While Houston Astros fans are dreaming of which free-agent the team will spend the money to acquire for the 2016 season, don’t look for Chris Davis to be one of the additions. With that being said, I think the Jeff Luhnow and the Astros have tasted what it was like to get to the playoffs with their success in 2015, so look for them to add multiple free-agents for the 2016 season. Look for them to add some bullpen arms, a pitcher for the rotation, and maybe an outfielder.
However, don’t count on them to add a premium free-agent player. The Astros will not break the bank on a player that doesn’t meet Luhnow’s guidelines for a premium free-agent. This belief was echoed recently by Jose de Jesus Ortiz in his post: Astros free agency: 5 for dreamers and 5 for realists. “Astros owner Jim Crane has vowed to open the purse strings a bit more this winter, but it remains to be seen if the Astros will shop in the premium market, the middle market of the bargain basement,”- Ortiz. Of course, Ortiz listed Davis as a dream for the Astros.
What are the guidelines for Luhnow to sign a premium free agent? Good thing you asked, let’s refer to a post I wrote in February 2015 titled Luhnow: Guideline for Signing Premium Free-Agent? For a deeper look, please read, but I will use his criteria to break Davis chances of signing with the Astros down.
How does the player project through the length of the contract? Most contracts are signed following a career year, but Luhnow argued that a team should look at a player with a good track-record of success. Chris Davis got off to a slow start to his career with the Texas Rangers despite much hype as a prospect and hitting 17 and 21 homers in his first two years respectively. However, Davis had a down period of two years in 2010 and 2011, where he only hit a total of six homers in all during that time.
He was traded to the Baltimore Orioles during that down period and returned to relevance the next season in 2011. Let’s take a look at Davis’ stats the past four seasons via Fangraphs.
Davis has a recent history of being really good and really bad every other season. Take a look at Davis’ 2014, his season was basically what Chris Carter had in 2015. Would you offer the 29-year-old first baseman a five-year $100+ million dollar contract if he could be Carter Part Deux? Teams will be paying him for his 2015 stats while the Astros will be looking at his work as a whole. Davis’ 2013 and 2015 are better than any current Astros player can offer, but Luhnow would see this as risky.
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Chris Davis, who is 29-years-old, is less than 30-years-old, which is what Luhnow’s guideline was. Per Luhnow, he will sign a premium free agent who is “young enough where we know what we will get.” Davis is young enough, but how will he project over the next five years? Will he be the Albert Pujols at the beginning of his Angels career or the Pujols for the past two seasons? Looking at the average stats for the past four seasons for Davis from the table above.
Average Stats: .254/ 40 homers/ 103 RBI
Yes, he is old enough to know that he has some good seasons and some bad seasons. More from Luhnow, “we can predict what skills will decline at what age. So that we won’t have buyer’s regret later in the contract.”
Length of Contract
This is the offseason that Davis has waited for because he can finally get his big payday a long-term contract. I don’t see Davis getting a Pujols type contract because Pujols was very consistent year to year. Davis has had injuries and clunker of seasons in the mix. Davis is young enough to offer a five to six-year deal to and he should be effective until the age of 35 or 36. However, I would not go more than six years, especially with the history signing of Carlos Lee for the long-term contract and how he struggled at the end.
Plus, the Astros have some guy named A.J. Reed due to make his debut next year who I think profiles as a Paul Goldschmidt type of player minus the speed. Reed won the MiLBy Offensive Player of the year in 2015, being the best hitter in all of the minors. He was playing in the Arizona Fall League, but theAstros sent him home to rest a sore knee (per Jim Callis) and relax after playing more than he has ever in his life in 2015.
With all this being said, while Davis does meet some of Luhnow’s criteria I wrote about earlier, I think that the Astros would be outbid. The Astros have Carter, Reed, Jon Singleton, and Luis Valbuena to cover first base, I don’t see them overspending on another first baseman when Reed will play for the minimum for a few years. They want to make a smart decision on a big time free agent. I hope that I am wrong about this.