Should the Mets (gasp!) keep Ike Davis for 2014?

Ike DavisAt the end of the season, most fans had reached the conclusion that either Ike Davis or Lucas Duda needed to be elsewhere before the start of the 2014 campaign. Fans were not enamored with either player yet a consensus developed that Davis was the one who needed to go. Many fans expected a deal to be completed during the Winter Meetings and while Sandy Alderson was busy, no trades involving a Mets first baseman occurred.

The Mets have added a combined $87.25 million in payroll obligations and conventional wisdom is that if they shed a bit more they can add one more eight-digit contract. The prevailing thought is if the Mets shed Davis and his expected $4-5 million salary, they will be able to add a $12-15 million dollar player in his place.

Therefore the fans’ have developed a tunnel-vision view towards Davis. He struggled last year and his expected arbitration salary will prevent a Stephen Drew-type signing, so let’s trade him regardless of what we get offered in return. In the minds of many, trading Davis has become merely a case of addition by subtraction. The Mets get better with Davis gone so if all they get is a bag of broken bats and a pop-up toaster, who cares?

However, it’s never a good idea to squander assets.

Prior to the start of the 2013 season, we did projections for all of the starters for the Mets. Our official projection for Davis was a .265/.345/.500 line with 31 HR and 95 RBIs. In hindsight, this was an optimistic forecast. However, is there not room between optimism and replacement value? And if Davis is above replacement value – shouldn’t he bring something of value back in a trade?

No one was more frustrated than me with the performance of Davis in 2013. Before the end of April there was a plea from me to send Davis to the minors. Games in May and early June were brutal to watch in large part because of the lousy performance the Mets got from Davis. If someone videotaped my reaction to the news of Davis finally being demoted, no doubt it would feature a few “Hallelujahs!” and it might even have had a little jig thrown in, too.

Yet all along the idea was to send Davis elsewhere not just to get him away from the major league club but also to rehabilitate him back into being a useful piece for the Mets again in the future. In his last 54 games of the 2012 season, Davis recorded a .265/.370/.529 line – and this came with a .277 BABIP. That’s pretty valuable production.

It’s my firm belief that player still exists. It may just be that the current Mets coaching staff has no idea how to coax that performance from him again. It’s also my belief that Duda could produce numbers in this range over a full season, too. It just seems easier to unlock the secret for Duda than for Davis.

Put Duda at first base, tell him the job’s his and leave him alone. But what’s the secret for Davis? Is it just a matter of him returning to his “bear defecating in the woods” stance that was so successful down the stretch in 2012? The same one he abandoned last year? Anyone with the answer – please send it to Terry Collins ASAP, as everything Collins tried with Davis in 2013 had rotten results.

But when Davis returned from Las Vegas last year, he was a different hitter. His numbers look great in that span for two reasons. First is because he finally stopped swinging at pitches a foot out of the strike zone. Second was that he had good fortune with his BABIP.

This one time, BABIP should take a back seat for a moment. While it’s silly to pretend that it didn’t play a big role in the outcomes, it should not overshadow the role that not swinging at every breaking ball in the dirt played in Davis’ revival. This was an adjustment that the MLB coaches could not get Davis to make.

Fans understandably have concerns that this plate discipline, much like his September 2012 batting stance, won’t last over an offseason. That seems like a legitimate worry. But is it enough of a worry to suggest trading a guy who has extended stretches the past two seasons with .850+ OPS samples for … garbage – just to be rid of a $5 million salary?

It would be nice no longer to have to worry about the Davis or Duda question. Closure in this regard would be a good thing. Yet it’s not so desirable to give up an asset for no meaningful return. Alderson is right to hang onto Davis as long as the offers he gets are so underwhelming. Perhaps with his volatility, he’s not worth a starting OFer or an MLB-ready SP#5. But he has more value than your standard C-level minor league prospect and we should be disappointed if Alderson lets him go for that little.

The easiest way for the Mets to receive value for a rehabilitated Davis is by trading him for something worthwhile. Another way would be to stick with him, continue to work on his pitch recognition and reap the rewards of an .850 OPS guy. Just because the former is the preferred option does not make the latter choice inconceivable.

