FROM MY RECLINER, NJ – The New York Mets traded Ike Davis to the Pittsburgh Pirates. It’s no secret the Mets have been shopping the first baseman, General Manager Sandy Alderson said as much at the start of the off season. Davis had never truly established himself as a quality starter, and the team seemed more invested in the success of a Lucas Duda-Josh Satin platoon.
What was shocking about the trade was the timing. Alderson scoffed at trading Davis during the off season because what was being offered. Like a true Jewish mother, no one was quite good enough for his boy. Then, just a few weeks into the season, Alderson ships Davis off to Pittsburgh for Zach Thornton — a reliever they could’ve had for nothing during the Rule 5 draft — and a PTBNL. So what changed with the Mets and Pirates only a few weeks into the season to prompt this move?
It likely wasn’t anything to do with the Mets. The team couldn’t be worried about Ike’s value diminishing. Prior to the trade this was Davis’ line:
.208 BA/.367 OBP/1HR/5RBI 1 2B and 4K/6BB (24 at-bats)
He also had a supremely unlucky BABIP of .211. Sure the .208 average looks bad, but the BABIP screams small sample size. So what happens? In one game with the Pirates, Davis raises his numbers to .259/.412. Those numbers are even more encouraging when you look at how he played at the end of last season. After being added to the major league team in August he slashed:
.290/.468/3HR/8RBI/ 7 2B and 17K/24BB
Lucas Duda did have a solid start to his season. Current numbers: .269/.356/3HR/9RBI 1 2B (52 at-bats)
But that’s with an ugly 16K/5BB, and his career numbers don’t offer much to get excited about. His slashline is .247/.356 and he’s never hit more than 15 homeruns in a season. The idea that Duda’s play allowed the Mets to trade Davis is laughable at best.
Which brings up the bigger question: why not try to trade Duda? Davis was a first-round pick who hit 30 homeruns in a season, and is also a potential gold-glover at first base, while Duda isn’t exactly what you’d call an athlete. Duda’s personality fails to inspire much confidence either. Just watch this Mets Christmas Card:
Look how miserable and nervous he looks. Hell he needed Justin “Instantly Cut” Turner to accompany him. And now he’s the starting first baseman for the New York Mets.
So if Davis is the better player and has more upside (and likely a mensch), why was he traded? It’s clear Alderson had no faith either Duda or Davis was turning into a star in New York. Duda, because…well do I really need to explain any further? And Davis because he’s a head case whose struggled with the media and struggled to get over the Mendoza Line for most of his career. The difference is, while Davis had trade value, Duda…
And to be honest, that would be quite a coup for the Mets. Sandy would win Executive of the Year for that one. So if Sandy didn’t believe in either one, he was trading the guy who could get something in return.
But the timing means the impetus was likely on the Pirates end. It’s certainly reasonable. After a surprising playoff berth last season, they’re below .500 and haven’t gotten great contributions from first base.
The speculation is the PTNBL is a Pirates’ draft pick from 2013, which is the reason he’s got to be named later — draft picks can’t be traded until a year after the draft. So, if that’s the case, it’ll be June by the time we find out how much the Mets got for Davis.
If it’s anything outside of first-rounders Austin Meadows and Reese McGuire, the Mets made a mistake. No one else in that draft even cracks the Top 20 of Pirates prospects. It seems unlikely Alderson would accept that when he held on to Davis after receiving lesser offers over the winter, but you never know in baseball.
The point, at the end of the day, is the Mets have one of the worst lineups in baseball. Curtis Granderson and Chris Young haven’t done much to change that. Davis was one of the few players on the team with true upside. He’s had real success at the major league level after all. That’s more than a lot of Mets’ batters can say.
While his start wasn’t earth-shattering this year, he didn’t look lost. Last season he looked hopeless and swung at everything. This season, coupled with his improved approach at the end of last year, gave reason for optimism. Now, in the hitter-friendly confines of PNC Bank Park, it won’t be shocking to see Davis match his career-high of 30 home runs. If he does, and all the Mets got was a low-level prospect, it’ll be a huge failure.
*Update: Davis hit a Grand Slam after the writing of this piece. SMH