Is Chris Davis' contract the worst in baseball history?

Is Chris Davis' contract the worst in baseball history?

Baseball - Or So He Thought

Is Chris Davis' contract the worst in baseball history?

This past trade deadline saw the Orioles unload much of their major league talent in order to rebuild for the future.  Baltimore acquired ten of their current top 30 prospects (according to MLB.com) from the deals for Manny Machado, Zach Britton, Jonathan Schoop, Kevin Gausman and Darren O’Day.  The highlight of the deal for Baltimore was the acquisition of outfielder Yusniel Diaz from the Dodgers for Machado.  Diaz is rated best prospect in the Orioles’ minor-league system and the 57th best prospect in the majors, according to MLB.com.

Chris Davis was among the Orioles not moved prior to the trade deadline.  In all honesty, there was no chance he’d be traded.  Davis is in third-year of a seven-year, $161 million contract with Baltimore—a deal he signed prior to the 2016 season.  He makes $23 million in each year of his deal, though $6 million of each season’s salary is deferred.  Based on the structure of his contract, Davis will get $42 million from the Orioles following his retirement.

Chris Davis

Annual Salary of Current Contract

2016-2022: $23 million per season ($17 million kept, $6 million deferred)

2023-2032: $3.5 million a year annually

2033-2037: $1.4 million a year annually

(All of this contract information is courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts from BaseballProspectus.com)

This means the Orioles will be paying for nearly twenty more years! Davis will be 53-years old when he earns his final check from this contract.

Now, sometimes signing players to large contracts can be worth the monetary headache.  This is not one of those times.  Don’t me wrong—Davis has produced massive offensive seasons over the course of his eleven-year major league career.  He led the majors in home runs during the 2013 and 2015 seasons.  He hit 53 home runs in 2013 and 47 in 2015—the season before he signed his mega contract.

Since signing this deal prior to the 2016 season, Davis’s production has gone down drastically.  Let’s take a look at each of his last three years in the majors.  All statistics and ranks are entering play on Wednesday.

Chris Davis

Season-by Season Statistics—since the start of 2016

2016:   .221 AVG, 38 HR, 84 RBI, .792 OPS, 32.9 K%, 13.2 BB% in 157 games

2017:   .215 AVG, 26 HR, 61 RBI, .732 OPS, 37.2 K%, 11.6 BB% in 128 games

2018:   .157 AVG, 13 HR, 35 RBI, .545 OPS, 35.0 K%, 8.8 BB% in 89 games

The production Davis has provided is not worth $161 million.  It’s not even worth $161.  And to a certain extent, the blame in regards to the deal should not fall onto the shoulders of Davis.  No one forced the Orioles into giving him such a substantial contract.  He has every right to reap the rewards he’s earned.  But, from an analytical and statistical standpoint, signing Davis to this contract may end up being one of the biggest financial mistakes in baseball history.

Here’s some context in regards to Davis and his poor offensive numbers this season.

Davis’s .157 batting average is by far the worst in the major leagues in 2018 among qualifiers.  The next closest batting average is .187, which belongs to Joey Gallo of the Rangers.

But, it’s even worse than that.  Since the pitching mound was moved back to 60-feet, six-inches, in 1893, there have been 20,003 instances where a major-league players has had at least 350 plate appearances in a season.  Davis has the second-lowest batting average among any of them.  Yes, you read that right—the second-worst out of 20,003 different seasons by major-league hitters.

Worst Single-Year Batting Averages in MLB

Since the start of 1893 (with a minimum 350 plate appearances)

Bill Bergen                  .139                 1909 Brooklyn Superbas (now the Dodgers)

Chris Davis                 .157                 2018 Baltimore Orioles

Bill Bergen                  .159                 1909 Brooklyn Superbas (now the Dodgers)

Adam Dunn                .159                 2011 Chicago White Sox

Dave Roberts              .167                 1974 Padres

In other words, Davis isn’t just having a bad season—he’s having one of the worst offensive seasons ever.

Also, for comparison’s sake, Baseball Reference lists Bill Bergen’s salary in 1902 (his only listed salary) at $2,700.  Bergen hit .180 in 342 plate appearances that season.  Based on inflation, there would be just under $80,000 in terms of 2018 salary.

Can I have Bergen for $80,000, Alex? The Orioles just might.

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