There’s an old baseball adage of where sometimes the best trades are the ones you don’t make. Wouldn’t it make perfect sense – in the context of the roller coaster ride of Davis’ MLB career – that after the Mets tried all winter to give him away that he came back and put up a monster year in Queens?

26 comments for “Should the Mets (gasp!) keep Ike Davis for 2014?

  1. December 14, 2013 at 4:56 pm

    I’m of the opinion that Alderson may just trade whichever one fetches the most in return, unless there’s something we’re all missing here.

    Also, I think you hit on something important with this statement, Brian: “This was an adjustment that the MLB coaches could not get Davis to make.”

    I’m starting to get concerned that the team is just not able to get the most out of their players using their organizational hitting philosophy. Some players just may not be able to adjust, but that’s ok. Who’s to say that all of your players need to be carbon copies at the plate? It may even be detrimental. In fact, check out this quote from HoJo about Ike:

    “My jaw dropped when I saw him swing the bat,”’ HoJo said. “I couldn’t believe it. He didn’t look anything like the guy I remembered. I saw about eight things right away.”

    Maybe take that with a grain of salt, but concerning nonetheless.

    • December 14, 2013 at 9:02 pm

      My feeling is that Davis could benefit tremendously if he actually followed what Hudgens preached.

      The philosophy is to take pitches until you can get one you can drive for extra bases. Yet Davis has a first swing percentage of 35% in the majors last year. The MLB average was 29%. Juan Lagares, generally considered not to have great strike zone judgment, only had a 23% first swing percentage.

      Anecdotally, Ike just seemed to fall behind in the count and then made up his mind the way to get out of it was to keep swinging – regardless of where the pitch was. It’s my opinion that Ike wants to succeed on his terms and it won’t get better – regardless of who the manager and pitching coach is – until this changes.

      Edit: Too funny. That should say “hitting coach”

  2. Metsense
    December 14, 2013 at 5:15 pm

    Editor Alert – By line says Brian Joura should say Joe Vasile 🙂

    If the Mets can improve at another position (preferably SS), and the reason they can’t is because of $3.5 M then by all means trade (salary dump) Davis for a prospect and take the money and improve the team. They can only play one first baseman at a time!
    If that option doesn’t exist and the Mets can’t get any value for Davis, let him fight it out with Duda in Spring Training and may the best man (not the best paid man) win.
    If the Mets end up cutting Davis at the end of Spring Training because he lost to Duda it will cost the Mets $600,000. Sending him to Vegas is another option.

    • Herb
      December 14, 2013 at 9:11 pm

      Very good article. Points well stated. One thing I might differ with. You said “Fans were not enamored with either player yet a consensus developed that Davis was the one who needed to go.” I speak to a lot of fans on various blogs and message boards, and my conclusion is that the majority of fans have concluded that Davis has the higher upside and is the one we should keep. It seems that the consensus developed primarily in the FO and fans, sensing that, are reconciled to the inevitable. I have a strong feeling that the reason the FO is more intent on dealing Ike is that they realize he will bring the better return.

      It would be an absolute shame if our ownership and general manager refrained from signing the player they wanted, the one they believed would be the best addition to the team, over a mere $3.8 million. Frankly, I don’t believe that to be the case. Obviously, we are talking about Stephen Drew. I believe the sticking point with Drew is years and not some artificial, self imposed salary cap. The pursuit of Drew is nowhere near over. The real question is by how much do the Mets need to outbid the Red Sox in order to get Drew to come to NY. They went an extra year with both Granderson and Colon, so they may very well wind up doing that with Drew too.

      • December 15, 2013 at 8:24 am

        If the Mets have to outbid Boston for Drew then let him go back to Boston where he may win another World Series. I may disagree with SA on a lot of things but the idea is to pay what a player is worth. Drew is not a game changer. He’s just a good shortstop and an upgrade. But is he worth 45 million for 3 years? Absolutely not.

