Former Oriole Chris Davis Is the New Bobby Bonilla, At Least for This Season

The salary for Davis, who retired last year citing a hip injury, is taking up more than one-third of Baltimore's $58 million payroll

Chris Davis walks to the dugout after striking out against the Nationals
Chris Davis walks to the dugout after striking out against the Nationals.
Getty Images

Approximately three years ago, Chris Davis of the Orioles stepped to the plate at Fenway Park and snapped his record-setting hitless streak of 54 at-bats with a single off of Red Sox right-hander Rick Porcello. That April hit was the first for Davis since the previous September and snapped a cold streak of epic proportions.

“Obviously I’ve been looking forward to it for a while,” Davis said afterward. “But there’s no way to really put into words kind of what I was feeling when I looked back at our bench and saw the guys going crazy.”

Though Davis announced his retirement in August 2021 citing a lingering hip injury that kept him out all of last season following surgery to repair a labrum, the 35-year-old has maintained a connection to Baltimore’s bench as he is still collecting a salary from the Orioles for 2022, the final year of his seven-year, $161 million contract.

Since he was forced into retirement because of an injury, Davis is still eligible to collect more than $20 million this season, an amount that accounts for more than one-third of Baltimore’s $58 million payroll. Davis, who had three straight sub-.200 yearly batting averages before his retirement and last had a “good” year in 2016 when he hit .221 with 38 homers and a major-league-leading 219 strikeouts, never lived up to his contract when he was playing. Now that he’s not even on the team and is still being paid more than any Oriole who is actually playing baseball, the deal looks even worse. Like shades of Bobby Bonilla worse.

Thanks to deferred payments from his 2016 contract, Davis is set to receive $42 million in deferred payments in a 15-year period from 2023 to 2037. After collecting his full $23 million salary in 2022, Davis will receive $9.16 million annually from 2023 to 2025, $3.5 million from 2026 to 2032 and $1.4 million from 2033 until 2037, as noted by Spotrac. By the time he is officially off Baltimore’s payroll, Davis will have turned 51.

That means Davis will stop being paid by Baltimore two years after Bonilla, who has gotten a check from the Mets for $1,193,248.20 on July 1 every year since 2011 and will keep getting his annual payout until 2035, stops getting paid by New York. Bonilla hasn’t played in in MLB since 2001.

Amazingly, there’s another former star slugger who is still raking in the bucks even though it’s been more than a decade since he took the field: Ken Griffey Jr.

The Cincinnati Reds, who are run by some very smart and qualified people, are still paying the 52-year-old star approximately $3.6 million annually in deferred payments thanks to a contract he signed in 2000, per The Washington Post. Griffey, who retired in 2010, started getting the payments a year before his retirement and will get them until 2024. It’s not quite as bad as the situation with Davis, but only five members of the 2022 Reds are in line to get paid more than the 1997 American League MVP.

This season, the average salary in the major leagues was $4.4 million on opening day, according to The Associated Press. Mets pitcher Max Scherzer leads the majors with a record salary of $43.3 million, more money than all the current players on the Orioles make combined.

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