Sports At Large: Will Santa Make It Rain For The Orioles And The Ravens?

Dec 22, 2015

Santa's Mail
Credit James Tworow via flickr

Believe it or not, the guys who run your local sports teams, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome and Orioles vice president Dan Duquette have their wish lists too. And despite the fact that their sports are different, Duquette and Newsome are hoping for similar things under their trees: an influx of talent.

While that jolly guy in the red suit might have what the tenants of South Baltimore’s ballparks need at his workshop, his sleigh won’t get it here. Not unless it’s packed with lots of green cash. Of the two teams, the need is most acute with the Orioles.

Maybe you’ve heard that they’re trying to resign their free agent first baseman Chris Davis. Davis, who has led the majors in home runs in two of the last three seasons, has reportedly been offered a seven-year, $154 million contract from the Orioles to stay. The proposed deal has subsequently been pulled from the table, but the mere fact that the Orioles even made such an offer is shocking to many Charm City baseball observers.  The Orioles have a reputation as a team that tosses around dimes like they’re manhole covers. The team has rarely placed itself in the running for big-name free agent talent and Davis’ contract offer is nearly double what the team’s current highest paid player, outfielder Adam Jones, is making. This despite the fact that baseball’s finances have never been better, Orioles attendance has topped 2.1 million in each of the last four years and the team has a dual revenue stream from its MASN television network, which draws both advertising cash and cable subscriber fees.

Even if Davis leaves for a bigger paycheck elsewhere, the Orioles history suggests that they are not likely to take the money they would have paid him and use it in other places to get, say, starting pitching.

Meanwhile, the Ravens’ future cash crunch has a different root cause, namely the NFL’s draconian hard salary cap, which blocks teams from exceeding a proscribed universal team salary, even to resign their own players. It’s been well documented that the Ravens need quarterback Joe Flacco to play nice and restructure his contract so the team won’t take a massive salary cap hit. 

But there’s a new complication on the horizon. The Ravens’ current 4-10 mark is among the worst in the NFL, with losses to Pittsburgh and Cincinnati expected in the final two games this year. A 4-12 record would likely get them a top five first round draft pick next year, which may cost another $20 million.

At this rate, the Orioles and Ravens may find themselves resorting to the approach Charlie Brown’s sister, Sally, suggested in a Charlie Brown Christmas. In her letter to Santa, Sally Brown urged him to make it easy on himself and to just send money, namely tens and twenties. Ozzie Newsome and Dan Duquette may be signing off on that too.