        • Herb
          December 15, 2013 at 12:20 pm

          Pete – First let me say that I am not one who advocates signing Drew. I balieve there are better options out there on the trade market. I think either Brad Miller or Nick Franklin of Seattle could be had, and either could be a superior SS, controllable for the next 6 years. Thaat said, my point is that I believe Sandy covets Drew, and if he really wants him he will have to outbid Boston. That doesn’t mean he will have to give him a higher AAV. I don’t think the Sox want to go more than 2 years, so if Sandy matches their $ with 3 years he could get Drew. Matter of fact, if the Sox offer 2 years/$30 million Sandy could counter 3/$39 and possibly get him. This off season chess game is fascinating.

  3. Chris F
    December 14, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    At age 27 we are asking “who is Ike Davis”? Age 27. He will be 28 before we could start him again with some sort of answer. He’s had 4 years to tell us—and you can box up the the valley fever excuse and mail it to the North Pole in my opinion. The agony of watching him “hit” is more than I can bear any more. He should be a counted on veteran by now, not some guy struggling to make the team by this point…all it tells me, like I said previously is that he should have been non tendered. He’s not an every day mlb-level 1B. As far as the post demotion production, the power so needed out of batting clean up never materialized. I’d trade him for anything we can get and let our other non mlb level 1B guys dog it out in Spring.

    • steevy
      December 14, 2013 at 6:06 pm

      What Chris said plus if they keep him TC will play him and bat him cleanup no matter how lame his production is.

  4. Scott Ferguson
    December 14, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    Alderson is doing the right thing. If a team offers him something good, Ike goes. If not, and he gets nothing for Duda, they figure it out in spring training. I just have a feeling the Brewers are going to pony up and the Mets will get something good. Then we’ll see about shortstop.

    • AJ
      December 15, 2013 at 2:37 pm

      Yes to this ^

      It’s frustrating to wait and wonder, but the only viable option in this case is to forget about it until spring and then see who’s on first. I don’t think Alderson is going to give away anything.

  5. Jerry Grote
    December 14, 2013 at 8:00 pm

    As with playing hardball over Jose Reyes, I believe there is value even if Ike Davis is released with nothing to be gained.

    “We are not in the business of giving players away”. Thus, the importance of credibility. If you want to make Sabean whither and give you Wheeler, if you want AA to include what turns out to be the best young arm in our system … you need to stand your ground.

  6. Jim OMalley
    December 14, 2013 at 8:10 pm

    Anything can happen between now and opening day. Any sort of injury can result in a trade dialogue opening up. The schedule isn’t too conducive to carrying Davis and Duda though into the regular season. We only have three games against an AL team in April (Angels) and four games in May (Yankees ).

  7. Herb
    December 14, 2013 at 11:28 pm

    Alderson should be making a case for Duda with Pittsburgh. A Lucas Duda/Gaby Sanchez platoon is by far more effective than either Duda or Davis, (or Sanchez, for that matter) alone. Sanchez has always murdered lefties, but unfortunately 3/4 of his at bats are against righties.

  8. Joey Vito
    December 15, 2013 at 1:03 am

    I can not take another season with Ike Davis manning 1b please god no. I honestly think Duda will be more effective. Duda has been jerked around constantly while Ike has been given every chance to succeed.

    • mikeb
      December 15, 2013 at 9:55 pm

      I agree, enough already with Ike. He’s had enough chances, and I see his swing as way too long. Sure, he had better numbers post LV, but he also had no power. Duda is not perfect, but his swing is quicker. He deserves a chance. Then again, Flores is hitting .390 in the Venezuelan winter league, so with Satin and him, if Duda doesn’t work out, there are other options.

      • December 16, 2013 at 1:55 am

        Any results from Winter ball especially in Latin countries has to be taken with a touch of skepticism. While the batters are major league hitters most pitchers are AA or AAA. Flores is not a first base man. Doesn’t have the necessary power numbers associated with the position. Give Sandy the benefit of the doubt on this one. He’s not going to trade Ike for the sake of trading him. Just have to wait and see. Sometimes the best trades are the ones you don’t make.

