When Rogers Hornsby famously informed everyone of his lackluster offseason plans, he neglected to mention the part where he, like the rest of us, spent countless hours on his favorite sports blog coming up with ideas about which players his team should sign in free agency.
That, or my history is a bit rusty.
The most entertaining and least useful parts of the offseason typically involve player acquisition ideas that won't happen, and this year's crop of free agents has afforded us a doozy. Baltimore Orioles first baseman Chris Davis hits dingers by the boatload, and is a free agent with a hefty price tag. CBS Sports' Jon Heyman joked that Davis' demands rest somewhere near "rights fees." There aren't many teams who will be able to afford the high-priced slugger, and many that can are already trying to get out from under the weight of the massive contract they gave to their last high-priced slugger.
Enter Detroit Tigers owner Mike Ilitch, who has spared almost no expense in trying to win a championship. No one has linked Ilitch and the Tigers to Davis yet, and there's a good chance no one will. It's crazy. It's probably a horrible idea. But when Chris Davis hits a 500-foot home run after J.D. Martinez nearly decapitates a camera man after Victor Martinez works a nine-pitch walk after Miguel Cabrera dented the outfield wall for a double, it's going to feel OK.
Let's have some fun.
Who is he?
Before Davis became a Dinger Monster, he was selected by the Texas Rangers in the fifth round of the 2006 MLB draft. He came out of a small school in Texas, but quickly made a name for himself in the minors with 36 home runs and 118 RBI across two levels in 2007. He continued that impressive run through his MLB debut in 2008, hitting .285/.331/.549 in 317 plate appearances.
Davis struggled over the next few seasons, hitting just .238/.289/.406. The Rangers eventually gave up on their former top-100 prospect, trading him to the Baltimore Orioles in 2011. Davis found his swing with the O's, mashing 33 home runs in 2012. He ruined Miguel Cabrera's chance for back-to-back Triple Crowns by hitting 53 home runs and driving in 138 RBI in 2013, though Cabrera still won his second straight MVP award. Davis struggled through injuries and other maladies in 2014, and was suspended towards the end of the season for testing positive for Adderall. With a new exemption in hand from MLB in 2015, Davis returned to form, hitting .262/.361/.562.
Why should we stay away?
Davis is a first baseman, and last time I checked, the Tigers already have a first baseman. Name's Miguel Cabrera. He's pretty good. The Tigers also have a designated hitter -- albeit one with fewer warm fuzzies associated with his name -- which is the other position Davis plays relatively well. He has also played a handful of innings at third base and in the outfield during his career, but in samples that are too small for me to cite any advanced metrics as an assessment of his true talent at those positions. There's a reason the Orioles only gave him 253 innings in the outfield last season.
There's also the contract to consider. Davis is the power threat on the free agent market right now, and some team that actually needs a first baseman is going to pay him an oil tanker's worth of cash to test the limits of bat-on-ball physics for the next five to eight seasons. Davis has mashed 159 home runs in the past four seasons, and general managers still get excited like Mama Klump whenever one hits the free agent market. Watching the Tigers add that kind of contract to their payroll for a player who doesn't even have a position on this roster would cause visceral pain.
Beyond the dingers, there are still some questions about how consistent Davis will be. He struggled quite a bit during the early part of his career, leading the Texas Rangers to give up on him during the 2011 season. Davis found his stride in 2012, but did not become Based Dinger God Chris Davis until 2013. Then, in 2014, he hit .196. Dingers or not, that's bad, and it's tough to blame that drop-off entirely on Adderall. He rebounded in 2015, but there's still that lingering question in the back of everyone's mind on how good of a hitter he will be going forward. Steamer is asking these questions, and while Steamer is just a dumb computer program that is skeptical about a lot of things, it's giving Davis an extra dose of side-eye.
Why should we care?
There are plenty of cons to this idea -- hence putting those first -- but if there's one thing the advent of sabermetrics taught us, it's that runs are runs no matter how they are produced. Chris Davis has been one of the very best players in baseball at producing runs over the past few seasons. He has combined for 13.4 wins above replacement since 2013 despite a sub-1.0 WAR season in 2014, and his 302 runs created during that span rank 11th among all MLB players. If we ignore 2014, Davis' 2013 and 2015 seasons were among the top 20 individual run totals in the game. When right, he's an offensive force with MVP potential. Don't sleep on his potential (especially if you're in the bleachers).
Will he end up in Detroit?
It won't happen. It can't happen. But this is the offseason, and (a) we don't know what will happen, and (b) we have five months until there's baseball again so we might as well kick around half-baked ideas like this. The Tigers offense was an unholy menace in 2013, one that probably should have scored even more often than it actually did. They bludgeoned teams on their way to a +172 run differential and a 99-63 pythagorean expected win-loss record. They should have won the World Series that season despite a two-man bullpen and a defense that would make the Detroit Lions' secondary blush.
But if all runs are truly created equal, then this video game fantasy of an idea might actually work. Davis and the offense could score enough runs to mask the sideshow-level antics going on in the field, and the Tigers would rewrite the blueprint for building a title contender one year after the Kansas City Royals made not taking walks cool. Sure, it would be awful in 2017 and beyond, but by then we'll all be wearing immoderate t-shirts with "WHO CARES DINGERS ALL DAY" emblazoned on the chest and all will be right with the world.
But seriously, Tigers. Don't do this.