BALTIMORE (AP) — Chris Davis slipped on the Orioles jersey with No. 19 on it, smiled broadly and said, “Feels familiar.”
After spending much of the offseason wondering if he would continue his baseball career in Baltimore, Davis formally signed a $161 million, seven-year contract Thursday.
The deal was announced in a news conference at Camden Yards, where the reigning major league home run king has been hitting long balls for the Orioles since the middle of the 2011 season.
“Not only do I get the opportunity to spend the majority of my career in one place, but the opportunity to be with a franchise that has had so much success in the past and has so much history,” Davis said. “It’s something that not a lot of guys get the opportunity to do.”
Davis, 29, became a free agent after the 2015 season. He was pursued heavily by the Orioles, who finally struck a deal over the weekend pending a medical examination.
“We always had Chris as a primary target to sign through the winter,” said Dan Duquette, the Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations. “You know, these deals, they have their own timing. Some take a while. Some get done quickly. In this case, things came together late Friday night.”
And now, Davis is the highest-paid player in the history of the franchise.
Davis will receive salaries of $23 million annually, but $6 million a year is deferred without interest. He will receive 10 payments of $3.5 million each July 1 from 2023-32 and seven payments of $1.4 million every July 1 from 2033-37.
Because of the deferred compensation, Major League Baseball evaluated the deal’s present-day value at $147,831,478.
No matter how it’s sliced, that’s a lot of money.
“I understand the commitment that was made,” the first baseman said. “And to me, it’s actually a flattering, more humbling gesture that the Orioles decided to make this kind of commitment to me. It really motivates me to work that much harder and do everything I can to show them that their faith was well placed.”
Davis had 47 homers and 117 RBIs last season. Since 2012, Davis leads the majors with 159 home runs and ranks fourth with 412 RBIs. Although he’s only been with the Orioles for 4 1/2 years, the slugger is 10th on the team’s career home run list with 161.
From the conclusion of the 2015 season to the second week in January, there was really only one question on the mind of every Oriole fan in the city: Will Chris Davis return to the Orioles?
“I don’t know how many places I went this year where people said, ‘You’ve got to sign Chris Davis,'” Duquette said. “So I know he’s got a lot of fans in Baltimore that follow the team and love to see his prodigious home runs.”
Davis’ agent, Scott Boras, would not divulge how many teams — if any — were competing with the Orioles to sign Davis.
“You know, when you go to a wedding, you never talk about your girlfriends,” Boras said.
But he knew that Davis and cozy Camden Yards are a wonderful pairing.
“I think the key part was that everyone knew that in this ballpark was built for Chris Davis,” Boras said. “This is where he can execute and be most effective.”
Davis was asked if there was ever a time when he thought his days in Baltimore were over.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “We knew that we have really enjoyed being in Baltimore. For the last four years, that’s really all I had known and we’ve had a lot of success here and it’s just was a comfortable place to be. My family enjoys it here. I think the fact that we knew they were interested obviously made it a little bit easier.”
The return of Davis is the highlight of an offseason in which the Orioles retained three key free agents. Earlier, catcher Matt Wieters accepted the team’s qualifying offer and setup man Darren O’Day signed a four-year, $31 million contract.
Manager Buck Showalter gave credit to owner Peter Angelos, who opened his wallet to make it happen for a team that’s made the playoffs in two of the last three years.
“Knowing Mr. Angelos, I think for the city of Baltimore, he was going to do everything possible to try to keep going,” Showalter said. “I think it was important to him to make sure the city could continue to be proud of these guys. It worked out and we’re excited about it.”
To make room for Davis on the 40-man roster, Baltimore designated utility player Joey Terdoslavich for assignment.