Baltimore Orioles’ Chris Davis retires from baseball, effective immediately

JON MEOLI
The Baltimore Sun (TNS)
Chris Davis

BALTIMORE – Orioles first baseman Chris Davis, who has missed all of 2021 due to a hip injury that marked the latest disappointment during his club-record seven-year, $161 million contract, announced he was retiring Thursday, effective immediately.

“After an extended time dealing with my injury and recent hip surgery, I informed the Orioles about my decision to retire effective today,” Davis said in a statement. “I want to thank the Orioles partnership group, led by the Angelos family, the Orioles organization, my teammates and coaches, the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital with whom I will continue to be involved following my retirement, and of course, Birdland. Thank you all for the many memories that I will cherish forever.”

The Orioles said in a statement that the club supports Davis’ decision and thanks him for his 11 seasons in Baltimore.

“Athletes have the power to change lives and better their communities, and Chris and his family have done just that,” the team said. “We admire their dedication to those most in need, with hundreds of hours of community work completed, millions of dollars donated, and countless other charitable efforts performed, often without fanfare.

“For every inning played and home run hit, hour of service completed and amount donated, the Davis family has made an immeasurable impact on our city and on Orioles baseball. We send our best wishes to Chris, his wife Jill, and their daughters Ella, Evie, and Grace, each of whom will forever be part of our Orioles family.”

One of the last holdovers from the Orioles’ competitive renaissance from last decade, Davis’ performance has precipitously declined since.

Davis arrived at Camden Yards as part of a 2011 deadline trade that sent Koji Uehara to the Texas Rangers, and in his first full season with the team, swatted 33 home runs with an .827 OPS to help the team break a long playoff drought.

A year later, he led all of baseball with a team-record 53 home runs and 138 RBIs and a. 1.004 OPS while finishing third in American League Most Valuable Player voting, establishing himself as one of the league’s most formidable sluggers in the process.

As the club reached new heights in 2014, however, Davis struggled to be part of it. He hit .196 with a .704 OPS and was suspended in September for violating the league’s performance enhancing drug policy due to unauthorized use of Adderall, missing the playoff run after the Orioles won the AL East.

He was back to form in 2015 for his final year before free agency, leading the league again with 47 home runs and producing a .923 OPS, albeit with a league-high 208 strikeouts. Lengthy negotiations that winter with Davis’ agent, Scott Boras, didn’t appear promising until the two sides eventually struck that fateful seven-year, $161 million contract ahead of the 2016 season, one that included significant deferred money.

Davis was around a league-average hitter the first year of that deal, swatting 38 home runs, but his decline from there was steep. He hit .215 with a .732 OPS in 2017 before batting .168 with a .539 OPS in 2018, a season that in many statistical measures was one of the worst in major league history.

When the Orioles’ changed regimes in 2019, Davis was only slightly better, batting .179 with a .601 OPS and 12 home runs after beginning the season with the longest hitless stretch in major league history. He appeared in just 16 games in the shortened 2020 season, batting .115 without a home run, and took two spring training at-bats in 2021 before missing the rest of camp with what was called a lower back strain.

Eventually, Davis had hip surgery in May, and he was expected to recover in time to be part of the 2022 season.

According to MLB Network, Davis agreed to his remaining salary for 2022 to be restructured with the club, though he’ll still get the full $23 million he’s owed for that season before the $42 million in deferrals kick in on July 1, 2023.

Though Davis’ impact on the field waned in later years, his efforts off it did not. He was an ambassador for the Casey Cares Foundation, which supports children with life-threatening illnesses, and in 2019, donated $3 million to the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital to help build the Evelyn Kay Davis Congenital Hybrid Catheterization Suite to treat children with congenital heart defects. Evie Davis was born with a ventricular septal defect in 2018.