Zach Davies was a very late addition to the Arizona Diamondbacks roster in 2022, not inking a deal with the team until just a few days before the start of the season, the first reports coming out on March 22. At the time, he was looking for a rebound campaign after a less than whelming previous year in Chicago. While he was an ever-present member of the Cubs’ rotation, making 32 starts, he went 6-12, with a 5.78 ERA (73 ERA+), and a FIP that was in the same territory, at 5.45. Both numbers were well in excess of the career figures of 3.79 and 4.18 respectively. Celebrating his 29th birthday, just before pitchers and catchers reported, he was a “buy low” candidate, and that’s exactly what Mike Hazen did.
The pitcher agreed to a one-year deal worth a base amount of $1.5 million, with an additional $2.6 million in potential bonuses, depending on the number of games started (we’ll get to that in a minute). There was then a mutual option for 2023 at the same price, with a $250K buyout if the team declined and Davies exercised it. Zach won only twice in his 27 outings for the Diamondbacks, including an ongoing franchise record streak of 20 starts without victory. But he did indeed post a much improved ERA at 4.09, an ERA+ basically at league average for a starter (98). However, his FIP didn’t decline by the same amount, remaining up at 4.83, largely due to a low strikeout rate.
It is worth nothing that Davies apparently hit all the bonus marks reported to be present in his contract, which capped out at 25 starts, and so would actually have made $4.1 million. That is, obviously, considerably more than the base salary, and is at least in line with what you might expect a league average pitcher to earn, who was worth 0.7 bWAR/0.5 fWAR this year. It’s not clear whether the bonuses applied to the 2023 option, but it all appears to be irrelevant. As we discussed on Saturday, Davies intends to decline his side of the option, but appears open to the possibility of re-signing with the Diamondbacks. It won’t be for $1.75 million: the question is, how high should the team go for Davies?
Looking at the rotation for 2023, we have two slots thoroughly locked in by Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly. There’s then the question of Madison Bumgarner, who will be in the final year of his contract. That trio, along with Davies, were responsible for covering 121 games: the remaining 41 were spread out over ten different starting pitcher, with the results ranging from the unexpectedly good (Drew Jameson and Ryne Nelson combining for seven starts and a 1.48 ERA) to the utterly disastrous (Dallas Keuchel). Other young pitchers, most imminently Brandon Pfaadt, lurk in the wings, potentially able to help in 2023. Signing Davies might indicate the team isn’t fully confident in their ability to hold down a rotation spot.
But should they be confident in Davies? Of the four regular starters this year, he had the worst K:BB ratio, at below two, and his FIP of 4.83 was basically indistinguishable from that of Bumgarner (4.85). Historically, FIP has been a better predictor of future ERA than ERA itself: if so, that number suggests Davies won’t be league average in 2023, and closer to what we got from MadBum. If so, then there’s an argument to be made that, both in terms of direct wins, and by giving the young pitchers experience, the D-backs might be better off letting Zach Davies walk, and letting the likes of Pfaadt get those starts instead. It may all come down to how much Zach wants.
Thus, we have a poll: what Average Annual Value contract would you offer Davies? That’s an amount per year, e.g. a two year, $10 million contract would have an AAV of $5 million. Please feel free to explain your decision in the comments, and also whether it would be a one-year, two-year or longer contract.
What AAV contract would you give Zach Davies?
This poll is closed
Let him walk!