Posted by Reese Kaplan at 8:00 AM
Very early in the off-season there was speculation that the Mets might non-tender 1st baseman Lucas Duda rather than pay him the perhaps $7 million or so he will be awarded in arbitration. Some people embraced this idea but no one seemed to indicate how they would fill this void short of signing a much more expensive option such as Edwin Encarnacion or converting Matt Holliday to the position.
Since then the Mets have gone ahead and locked up Yoenis Cespedes for the next four years which assures them of some right handed power. On the left side, however, they’re somewhat overloaded with Duda, Curtis Granderson, Jay Bruce and Michael Conforto. Some have suggested that Conforto learn 1st base in order to get him into the lineup on a regular basis,, but if Duda is here then that’s not a solution either.
Early indications are that there is interest in both Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce as the Mets begin to gauge other teams’ interest in their available chips. What I’m wondering is whether or not they should throw Lucas Duda’s name into the bowl as well?
Large market teams wouldn’t think twice about paying the $15 million salary of Curtis Granderson or the $13 million salary of Jay Bruce. For what they deliver by today’s baseball standards they are actually somewhat underpaid.
Small market teams, however, may say those numbers are too rich for their blood. However, a $7 million investment in a guy capable of 30 HRs may be more to their liking. That expands your base of potential trade partners beyond the well healed franchises and includes others not normally in the big dollar arena such as Minnesota, Milwaukee, Tampa Bay, San Diego and others.
Why would the Mets consider it? Well, in Duda, Bruce and Granderson you have three virtual clones of one another – high power, high strikeout, all-or-nothing types of left handed hitters. All are streaky and hurt the team badly when slumping, yet can carry a team when hot. Granderson has an edge in that he draws a lot of walks and still has some speed and defense in his game. Duda has made himself into a passable 1st baseman, but no one will confuse him with Keith Hernandez. Bruce has a better arm than Granderson and is a better outfielder than Duda (though that bar is set at limbo championship height).
Given that surplus it behooves Sandy Alderson to look at all possibilities, not just the obvious ones. Duda may be more appealing due to his salary and then if you strike a deal you could move Bruce to 1st base or convert Conforto or platoon him with Wilmer Flores. I’m still on board with trading two lefty sluggers but think they should add Duda into the mix of options. Next year Bruce, Granderson and Walker all come off the books. Dom Smith is knocking at the door for promotion in 2018. You’d still maintain payroll flexibility if you feel Smith is for real. In fact, if they kept Conforto and Smith as part of the near future then you’ll recoup quite a bit of money to help pay for the starting rotation.
Looking over Duda’s contract he’s eligible to become a free agent in 2018. That timing should coincide with the arrival of Dom Smith. If you think they would likely not look to keep Duda beyond this year (and not extend a QO), isn’t it better to trade him a year too soon than lose him for nothing?