The calendar has turned to 2014, but the Ike Davis situation remains unsettled a mere six weeks before Mets pitchers and catchers are set to report to spring training in Port St. Lucie.
When it was first reported that the Mets preferred Lucas Duda to Ike Davis, and that Davis would be hitting the trading block, most thought a deal could be consummated before December.
When that didn’t happen, the prevailing thought was that Davis would be dealt during the Winter Meetings in Orlando. When the Mets left Orlando with Davis still on the roster, the feeling was that the Davis situation would be resolved in a week or so.
It’s now January, and despite the fact that two teams (Milwaukee and Baltimore) are still seeking a first baseman, Davis remains in orange and blue.
A few days ago, the Pirates acquired lefty hitting first baseman Chris McGuiness from the Rangers, likely taking them out of the Ike sweepstakes.
Some viewed Pittsburgh’s move as a knock on Davis, but I think the move came about because the Pirates would rather gamble on a career minor leaguer than meet Sandy Alderson’s asking price for Davis. That’s their prerogative, but it doesn’t mean Ike Davis doesn’t have value.
Players in their physical prime who have hit 30 home runs in the big leagues and have plus defensive potential at first base have value. Yes, Davis has struggled mightily in the first halves in both 2012 and 2013, but that doesn’t mean he’s a lost cause. Plenty of players bloom late, often after a change of scenery. There’s no reason to believe that Davis, who has immense power potential, can’t carve out a solid career.
In trade talks, Sandy Alderson asked the Pirates for starting pitcher Nick Kingham, and they balked. He’s asked the Orioles for starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez and asked Milwaukee for Tyler Thornburg. Both teams have thus far refused to meet Alderson’s asking price.
Seeking Rodriguez (who most view as Baltimore’s 2nd best pitching prospect) is aiming a tad high. Asking for Thornburg, who most view as a back end of the rotation starter or a bullpen arm, is not aiming high. Still, no resolution has come.
I don’t think Sandy Alderson is going to budge, nor should he. So, what do the Mets do if February rolls around and no team has met their asking price for Davis?
One option, is to bring Davis to spring training while planning to cut him before opening day. If the Mets went that route, they would owe Davis $600,000, instead of the close to $4 million he’d likely get through arbitration. Cutting Davis, while saving the Mets roughly $3 million dollars, would mean that the teams who balked at Alderson’s trade requests will be able to snag Davis while giving up nothing. I can’t see Alderson allowing that to happen.
Another option, is to attempt to deal Lucas Duda instead. With the Mets preferring Duda (but him apparently not having interested trade suitors), a trade seems unlikely.
The third, and most likely option, is going into camp and allowing Davis a chance to win the starting job.
It’s been reported that the Mets prefer Duda because of his on base ability, and the fact that he’s steadier than Davis. While those points can’t be argued, Davis is clearly the player who has the higher potential.
Before he injured his ankle in 2011, some were starting to view Davis as the next Mets cornerstone. Although he had a rough 2012, he still clubbed 32 home runs. Last year saw Davis relegated to the minors for a time, but he got on base at an incredible clip after returning (before he lost the last month due to injury). Still just 26 years old, Davis’ potential can still be tapped.
If one of the teams who are interested in Davis gives in to Alderson’s demands, he’ll be dealt. If not, he should be given one last shot to hack it in Queens. If he fails, the Mets can turn to Duda. If he succeeds, the Mets will probably be glad that no one offered enough to pry him away.