The New York Mets may not trade one of their top three trade candidates at all this offseason. Jeff McNeil looks firmly entrenched as the team’s starting second baseman. Dominic Smith will probably spend time at first base, in left field, and at the DH spot.
J.D. Davis is a little more of an outlier. McNeil and Smith at least have positions they can play at an average or even above average ability. The same isn’t true for Davis.
Keeping Davis as a bench piece isn’t such an outrageous notion. Platooning him with Robinson Cano at the DH spot could work out well. However, he does take up a roster spot that may have made the Mets better-rounded.
The Mets haven’t traded J.D. Davis yet, will they regret it?
The Mets bench, now a four-man group with the DH, will regularly include Tomas Nido as the backup catcher, Luis Guillorme playing all over the infield, and Smith or Cano. Davis will be there, too.
There’s a little bit of a running theme here. None of these guys can play good defense in the outfield. Even the Mets starting outfielders have some questions about them. Brandon Nimmo made great strides in center field last season and moving to a corner spot can only benefit him. I’m probably least concerned with him.
Mark Canha is a below-average fielder and Starling Marte’s best moments have come as a Gold Glove left fielder. His time in center field won’t last through his entire Mets contract. He is bound to move to left field before his time in New York is through.
Davis, Smith, and even McNeil are in line to provide the Mets will backup outfield help. The Mets have some wonderful flexibility with them and the starters. Third baseman Eduardo Escobar can play a variety of positions, too, and give them options if someone gets hurt.
The Davis debate may come down to this: do the Mets need a defensively-gifted outfielder on the bench?
Guys fitting that definition haven’t had much success with the Mets in recent seasons. Albert Almora got hurt last year and was horrendous at the plate. Years ago, we watched as Juan Lagares’ defensive abilities declined with minimal playing time. Davis’ bat is far more valuable throughout a 162 game season.
However, with no pitchers hitting, how much will he actually play? We can’t expect everyone to stay healthy for a full year. Davis will get his at-bats. He will have his moments. Those opportunities, though, are likely to be fewer than we would expect in the old-National League where pitchers did bat. He isn’t going to enter games late as a defensive replacement. If he’s not starting, the only chance he gets into a game is to face a lefty reliever as a pinch-hitter.
During a lengthy stretch, a team is better off having a guy with Davis’ bat in the lineup and glove in the field than they are a .200 hitter who can win a Gold Glove if only batting .200 was acceptable. In a limited role, Davis seems like a poor fit for a 2022 National League ball club with other DH options.
As a backup, he’s not so bad. I like the idea of plugging a player like him into the starting lineup in an emergency situation. If all he does is ride the bench and get spot starts, then maybe there will be some regret. Maybe he should have been a piece the team traded away. Let’s see how it unfolds.