Should Chris Davis and the St. Louis Cardinals get married?
Is Crush a guy that the St. Louis Cardinals should look at this month or is he a bad idea?
To Crush or not to Crush? That is the question for the St. Louis Cardinals this winter. You heard my colleague Steven McNeil’s case against Davis last month. Here, I look both ways. Is Chris Davis a sane or insane option? After losing out on David Price and Jason Heyward, will John Mozeliak finally bring in an established first baseman who can give the Birds a sense of power they have been lacking for years?
Does he represent too much risk? Is Chris Davis’ power all located in Camden Yards and the American League or can he transcend(like Yoenis Cespedes did in New York last summer) in the National League? As he sits on the open market, let’s take a look.
I’ll be honest and tell you in November I was aboard the Anti-Crush train. He seemed like a nice idea that would blow up in two years. Someone you would hand millions to and regret it the next day. The large plate of chili cheese nachos that seems brilliant at 3am and evolves into doom the next afternoon. Then, an article from MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince turned my head. An article before Heyward decided that made me think. Maybe Davis isn’t such a bad idea after all. Since I am not writing this from inside the Cards vault, let’s look at the good and the bad of this Davis idea.
~The dude has legit power. Game changing power that doesn’t relate to Mark Reynolds or Brandon Moss, Cards fans. For instance, Davis had a 5.2 offensive WAR according to Baseball Reference in 2015. 5.2!! Heyward’s overall was 6.5. Davis’s ISO(isolated power) and slugging percentage from the past four seasons stands next to Giancarlo Stanton‘s ability. You don’t get the Crush nickname from rolling over on grounders to second base.
Davis destroys baseballs and 45 of his 47 home runs in 2015 would have cleared the wall at Busch Stadium. In two of the past three seasons, his OPS has finished over .900. Davis’ average production over his nine year career is 37 home runs, 31 doubles and a .506 slugging percentage. In 2015, Davis finished on an unreal clip, producing 22 extra base hits in the last month of the season. He doesn’t slow up as the regular season winds down. He heats up. Davis isn’t just an action film(that distinction belongs to Randal Grichuk). He’s a three hour action opus with an epilogue attached.
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~Davis would give the Cards a legit cleanup hitter and make the rest of their lineup look destructive. He’d give Matt Holliday protection in the #3 spot and finally remove Jhonny Peralta from cleanup hitter discussions(something that should have never happened in the first place). For once, the Cardinal lineup would have middle of the lineup firepower. How many times did Peralta, Matt Adams or Mark Reynolds find their way into the middle of the order in 2015? Lukewarm.
~In addition to first basee, Chris Davis can also play the outfield, most notably right field. In a small sample size(just over 250 innings) in 2015, Davis posted a 2.6 UZR(ultimate zone rating, via Fangraphs which calculates arm, range and error probability) in right field. Davis isn’t a good third baseman, but can also play there in a pinch. He is average at best at first base.
The point being, the guy is versatile and not just a stone handed backstop at first. His defensive abilities are multi-faceted. If Matt Holliday didn’t return after the 2016 season, Davis could slide into left field. In 947 innings at first base, Davis comprised a 3.6 UZR rating, which isn’t bad at all. He’s at least adequate on defense. If the new CBA agreement miraculously gave the National League the DH in a few years, Davis could do that too. I am reaching so let’s keep rolling.
~Davis wouldn’t cost the Cards 8-9 years and 180-200 million. The Orioles had an offer of 7 years and 150 million on the table and pulled it. No other team has matched Davis’ demands. His offer or request will go down. He won’t get Heyward money. The Cards could upgrade their offense and spend less money.
~Davis has a healthy walk rate, which supports his career .330 on base percentage. In addition to his monstrous strikeout totals(more on that later), Davis has walked 60 or more times in the last three seasons, topping it off with 84 last season.
“He offers the team a chance to revamp their lineup, which has produced 619 and 647 runs the past two years. “
~2014. Okay, it wasn’t that bad of a year(26 HR, 704 OPS) but for Davis’ caliber, it was rough. He played in 127 games and produced but not enough to the Orioles liking. They dropped him from the lineup. They pulled him from the lineup. In their internal discussions for an offer this month, that had to come up in talks. What about 2014? Will it return in less than three seasons? Is that a fair gamble? Bunched into Davis’ great seasons is a very human ordinary one.
~Strikeouts. Hot air retrieval. The man hates to not swing. Joaquin Phoenix’s Merrill Hess in Signs like. Davis struck out 208 times in 2015 and has averaged 200 whiffs per season since his debut in 2008. For a team carrying big whiff rate guys like Matt Carpenter and Grichuk, adding Davis would make the strikeout rate in Cardinal Nation jump. It isn’t slowing down either. Davis will strike out, and hit balls a long way, until he stops playing.
~Age. Davis is 30 years old and while he is athletic and in great shape, may break down. Davis has only played in 140 or more games twice in his career. That rate doesn’t improve with age in most cases. Like most free agent options(except Justin Upton), Davis is 30 or heading towards the wrong side of 30. That doesn’t mean he can’t be productive. The injury risk just grows with every season. Which makes a potential 5-7 year contract scary for a team to attach a 25 million AAV to.
-He rocks a creepy mustache for portions of the season. No go dude!
Otto Greule Jr / Getty Images
There are many reasons not to chase down Chris Davis and I probably didn’t even list them all. What happens to Matt Adams(a part time job at Buffalo Wild Wings if I had my choice)? Where does Brandon Moss play(all over, like in 2015)?
There are also more than a few reasons to sign him. He offers the team a chance to revamp their lineup, which has produced 619 and 647 runs the past two years. Pitchers welcome run support, and Davis would provide that support in this lineup. His home runs would still travel out of Busch and especially out of Wrigley, Great American Ballpark and PNC Park.
He could plug a hole in the outfield if needed and not be terrible. He will strike out a ton and may have an off year. There’s the John Mabry worry from some, but I don’t believe in the effect of hitting coaches enough to buy into that theory.
Next: Will the Cardinals rebound from losing 12.7 fWAR?
Chris Davis is an intriguing, risky and ultimately dangerous(in good and bad ways) for John Mozeliak and the Cardinals. In my humble scrappy opinion, he would change their lineup long term, help them in the field and help fans recover from the loss of Heyward and Price.