The Mets announced on Friday, April 04, 2014 that Lucas Duda will be the team’s starting first baseman, adding greater confusion to the first base question that has been following the team all winter and through spring training. The announcement is another strange turn in the debacle that the front office has made of the first base situation and hints just a little bit of conspiracy.
Just take a minute to think about the timeline. Rumors began to abound early in the offseason that the Mets preferred Duda to the former first baseman of the future, Ike Davis. The Mets made no secret that they were shopping Davis throughout the offseason and leaks got out that there appeared to have been a trade offer from the Rays involving Matt Joyce for Davis. In addition to the Rays, reports swirled that the Mets were additionally in talks with the Rockies, Pirates, Orioles and Brewers about Davis. Sandy Alderson attempted on multiple occasions to say that Duda was also on the trading block and that multiple teams had asked about both first baseman, yet no perspective trades or suitors were ever presented for Duda. The Mets repeatedly stated that they wanted to have clarification on the situation during the winter, then in spring training, then in some protracted try out during the regular season. Prior to the first game of the season, Terry Collins came out and said that Duda would have played left field in place of Chris Young if not for the ham string pull he’d suffered during the preseason, leading to speculation that Duda would get at bat’s in the outfield so that the Mets could adequately evaluate which (Davis or Duda) was going to be a part of the team moving forward. Now, a scant three games later, Duda has been named the starter.
What makes this decision so suspicious is that Duda did nothing to earn the job. Duda does not have a hit in the regular season and did not hit will in the preseason. Duda was hurt much of the preseason, so it makes little sense to just hand a healing player a job that he did nothing to receive. What made sense, if The Mets were going to keep both players on the roster, was to give them some level of even playing time and see what happened. Now, presumably, Davis will linger on the bench or be sent to the minor leagues, giving no clarification to the situation outside of the fact that the Mets just seemed to choose Duda.
Another oddity lies in the trade talks. If the Mets really weren’t going to have a competition for the first base job, then why wasn’t Davis traded? Just think about the reported Joyce deal for a second. Acquiring Joyce, and his arbitration eligible salary, would have been a cheaper version of Young and would have allowed the Mets to platoon in left field, so that they could start Juan Lagares and Curtis Granderson every day and still get at bat’s for Eric Young Jr. Plus, it would have handled the first base situation and given the job, by default to Duda, which all the signs say after the decision made today, was the Mets plan anyway. Now Davis has even less trade value, which will fall further with a minor league demotion or a long term benching. So, why hold onto him? There isn’t a good answer.
On top of that, for a team so concerned with how they are viewed by the outside world, this situation has been a disaster. The whole thing, from start to finish, makes little sense and makes it appear as if the team doesn’t know what it’s doing.
When you add this into a winless season so far through the first three games, it makes the decision appear that much more conspiratorial. Are we to believe that this was an honest decision made by evaluation or that it was a preordained decision that the Mets are now springing in the hopes that zero and three is put on the back burner as the team finally makes the long awaited first base decision? It’s extremely hard to believe that a choice can be made after two abbreviated spring trainings and three regular season games in which neither player has stood out in anyway.
The only conclusion possible is that Duda was the Mets man from the start of the offseason. Basically, the Mets screwed up. If Duda was the man at the heart of the conspiracy, then Davis should have been dealt long ago. Instead, they’ve damaged both players trade value and the credibility of the organization’s decision making ability.
Who knows? The way this story has played out, Duda could be dropped from the job next Friday, or Josh Satin could all of a sudden be named the starter. Maybe Allan Dysktra will get promoted, dropping Duda and Davis to the waiver wire.
In all honestly, this situation needs to be over and not just with one guy being named the starter over the other. One needs to be on the team and one doesn’t, period. If it’s Duda, then the Mets should jettison Davis and admit afterwards that they mishandled the situation. I’m not going to hold my breath for that press conference.