Chris Davis‘ power is the sexiest thing in free agency for St. Louis Cardinals’ fans this winter. We drool over the possibility of him in the lineup getting the Cardinals over the hump. I am in agreement with most of Cardinals’ fans here. I would love to have another 40+ home run hitter in this lineup and am anxiously awaiting the day the Cardinals’ have a huge power hitter in the middle of the order again. As a fan, I really miss the days of having the most feared hitter in baseball in the lineup. Davis could step into this lineup in April and instantly create that again.
However, in case you didn’t read the title, this is not a Chris Davis love affair session. Much like my fellow blogger Joe Schwarz of Viva El Birdos, I simply cannot stand behind the Cardinals’ pursuit of Davis, and I want to tell you why.
You probably think I am crazy right about now. The thought running across your mind is probably “How could you not want a 47 home run hitter in your lineup everyday?!?”. I am not crazy, I promise you. I would love to have his power in the lineup, but I have some concerns. My biggest concern with Chris “Crush” Davis is the fact that he will be 30 years old by the time the season starts. That is a big concern.
For reference let’s take a look at a couple of sluggers, who signed big free agent deals before or around their 30th birthday. These sluggers will be quite familiar to you. They are former Cardinal Albert Pujols and St. Louis native Ryan Howard.
Let’s start with the one we are most familiar with in Pujols. Pujols was the best hitter in baseball from about 2003-2011, amassing seasons of .300 average or better and 30+ home runs until he hit .299 in 2011. This got Pujols the mega deal to leave the St. Louis Cardinals and join the Los Angeles Angels. At the time of the deal, Pujols was 31 years old, but nobody thought “The Machine” was going to slow down at all.
However, if you remember right we all kind of saw it coming. Albert had monster years leading up to 2011, but the power started to decline after the 2009 season where he had 47. The very next season Albert had 42, then 37 in 2011, and then 2012 he only had 30 leading to a massive drop in 2013 where he only had 17 in 100 games played. Despite his high average, I remember “The Machine” looking lost and uncomfortable at the plate at times during the last two seasons of his St. Louis career.
Now Albert did have a bounce back year in the power department this season where he hit 40 homers, but the average went down big time to .244. However, this is Albert Pujols we are talking about. Chris Davis is not Albert Pujols by any stretch of the imagination, and we aren’t that far removed from a down season from Chris Davis. If Albert is subject to a post 30 decline then all hitters likely are.
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In 2014 Davis had just 26 homers with a dismal .196 batting average through 127 games. Now, many people will say that this is due to his inability to take Adderall, which is a banned substance by Major League Baseball. Joe Schwarz made the connection that he did secure an authorized use of a different stimulant to help him perform better this season where he did slug 47 homers. Still a player not that far removed from a big downfall is scary.
A more comparable comparison for Davis is Ryan Howard. Howard was a big home run threat for the Phillies from 2005-2011 crushing 284 homers in that time span. This secured him a big contract extension in 2010 to keep him in Philadelphia till 2017. Howard’s age at the time of the contract extension was 30 years old. Like Davis, the thing that Howard didn’t have going for him was the high average, as Howard only had one season where he had an average over .300 and that was 2006 which was his first complete year in the big leagues.
The big power drop came after his extension in 2010 (age 30 season). In 2009 Howard hit 45 homers and lead the Phillies to the World Series. However, in 2010 Howard only hit 31(in 17 less games), which was his lowest total since his rookie year, and in 2011 he hit 33. We all know that Howard then missed the majority of the 2012 season with an achilles injury that he injured on the last play of the 2011 NLDS against our beloved Cardinals.
Fast forward to 2015 and Howard has yet to hit over 30 homers again, having an injury shortened 2013 campaign and totaling just 46 homers through 282 games in 2014-2015. Howard’s decline has been sharp and sudden and has made the Phillies regret that 2010 extension that they signed him to after winning the 2009 World Series.
Davis will be seeking a contract somewhere in $20 million per year range, as he well should. He is a power hitter who potentially has a couple of good years left and could very well prove me wrong and continue to hit for power throughout the remainder of the contract. But, looking at Howard and Pujols and then looking at Davis’ own inconsistencies and inability to hit for a high average makes me cringe. Davis would also cost the Cardinals their first round draft pick and while they may recoup that with the loss of Heyward/Lackey, the Cardinals will not want to lose something they value so high.
Those of you thinking that Davis average is pointless and his power is what you want, will likely be complaining when he strikes out a thousand times in the course of a five year deal. Not to mention that Davis has posted negative defensive values in every season of his major league career.
Davis is a Scott Boras client, so don’t look for him to fall in love with St. Louis and sign below market value. He will get his, no doubt about it. It just should not be in St. Louis. So, Cardinals’ fans move on from Chris Davis, he simply will not be worth it in the long run, even if the team loses out on Heyward he simply does not project to be worth the massive contract he will most likely receive.
Let’s just say no to Davis and trust that the Cardinals’ will find some value from Stephen Piscotty, Matt Adams, or maybe even Patrick Wisdom at first base next season. None of those guys will cost the team $20 million a year. Plus, do you really want a high priced Scott Boras client?