Over the past month the Mets have looked like a different team. The addition of Eric Young, Jr. provided some life to an otherwise ghastly outfield. The move has been celebrated amongst most of the mainstream media, from Mike Francesca, Boomer and Carton to the Mets blogosphere, including Metsblog.com. Most of the staff here at Mets360 seem to like the acquisition too. Young coming to the Mets signifies that the team is heading in the right direction. Unfortunately, such is not the case when it comes to Lucas Duda.
The Mets outfield has been at least passable from the second half of June leading into this month, and the old maxim “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” should be applied when it comes to putting a terrible defender like Duda — who has a -12.6 UZR this season — into the the outfield. Duda is simply not a viable outfielder; he’s a first baseman that for the past two years that the Mets have tried to pass off as an outfielder. Now that the Mets outfield situation looks better, it’s time to declare two things: (a) Lucas Duda should be a first baseman; and (b) Alderson has to decide between Duda and Ike Davis as the first baseman for years to come.
The decision is a difficult one, because Duda has a mellow offensive profile. He will draw a ton of walks, and he has shown flashes of moderate to high power. However, moving Duda to first base does not mean that all his negative UZR values will go away. He will still be a below-average defender at the position. Eno Sarris noted in an article that players like Adam Dunn and Shawn Green, who have returned to first base after horrible defensive careers in the outfield, have been worth about -5 UZR. So, there is the possibility that Duda could follow this pattern. However, even if Duda’s defensive value improved by that much he would still probably only be worth between one to two wins above replacement.
On the flip side, Alderson has Ike Davis, who is/was a fan favorite. He’s known for his 30 home run potential, and above-average defense. However, he had serious early season struggles last year, and has had a complete inability to be a productive baseball player this year. Davis has struggled a lot, and if it weren’t for the potential he has shown in the past, such as his fantastic rookie campaign in which he put up a WAR of 3.1 or his ability to turn around his awful start to the season last year, he probably wouldn’t have a starting job. The main problem with Davis’s success in the past is that it is keeping Alderson from trading him. There is always the possibility that Davis finds his groove after being traded away, but that’s the risk you run with trading any struggling player.
Two things have been established: Duda should no longer be in left field, and Duda and Davis should not be on the same roster. It’s time for Alderson to decide whether he wants a decent bat with terrible defense in Duda, or a struggling Ike Davis with a chance of him re-discovering his potential.