year. You’re going to like some things.”