Extending Lucas Duda now is questionable

Lucas DudaAfter emerging as the starting first basemen after being placed in a platoon within a platoon, it has been reported by David Lennon (of Newsday) that the Mets are hoping to extend Lucas Duda. The 29-year-old had a breakout season last year, hitting 30 homers complimented by a .253 average with a .349 OBP, and was rewarded for it this offseason, by signing a one-year deal worth $4.2 million. Even though last season was impressive, is it a smart decision for the Mets to extend Duda?

The main reason for extending Duda is to lock him up past his free agency date, while controlling his salary throughout his arbitration years. Duda is set to become a free agent in 2018, when he would be 32 years old. This would be towards the end of Duda’s “prime” if we were going by age. The Mets can get a couple of good seasons out of Duda by extending him, but there are still some question marks to Duda’s game.

Everyone around the league knows about his power, and he is amongst the best power hitters in the game, but he struggled against left-handed pitchers last season, hitting .180 in 111 at-bats. The team should be willing to let Duda hit against left-handed pitching early this season, and see how he fairs against southpaws. If he performs well, the team should pay him starter’s money, however if he struggles, then it seems that Duda would be a great platoon player.

The sample size has not been tremendous. Although he did not play everyday in 2012 and 2013, he hit .239 and .223 when he did play. Getting on base is not the problem on the offensive side, but his average is worrisome. We have had a first baseman in Ike Davis, who hit .264 in his rookie campaign, hit 32 homers in 2012, and was traded two years later. After one impressive season, who knows what is in store for the future? Will other teams make the adjustments in order to keep the ball in the yard when Duda comes up, or will Lucas be able to provide more power to the Mets lineup this season?

It is also easy to be a skeptic of negotiating a contract extension, as the team drafted teenager Dominic Smith in the 2011 draft with their first round. Smith seems to be a decent hitter, but has not showcased much power throughout his young minor league career. MLB.com ranks Smith as the 4th best first base prospect in the minors, the 10th best prospect in the Mets system, and predicts that he will make his MLB debut in 2017. If the team does extend Duda, it would enable the Mets to give Smith more seasoning at the minors, but could potentially block him from starting in the big leagues. If the organization has given up on Smith, then extending Duda makes sense, but it seems too early to give up on Smith.

The Mets do have money to sign players to extensions, as the only money committed to players in 2016 is to Michael Cuddyer, Curtis Granderson, Jon Niese and David Wright. With young players such as Travis d’Arnaud, Matt Harvey, and Juan Lagares still a couple of years away from reaching arbitration, the Mets will need cap room to keep the group of young players together. Extending Duda would provide the young core with a veteran to follow, and a powerful lefty in the lineup, as it provides a nice counter to David Wright’s bat. It seems too early for the Mets to commit to Duda as their everyday first basemen, even though he played a nice defense (posting a .994 fielding percentage) and led the team in homers. The Mets should take more time to see what they truly have in Duda. We know about the power, but can he hit for enough average to pencil him in the lineup everyday? Time will tell, but it seems too early to extend Duda.

13 comments for “Extending Lucas Duda now is questionable

  1. Steve S.
    March 29, 2015 at 4:48 pm

    While you make lots of good points, and I can see waiting a bit to see how he does against lefties, I think his OPS+ of 118 and 137 the past two years shows he can get on base and hit with power. Who cares what his BA is? And he seems to be on the rise, gaining confidence from doing well and playing more.

  2. Metsense
    March 29, 2015 at 10:18 pm

    Duda seems receptive to an extension and the Mets should sign him on their terms (cheap). I see no reason to give Duda fair value because the Mets with a two year extension will be guaranteeing Lucas in his age 32 and 33 years. They can even throw in a team option year or two if he agrees. Dominic Smith may get blocked but so far Smith has not shown enough for the team to worry about that. If Smith comes on strong then Duda and his cheap contract will look appealing for trade. Duda just had his first arbitration and was awarded 4.2M so he hasn’t hit paydirt yet (I can’t believe that 4.2M isn’t paydirt, LOL in this screwy world) and seems ripe to be plucked for a favorable contract that guarantees him his future. (like Niese)

  3. TexasGusCC
    March 29, 2015 at 11:12 pm

    Metsense, makes sense. It seems the Mets are hedging against an even bigger year this year, making his arbitration number jump. So, lock him up cheaply now for a few bucks and have him as trade fodder if all goes well with Smith.

