It is common knowledge that the Mets need a starting shortstop, one full-time, power hitting outfielder and, at least, one part-time, platoon type outfielder. These players will come from outside of the organization, and is the subject of much buzz and conjecture around the Mets Blogging universe. The decisions over which players Sandy Alderson and company will bring in to address those problems are some of the most important choices that the Mets front office will be making this offseason. However, another decision just as vital to the clubs future is regarding the resolution of the conundrum that is the Mets first base position.
Why is first base so important? The Mets lack power, plain and simple and first base is supposed to be a position that provides power. This year, Mets first basemen posted the following stat line:
234 AVG 368 SLG 353 OBP 721 OPS 15 HR
That’s putrid. If the Mets truly want to improve next year, those numbers need to be better. Here are some ideas about who will be manning first base for the Mets next year.
It’s no secret that the Mets are going to shop Davis and Duda this winter. I think there is a minimal (1%) chance that a free agent first basemen signs here. The chances of this are slim because I don’t think they’ll trade both players, then sign someone. If both players are not on this team next year, it’s because they either won the Abreu blind bid, or they traded for a first basemen type player. However, in the total long shot case that they get good trades for both players, and are left having to go the free agent route, then one of the myriad of first base options on the market will be brought here. I would probably go with Adam Lind, James Loney or Justin Morneau. All are lefties, which they would need to replace Duda and Davis in the lineup and all offer different positives. Lind is the youngest and has the best power. Morneau, although diminished as a player from what he used to be, is still a solid all around first baseman. Loney is a brilliant fielding first baseman with excellent on base skills. Also, all of them will come pretty cheap on short deals (1 or 2 years with an option year). For anyone who wants to debate Kendrys Morales with me, I just need to say Scott Boras and that discussion will end abruptly.
On to Trumbo. I only mention him because he has been brought up so many times as a Mets target over the past few years. This is due to his power and because the Angels want what the Mets have, young pitching. He’s not an Alderson guy (low OBP) and I don’t think Alderson sacrifices young pitching for him, but I still think there’s a better chance that the Mets have Trumbo starting at first than one of the free agents that’s out there.
Regarding Abreu, I believe that when this FA class is evaluated a few years from now, Abreu will be the difference maker signed for a reasonable price. I’ve never seen him play and I’ve read all of the scouting reports related to his reported weaknesses, so I have no basis for my statement, other than a gut feeling that he will be a legit power hitter in this league. He could also turn into Justin Smoak for all I know, but even with that risk I would be ecstatic if the Mets sign him. Not because I think he’s the next coming of Albert Pujols, but because he’s a young power hitter, which the Mets need and it would signal the baseball world that the Mets are back. Saying all of that, all of the news we’re hearing from sources around the Mets is that they won’t be serious players for Abreu. I hope that’s GM speak so that other teams don’t think the Mets will get involved, but I don’t believe so. Alderson will take a risk on a foreign player, but as a minor league signing, not a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract. I hope I’m proved wrong, but if I really felt that way, I wouldn’t have put 5% next to Abreu’s name.
I included Encarnacion at the last minute because of the rumors that came out today that he might be shopped by the Blue Jays. I’m going to be quick here. Encarnacion is exactly what this team needs and what Alderson looks for in power hitters. Low strike out percentage, high OBP, lot’s of power and a nice contract for the next three years. However, if you look at the players mentioned with Encarnacion that the Blue Jays are shopping, Jose Reyes and Jose Bautista, it’s obvious that it’s much more likely the Blue Jays will trade either one or both of those two as opposed to Encarnacion. The Blue Jays don’t need to trade him and he’s not a salary nightmare. Hence 6%.
That leaves us with our incumbents. I’ve seen a lot of bloggers postulate that either Davis or Duda will be our starting first baseman next year while the other is in AAA as insurance. That’s not happening. One of these guys will be traded. The A’s, Rays, White Sox and Indians all could use cheap, left handed hitters with pop, who can play 1B. The Rays and A’s in particular like high OBP players, of which Duda and Davis both are. But I don’t think it’s just going to be whoever comes up with the best package. I think the Mets will place more value on one or the other in trade discussions with other teams, in essence, making a choice between the two.
It’s an interesting choice. Davis has more upside and is a better defender, but has shown himself to be ridiculously inconsistent on the offensive end:
2010/2011: 271 AVG 819 OPS 11.9% Walk Rate 22.5% SO Rate
2012/2013 1st Half: 185 AVG 610 OPS 9.6% Walk Rate 28.1% SO Rate
2012/2013 2nd Half: 264 AVG 910 OPS 15.7% Walk Rate 21.5% SO Rate
Those numbers show the Ike Davis dilemma. The good Ike has been with us for roughly 69% of his plate appearances, giving all of us hope that we have our first basemen of the future. Yet, he still has to bat the other 31% of the time and those results, as you can see above, have been putrid. If the Mets choose Davis, they’re banking on the fact that he’s closer to the 69% player than the 31% player.
Regarding Duda, I think the Mets know exactly what they have in him; a platoon player who will be average at 1B, hit some home runs and walk a lot. The following stat line is what Duda and Satin did combined in 2013:
AVG: .244 OPS: 771 BB rate: 14% SO Rate: 26.1% HR: 18
Something to be remembered about that line is that it also includes Duda’s numbers against lefties and Satin’s against righties. However, although we can expect Duda’s numbers to increase if his AB’s against lefties are limited, it’s also difficult to believe that Satin will hit as well as he did this year against lefties next year. So, in essence, the above line is probably what you could expect from a strict platoon of Duda and Satin at first base next year, maybe with a few more HR’s.
The question the Mets will ask themselves, being the numbers guys they are, is the following. Should we accept the mediocrity that will be Duda/Satin, since, even in though it is not an excellent answer at First Base, it’s still an improvement over what the Mets got out of the position this year, or do we take a chance that Ike is closer to the 69% player mentioned above than the 31% player?
My thoughts? I think the Mets choose the Duda/Satin platoon. It’s the cheaper option and more predictable. Plus, as long as they protect and promote Allan Dykstra, they’ll have an in house lefty option if Duda fails. In addition, I still believe Ike has more trade value. He hit 32 home runs in 2012, showed improvement in the second half of 2013 and is still young enough that teams looking for a cheap first baseman with high upside will give him a shot and thus give the Mets more in return they’d get for Duda.
I hope that Abreu or Encarnacion is manning first next year. Logic though, tells me otherwise.