Is Mark Canha enough of an upgrade compared to J.D. Davis?

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Mark Canha has more than twice as many big league plate appearances as J.D. Davis. A few years more of life experience as his current New York Mets teammate as well, he was brought in this offseason to take over one of the outfield positions. Likely to play left field where J.D. Davis saw plenty of action prior to 2021 when he moved to third base full-time when healthy, I’m wondering if he’s all that much of an upgrade.

Davis’ limited success in the major leagues and poor defense at multiple positions have put him in the doghouse. However, there are some numbers to suggest the Mets didn’t actually get much better by introducing Canha to the team. Would they have been better off throwing Davis into left field?

Did the Mets upgrade the offense with Mark Canha over J.D. Davis?

From a positional standpoint, Davis and Canha don’t compare well. Davis is a third baseman/left fielder while Canha has played all three outfield positions plus first base. For this reason, you have to ask a much different question to compare the two such as, what spot would you rather have a backup option?

All things equal, Canha hasn’t been a particularly good fielder. He has never had a positive WAR season on defense and has routinely posted other negative totals. The same is true for Davis, however, his shortcomings with the glove are far greater. There’s no real argument there. Canha is the superior defender. When looking for your future left fielder, Canha is the winner.

At the plate, there’s a stronger comparison between these two.

Davis has slashed .271/.354/.446 with an average of 24 doubles, 18 home runs, and 54 RBI per 162 games. Meanwhile, Canha has hit .244/.344/.431 with an average of 27 doubles, 22 home runs, and 74 RBI per 162 games. Davis has the edge in a few areas but overall, they’re quite evenly matched.

Digging deeper into OPS+, Davis is the winner with a career 117 total in this number compared to the 114 posted by Canha.

The interesting thing about each of them is how they performed in 2019. The year where everyone was hitting home runs saw both of them break out with personal best campaigns. Canha slashed .273/.396/.517 with 26 home runs and 58 RBI. In his first year with the Mets, Davis batted .307/.369/.527 with 22 home runs and 57 RBI. The totals are so close I can’t help but see the similarities.

This pair of current Mets—one new and the other possibly on his way out—compare closely to each other on offense. Davis is likely to hit for a higher batting average while Canha is the guy you want if OBP is your jam. For the Mets, it would seem defense became a major factor in their thought.

Canha is going to make a lot more than the arbitration-eligible Davis will this year. Owed $13 million in 2022, New York is paying him for more than his bat. His ability to play all three outfield positions, albeit at a slightly below-average ability, is one reason for the change.

Of course, it’s also worth comparing Davis to his replacement at third base: Eduardo Escobar. Another one of the major free agent additions the Mets made, he’s a lifetime .256/.309/.436 hitter that happened to blossom late. An average of 20 home runs and 77 RBI per season, his presence is heavy on how much better he can field at third base compared to Davis. Offensively, Davis might actually be the better option.

It’s understandable why the Mets are going in the direction they have. Rather than try to teach a guy like Davis to get better in the field, they’re adding players who have already figured it out.

Canha may not be all that, if any, better than Davis as a hitter. As an overall player, the logic is there. He can create as many runs as Davis and also save the ones Davis can't.

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