Mets Monday Morning GM: Which direction is J.D Davis’ trade value trending?
By Michael Calascione
J.D Davis has been a good right-handed bat for the New York Mets over the last couple of years, but did they miss an opportunity to sell him at the high point?
One of the better moves that former New York Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen made during his tenure was trading for J.D. Davis. The Mets sent prospects Ross Adolph, Scott Manea, and Luis Santana to the Houston Astros in exchange for Davis and prospect Cody Bohanek.
When the Mets traded for Davis, he was a part-time player for the Astros unable to crack the starting lineup due to the depth the Astros had. The Mets had a need for a right-handed bat, so Brodie and the Mets front office decided to take a flier on Davis for a relatively low cost.
Davis became a starter almost right out of the gate in 2019 and was wildly successful offensively throughout the season. In 2019 Davis played 140 games and hit to a slash line of .307/.369/.527/.895 with 45 extra-base hits and 57 RBI.
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Even though he was one of the better offensive hitters for the Mets he was one of the worst defensive players the Mets had. He started 2019 at third base but was eventually moved to left field because he accumulated -9 defensive runs saved (DRS) at third.
Unfortunately, left field was not much better. Davis recorded -11 DRS in left in 2019 and it was starting to seem like his best position was one that did not exist in the National League, Designated Hitter.
Even with the poor defense, Davis’s trade value was at its highest point of his young baseball career following 2019. However, the Mets decided to keep Davis on the team for 2020 and try to help him get better defensively.
Right before the season was supposed to start the pandemic happened and baseball was halted. Eventually, they resumed and under new rules including a universal DH. This change, in theory, would help Davis but unfortunately for him, the Mets had a bunch of players that would also benefit from the DH being added such as Dominic Smith, Robinson Cano, and Yoenis Cespedes.
Ultimately, Davis played most of the season in the field only DHing for 13 games.
J.D Davis’s defensive alignment in 2020 was the opposite of 2019. In 2020, Davis started in left field but moved to third base after 52 innings because Jeff McNeil was having trouble handling third base.
In 2020 J.D Davis did not significantly improve defensively at either position recording -1 DRS in left field and -8 at third base. Poor defense can always be overlooked when there is significant offensive production and that was what happened with J.D Davis in 2019 but not in 2020.
In the shortened 2020 season played in 56 of the 60 games but he hit to a slash line of .247/.371/.389/.761 with 15 extra-base hits and 19 RBI. This type of offensive production is not going to mask any poor defense and it is not great for his trade value.
The team has various holes currently and may need to fill via trade and Davis has been in a lot of the mock trade offers. Unfortunately, his value has dropped over the last year due to his defense not improving and his offense regressing.
This is not to say that J.D Davis does not have value to the Mets or any other team in baseball but there are clear regressions that have affected his trade value. Davis is still young and can turn a corner at any point just like he did offensively in 2019 but at this point, New York might be selling at a low point with Davis.
If they do intend to fill a need via trade and Davis is one of the guys being discussed as part of the return, then the Mets need understand that they are probably selling at a low point and Davis will probably not suffice as a headliner for any of these big-name trade targets.
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The Mets will definitely have a decision to make; trade Davis now at a seemingly low point or hold on to him and hope he improves to better his trade value. However, the Mets infield is very crowded even with the suspension of Cano so if they do keep Davis playing time may be too sparse for him to significantly improve his trade value.