On the surface, all signs have been pointing toward Wade Davis signing somewhere else. The Cubs don’t like to pay top dollar for closers and Davis solidified his elite status with a stellar 2017 campaign. Throw in all the other teams with both need for a closer and the willingness to pay for one and it seems like a done deal that he’s gone for good.
Except that a few variables may be shifting such that Davis’s market will fall to a level the Cubs would be comfortable with. The Rockies, often viewed as the most aggressive team in the high-leverage-reliever market, have already agreed with Bryan Shaw and Jake McGee, and it was believed that they were close to bringing Greg Holland back as well.
The Cardinals are another team known to covet Davis, though it’s always been more about landing a closer in general. With lots of expendable outfield and pitching prospect depth, the Cards might be more willing to work with the Rays on a deal for Alex Colomé than to pay for an older option.
Then you’ve got the Nationals, who have two very highly paid ace-level pitchers and may be pursuing a third in Jake Arrieta. What’s more, they’ve engaged with Scott Boras on talks of an extension for Bryce Harper, which would add a fair bit to the ol’ payroll. Until some of those things are resolved, it’s hard to see them spending on Davis.
The Diamondbacks, Twins, and Angels are looking for a stopper as well, so we’re still talking about a pretty robust market for Davis’s talents. But even with all the writing on the wall apparently saying otherwise, Bruce Levine says Davis returning to the Cubs is “still in play.”
“I would encourage people to keep their eyes on Davis and the Cubs,” Levine told 670 The Score’s Spiegel and Parkins Wednesday afternoon.
He added more in a subsequent column (linked above), writing that the pitcher would likely have to make some concessions in order to make his return a reality.
For Davis to return to the Cubs, it’d have to likely be for fewer years than he originally hoped to receive in free agency. The Cubs want Davis back in the fold if the contract makes sense in dollars and guaranteed years, a source said.
The last sentence there is kind of a given, as the Cubs have said all along that they don’t overpay for closers and that a reunion with Davis is understandably limited as a result. The same is true for the years of the plan, as it doesn’t make sense to sign a 32-year-old closer to a long deal.
What’s kind of eyebrow-raising, though, is when Levine writes that a deal would have to be for fewer years, plural. That means only two years at most if we use the four years at around $15 million AAV that most have been estimating. Demand could push that higher, of course, but we’ll stick with the standard assumptions.
It’s very plausible that Davis could take sort of a hometown discount, though it’d really only come to that if his market deteriorates to the extent that it makes sense for him to do so. This is the same thing we’ve talked about in regard to Arrieta, who is going to be asking for quite a payday this winter.
I wouldn’t count on a return, but I think the odds are better now than they were even at the start of the Winter Meetings.