    By the way, I’ve seen that they are changing Jayce Boyd’s position to outfield so Duda isn’t blocking him. Further, Boyd is a righty (Nimmo is a lefty that struggles against lefties, hmmmm) that has a great eye and a good hit tool, but not much power yet. A gap hitter like possibly a “Billy Butler” type. Glad to see it. Hope he has a decent glove, however.

    I think Oakland also signed a good hitter in Butler. Wish he could play a little defense.

    • TexasGusCC
      March 29, 2015 at 11:20 pm

      Sorry, forgot something. Also read that Ike Davis is being tried out as a right fielder in Oakland, his college position. Two years ago, the Mets said that they weren’t willing to move him. We wondered why? What was there to lose? Wish the guy well.

    • Mike B
      March 30, 2015 at 3:24 pm

      Boyd has a good glove at 1b. He’s a good player. He led all Mets minor league players in BA in 2013, hitting .330, then last year, after struggling early, he came on very strong, hitting .293 at AA. I think he got the game winning hit in the final game. An FSU player, All American, I think. He’s making the bigs somewhere, if not this year, next. His power will come. I like Duda, and you can’t deny the LH power, as it’s so rare, but Boyd can play. He’s a bit older than Nimmo, but has outhit him by a lot. I’d like to see him on the Mets. Maybe a Soup/Mayberry replacement in 2016.

      • Steve S.
        March 30, 2015 at 4:29 pm

        I don’t care about his BA, but like his OBP and does seem to be developing some power. I can see him behind Duda soon.

  4. March 30, 2015 at 1:11 am

    What if Duda pulls an Ike Davis on the Mets? Why not wait and see if Duda can at least back up last years performance and show the team that 2014 was not an a fluke? He needs to continue improving his defense. For the life of me I don’t understand why the Mets have never invited Keith Hernandez come down for a week or two and work with the kids. The Mets have one of the best left handed defensive first base man to ever play and don’t utilize him. By the way I seem to recall he hit left handed pitching fairly well. A four year contract at this stage is not worth the risk/reward. Though I hope he proves me wrong.

    • Joey Vito
      March 30, 2015 at 10:08 pm

      Hernandez did spend some time working with Duda this offseason. Duda is not going to pull an Ike Davis. In fact he is the polar opposite of Davis, beautiful swing, good work ethic and actually listens to the coaches. I also believe he has a superior glove compared to the overrated Davis.

      • March 31, 2015 at 12:17 am

        About time Joey. Now if they can only get Hernandez for an additional 2 weeks in ST to help Duda hit against lefties! That would be great!

  5. Name
    March 30, 2015 at 2:20 am

    Not sure what “Extending” means in this case.

    To me, if you “extend” someone, you have to buy out at least one free agency season. Otherwise, you’re just hammering out a contract that is cost-certain.

    At this point, i’m not sure if guaranteeing Duda an extra year to potentially save 3-6 million? in the next 3 years is worth the risk. Especially one who will relies on power and will be entering his age 32 season when that occurs.

  6. Matt Netter
    March 30, 2015 at 10:34 pm

    Totally agree with Mets sense and TexasGus on this one. Want to correct Joey Vito though. While the front office clearly made the right call picking Duda over Ike, the latter is a gold glove caliber first baseman. Duda does not have his glove or range, though he has proven to be serviceable.

    • TexasGusCC
      March 30, 2015 at 11:23 pm

      Matt, remember how Davis wasn’t in position to field cutoff throws from the outfielders, and remember when he watched a ball go down the right field line because he felt it was foul? Davis had no range and while he could scoop out throws, I may just be unfair with him, but I don’t know about gold glove.

      I was a full Davis supporter right up until the trade, but I was hoping he could straighten his head out and be what he was and felt the Duda was a platoon DH at best. So, while I eat crow on that, I remember Davis’ defense was not what it was when he left the Mets.

      • TexasGusCC
        March 31, 2015 at 1:21 am

        I want to clarify my statement that Davis had no range. He did initially, but by the time he was traded, he would just run to first to not be out of position and let the second baseman get to it. It seems his confidence had disappeared.

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