Yesterday, the Mets placed Lucas Duda on the 15-day DL with an injury to his side. The timing of the injury has a few implications for the team. Duda had begun to swing the bat well since being moved to first base on June 17th, and the team has been playing much better baseball since that date. Much of the recent resurgence can be attributed to improved starting pitching. However, the current configuration of the position players has contributed as well.
Duda’s move to first base has enabled the Mets to field a much more athletic outfield, further aided by the acquisition of Eric Young, Jr. In Thursday night’s game in Atlanta, Young made a diving catch in left with 2 on and 2 out and the Mets clinging to a one-run lead. A slower outfielder does not make that play, and the Braves at minimum tie the game. On Friday night, Juan Lagares made an outstanding, running catch on a ball hit by Carlos Ruiz, saving the Mets 2 runs. Yes, the pitching has been good, but it has clearly been helped by the better defensive team on the field.
Ike Davis has begun to swing well in Las Vegas. Had Duda not gone on the DL, and if Davis keeps hitting, the Mets would have been facing a decision around the all-star break. Davis would have to come back up, and chess pieces would have to move. Some suggest putting Duda back in left field. In my view, that would be an unmitigated disaster. The team has begun to show life, both offensively and defensively. I’ve just discussed two games in one week where the improved defense has helped win games. Going back to a formula that had produced listless, sloppy baseball would make absolutely no sense. The Duda experiment in the outfield has lasted two years and two positions. It doesn’t work. We all can point to games where Lucas has cost the Mets multiple runs in the outfield. It’s time to move past that experiment, and accept the lesson learned.
That doesn’t answer the question about what to do when Davis returns and Duda is off the DL. If Duda can have a good week when he’s off the DL, it would be the right time to trade him. He will have demonstrated that when comfortable (first base or possibly DH), he can put up decent offensive numbers. His trade value has never been higher than it may be right now (once he shows he’s healthy). Sandy Alderson has mentioned that Duda isn’t part of the core going forward. If that’s the case, now is the time to think about moving him. One thing for sure-now isn’t the time to put him back in the outfield, taking playing time for young, natural outfielders who are helping the Mets win games.