May 29, 2013; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Mets left fielder Lucas Duda (21) doubles to deep left allowing two runners to score during the fourth inning against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Mets won 9-4. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

The Davis Dilemma: Deal Him or Deal with Him?

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It’s the week after the Winter Meetings, and Ike Davis is still a New York Met. While early reports indicated there was a great market for the much-beleaguered first baseman, demand for Davis has steadily decreased as the supply of underachieving first basemen has increased; Mitch Moreland, Adam Lind, and Justin Smoak have also been put on the trading block by their respective ball clubs. Last week, Sandy Alderson said the Mets are “not in the business of giving players away,” insisting he would get an exceptionally fair deal for Ike. However, every day that passes in this market makes it all the more likely that Davis will be New York’s starting first baseman on Opening Day.

Thus, Mr. Alderson has a dilemma on his hands. The Davis Dilemma: keep Ike, hold out for a better trade, or cut losses and ship him off for peanuts?

Aug 8, 2013; New York, NY, USA; New York Mets first baseman Ike Davis (29) reacts after striking out during the eighth inning of a game against the Colorado Rockies at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Alderson is right by not simply leaving Ike on some other team’s doorstep. As much as he could benefit from a change of scenery, and as many fans who would gladly pack his bags for him, it is Sandy’s job to get the best deal out of all situations, not to follow the whims of the fanbase (as much as my family and I opposed the R.A. Dickey trade, without it we wouldn’t have Noah Syndergaard, Travis d’Arnaud, and five great months of John Buck). It is not good business to take a quick-gloved first baseman with such a high offensive ceiling and wrap him up as a Christmas present. Come February, if the Mets are still desperate to move him and have all the other pieces in place, maybe Alderson can get away with a Davis fire sale. But now, with a few holes remaining in the lineup, Sandy should look to turn Ike into something useful.

One way he can do this is to not look at Davis as a primary trade target but as a piece in a larger package deal. It is still early in the offseason, after all. Davis added to Daniel Murphy and one of New York’s young farm starters, maybe Rafael Montero or Jacob deGrom, and the Colorado Rockies may be able to part with Troy Tulowitzki. Throwing Ike in with either Murphy or deGrom may bring back Jed Lowrie or someone of that caliber. The potential of losing the entire right side of the infield looms, especially if any trade falls flat, but the Dickey, Carlos Beltran, and Buck/Byrd deals are proof of Sandy’s craftiness in the trade market. With some more time, Alderson should be able to find a proper match and send Davis off with dignity.

Of course, no one is twisting Sandy Alderson’s arm to trade Ike Davis. If no one is willing to put forward a good offer, Davis will remain with the team and compete for the starting job (or a place in the platoon) with Lucas Duda, Josh Satin, and Wilmer Flores, three other marginal major-league first basemen. Plus, as Pollyannaish as it sounds, it is not impossible that Ike could suddenly find his stroke again and become the slugger he was before his injury in 2011 and during the second half of 2012.

Based on all the evidence, and even keeping in mind the intense frustration if Ike Davis goes all Chris Davis with another team, Sandy Alderson’s best option is to hold out hopes of trading Ike in a package. Another big reason why is the still-untapped potential of Lucas Duda.

Duda hit 15 home runs in 100 games in 2013; a full season at that rate would give him 25. His plate patience is a plus (.352 OBP despite a .223 BA), but people dismissively point to the big man’s lack of aggression. However, now that he is back at first base and not trying to learn another position, he can focus more on his power and develop into the 35-homer guy Mets fans so desperately want. Sure, his glove won’t be nearly as good as Ike’s, but what good is defense if you can’t score runs? Besides, with the acquisition of Chris Young to play right field, the Mets will have good defense on that side of the field no matter who mans first.

The security that Lucas Duda provides plus the potential to fill in holes at shortstop and in the bullpen make Ike Davis still an obvious trade chip. For the sake of both the team and its first basemen, Sandy Alderson should not give up trying to find the right deal.

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Tags: Ike Davis Lucas Duda New York Mets Sandy Alderson

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