  9. Royhobbs7
    December 15, 2013 at 1:27 am

    As bad as Ike looked last year, we all know that as soon as he is traded, he is going to succeed; perhaps even as well as another Davis (I.e., Chris).
    Three years ago, Chris Davis looked every bit as pathetic as Ike did last year. There are other comparisons. Wouldn’t Texas like to have Chris Davis back now!?
    As Frank Cashen once promulgated: Don’t trade a player when his value has diminished. IMHO, it will be a huge mistake if Ike is traded away. He may not produce eye-popping hitting stats this year, but no matter who the Mets might acquire by trading Ike will not bring us to the playoffs.
    So maybe we need to bite the bullet with Ike and hope that some of what we saw late last year, as well as what we saw from Ike in 2010-12 will reemerge in 2015 and beyond.

  10. Royhobbs7
    December 15, 2013 at 1:33 am

    Ike = Still has big upside. Remember, he virtually hit 30 HRs in half a season (2012).
    Lucas = At best, we’ll get a little better than we’ve seen.

    • December 15, 2013 at 8:09 am

      Davis – 1,711 PA with a .768 OPS
      Duda — 1,282 PA with a .766 OPS

      I’m not sure why Davis, with nearly one year of extra PA in the majors under his belt, has more upside than Duda. Also, Duda has put this up while mostly playing out of position. If I were to bet on one of them still having more upside than the other, my money would be on Duda.

      • Metsense
        December 15, 2013 at 8:59 am

        Mine too.
        Davis is the poster boy of Chris F’s Mets Stockholm Syndrome.
        Garrett Jones signs with Marlins for 2/7.75, with 316/458/774 career numbers and 6 years of 15+ HR with a high of 27 HR and was set free by Pitt while the Mets hope for another 31 HR at 3.5 M from Ike. It may work, after all isn’t Ollie Perez a decent LOOGY now. Sure, let’s wait. Why not. Keep the roster spot open for the second coming of Ike.
        So Ike does it somewhere else, and Reyes wins another batting title, and Carlos Gomez a gold glove and Ollie Perez a fireman of the year. So what, just move on.

  11. December 15, 2013 at 1:34 am

    In order to trade Ike you need a team that is looking for a first baseman. Obvious? Yes. But who is left out there? Pittsburgh? San Diego? Minnesota? I think he would have to be part of a packaged deal in order to get something of value. Then again what would SA be getting back in return? I would of liked to have seen a trade with Colorado but they just signed Morneau.

  12. eraff
    December 15, 2013 at 8:11 am

    I believe they tendered him before having their budget adjusted from above. He’s not a bad 4 million dollar gamble….it just seems that it’s 4 million that they assumed was available for for gambling, but now it’s not.

    Long swing…..lot’s of moving parts…..statistical misery that says it’s a problem. $4 million salary. That’s a tough nugget to trade for!

    If they cut him, is the obligation the arbitrator’s award, or is most of that non-guaranteed?

    • December 15, 2013 at 9:01 am

      “The panel, without opinion, awards the player a one-year, non-guaranteed contract at one salary or the other. If the player is cut within 16 days before the season begins, he is entitled only to 30 days’ termination pay. If the player is cut during spring training but after the 16th day before the season begins, he is entitled only to 45 days’ termination pay.”

  13. metsronaut
    December 15, 2013 at 11:27 am

    We have no backup plan at 1B, and cannot afford another hotel. Duda is not a professional level ballplayer, certainly not a starter – – send him to Guam. Josh is a great benchwarmer who can pinch hit frequently and fill in at multiple positions.

    If we have no other plan, and we do not, keep Ike, he is cheap and with other professionals in the lineup, could recapture his ability to hit. I think it is worth a shot, and we should focus on true areas of need – – shortstop and a relief pitcher!

    Bring Stephen Drew to town, he is clearly he best choice, allow us to keep all of our top pitching prospects, will be our leadoff hitter, and is affordable irrespective of budget matters – – no need to move Murphy!!!

  14. December 15, 2013 at 12:59 pm

    If you sign Drew someone has to go. Met payroll will reach 100 million if they sign him.

  15. DD
    December 16, 2013 at 11:53 am

    Keep Ike!

    The man can hit; he can hit a baseball over the Washington Monument. It is up to the Mets to get the work out of him. But if he reaches even 80% of his potential, he’s the best option on the market; and the Mets become a very different team.

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