When you look at one of the Orioles' main concerns heading into 2015, you can break it down to two numbers: 6.8 and 0.5. The former is Chris Davis' 6.8 wins above replacement for 2013. The latter -- 0.5 -- is his WAR for 2014. Which Chris Davis is the one the Orioles' can rely on in 2015? Which one is a mirage? Unfortunately for the Orioles, only time will tell. And they don't have time to find out.
After Davis' 25 game suspension for amphetamines comes to an end on April 7, 2015, he will be set to go for the remainder of the season. If he's anywhere near the player he was in 2013, the Orioles lineup will be getting a huge boost. If he's anything like what we saw in 2014, not so much. Davis put up a 2014 slash line of .196/.300/.404. His slugging percentage dropped nearly 100 points from his career line, and over 200 points from his 2013 slugging percentage. Fortunately for the Orioles, there is an insurance policy available in the trade market: Justin Morneau.
Morneau is coming off his first season with the Rockies. Over 135 games, Morneau put up a slash line of .319/.364/.496. His .319 average was good for the NL Batting Title. He even comes at a relatively cheap price tag of just $6.75 million in 2015, with a $9 million mutual option for 2016.
Some fans might say that Morneau's success was due in large part to playing in the hitter friendly confines of Coors Field. They should take a deeper look into Morneau's success in 2014.
Morneau away from Coors Field:
- 133 Weight Runs Created Plus (wRC+)
- Lowest strikeout rate among NL 1B
Are the Rockies willing to make a deal?
The Rockies are definitely open to moving the 33-year-old slugger. He was placed on waivers in late August, and the Brewers claimed him. Negotiations deteriorated, and both teams were unable to come to terms for a deal. The Rockies also have former 1st round pick Kyle Parker waiting in the wings.
Parker, rated the #6 prospect in the Rockies organization, spent most of his first three years in the minors playing right field, but began the transition to first base in 2014. In four minor league seasons, Parker put up an .857 OPS before appearing in 18 games for the Rockies in 2014.
The Orioles do have other options...
There are some in-house options for the Orioles that could work, but those options bring some question marks that are similar to Davis. One of those options is Steve Pearce. Pearce was dynamic for the 2014 Orioles: .293/.373/.556 slash line and 21 HR in just 383 PA. But like Davis, which is the true Steve Pearce? The 4.9 WAR in 2014, or the 0.2 WAR over the other 290 games in his career.
Christian Walker had a strong first half of the season in Double-A, but his numbers declined in Triple-A and a short stint with Baltimore. Walker may eventually turn into a quality MLB hitter, but he does not appear to be ready quite yet.
...but why risk it?
Maybe the Orioles get lucky. Maybe they will see a 2013 Chris Davis and a 2014 Steve Pearce for a full season in 2015. The numbers would more than offset the losses of Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz, but the Orioles can't count on that happening. The Orioles need to go get Justin Morneau right now. Anything they get from Davis and Pearce will be icing on the cake.