The Brewers decided to pursue Davis at the expense of payroll flexibility, and now project to begin 2010 in the $85 million range. General manager Doug Melvin could safely predict that he's finished with "impact" free agent additions, but left open the possibility that a future trade could free some space.
Davis, according to Melvin, warranted stretching the payroll.
"We thought that if the price was right and the individual was right, we would do it," Melvin said. "[Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio] was on board with that. We looked at all of the pitchers who were left available, and Doug was willing to come back here while taking a discount from last year's [$8.75 million] salary.
"You can count on him to give you a lot of games and give you a chance to win," Melvin said. "Sometimes he pitches into trouble, but he gets out of trouble. I've heard that [former Brewers pitcher] Pete Vuckovich was like that in the past. Davis will get into trouble, but he has a couple of 'out' pitches to escape."
Davis, 34, went 9-14 with a 4.12 ERA in 34 starts with Arizona last season. He made 22 quality starts -- defined as outings of six or more innings while allowing three or fewer earned runs -- which ranked third among National League left-handers behind fellow Brewers pickup Randy Wolf (24 quality starts last season with the Dodgers) and the Astros' Wandy Rodriguez (23). Davis has made 118 quality starts since 2004, seventh in the Major Leagues and fourth among lefties.
With Davis and fellow free agent acquisition Randy Wolf in tow, the Brewers have six established starting pitchers. Young right-hander Yovani Gallardo and lefties Wolf and Davis figure to fill the first three spots in the rotation, leaving right-handers Dave Bush and Jeff Suppan and left-hander Manny Parra to vie for the other two spots.
Melvin said he wasn't concerned about the prospect of fielding three left-handed starting pitchers in a National League Central that features right-handed sluggers like Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday of the Cardinals, Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez of the Cubs and Carlos Lee of the Astros.
"[Wolf and Davis] can both get right-handed hitters out," Melvin said. "The Phillies had J.A. Happ and Cliff Lee and [Cole] Hamels, so it's been done before. It depends on the quality of the pitchers. It's not a big concern."
Davis gets a $4.25 million base salary in 2010 and his contract calls for a $6.5 million mutual option in 2011. If the club declines its half of the option, Davis gets a $1 million buyout. He can also earn $1 million in makeable incentives in each season of the deal: $125,000 each for 180 innings, 185 innings, 190 innings and 195 innings and an additional $125,000 each for 28 starts, 29 starts, 30 starts and 32 starts.
All told, if Davis pitches both seasons for the Brewers and hits all of his incentives, he could earn $12.75 million. Davis, who married his fiancée, Chantelle in November -- fellow Brewer Chris Capuano was a groomsman -- said he took the best available offer.
"I know it's not a guaranteed second year, but the way I look at it is I'll stay healthy and they'll pick up that second year and I'll have a chance to make all the money," Davis said. "I would have held out for more if I was sure that more was out there. Here, I have a chance to make some money and I know I'll be happy."
It's Davis' second stint with the Brewers. He revived his career in Milwaukee in 2003, a strange season split between the Rangers, Blue Jays and Brewers. All told, Davis was 37-36 with a 3.92 ERA in parts of four seasons with the Brewers before a November 2006 trade to Arizona, where he went 28-34 with a 4.22 ERA from 2007-2009.
Along the way he remained durable, logging at least 33 starts and 192 innings in five of the past six seasons. The exception was 2008, when Davis missed the start of the season to get treatment for thyroid cancer.
Today, Davis undergoes annual blood tests and takes medication but is cancer free.