COMMENTARY | First base is a position filled with questions for the New York Mets heading into 2014.
The organization hoped to see Ike Davis follow up his 32-homer campaign in 2012 with another strong season, but that wasn't the case. New York has plenty of players to put at first base, but will it actually use any of them?
A slow start in 2012, followed by a strong second half led Sandy Alderson and the Mets to believe Ike Davis was part of the future in Flushing. He did finish '12 with 32 home runs and 90 RBIs despite a .227 average, including a slump lasting most of the first half.
Terry Collins needed him to be the main source of power and protection for David Wright, but he wasn't successful at doing so. In 377 plate appearances, he hit .205/.326/.334 with nine home runs, 33 RBIs, and 101 strikeouts in 2013. His season included a demotion to Triple-A Las Vegas, and a season-ending injury in September.
The Mets have continued to plug Duda into the outfield for the sake of his power potential. A natural first baseman, he has been a liability with the glove. If he produced at the plate, the team could justify putting him into the outfield, but that opportunity for justification hasn't come.
In 384 plate appearances last season, Duda hit .223/.352/.415 with 15 home runs and 33 RBIs. He showed an ability to be patient at the plate, but was criticized for not being aggressive enough. When Davis injured his oblique, it allowed Duda the opportunity to show he's a viable option at first base. He showed flashes of power, but hit just .219/.371/.371 in 132 plate appearances while playing his natural position.
When Davis and Duda were busy underachieving, Josh Satin was given an opportunity to play at the major league level. The 28-year-old walked to the plate 221 times, hitting .279/.376/.405 with three home runs and 17 RBIs. Upon being promoted, Satin was playing close to every day, but his playing time dwindled once Davis returned from Triple-A.
Satin proved his ability to hit big league pitching in the chances he was given. He hit only three home runs, but also clubbed 15 doubles. He's seen more of a complementary piece moving forward. If the Mets don't make any moves to improve the position before April, he could join either Davis or Duda as part of a platoon.
Outside of these three, there are still other players who could fill this position. Daniel Murphy could shift from second base, allowing Eric Young, Jr. to return to his natural position. Zach Lutz and Allan Dykstra provide internal, but unproven minor league options.
If the Mets decide on an internal option outside of the first three mentioned, it will likely be Wilmer Flores. The young infielder tore up Pacific Coast League pitching in Triple-A last season prior to his MLB debut, and saw playing time at third base with David Wright on the disabled list. However, the 22-year-old would once again be an unproven option at an unnatural position.
Reports have surfaced that the Mets have already been fielding calls from opposing teams interested in trading for one of their first basemen. No names were mentioned, but Davis and Duda are likely the ones teams are asking about. They still have upside with regard to power, and are could be a low-risk, high-reward acquisition.
New York needs to address holes in the outfield, rotation, and shortstop this season, but first base needs attention, as well. Neither Davis nor Duda have proved they should be part of the future, and I think it's time for a change.
Teams are inquiring for their services, and the Mets should start fresh. With their new financial flexibility this winter, Alderson could explore multiple options. Awarding a short-term contract via free agency to players like James Loney, Corey Hart, Justin Morneau, or even Mike Morse could be ideas. The trade market is also intriguing, with Michael Cuddyer first coming to mind.
This is not to say that any of these options would be preferred, but it's time for something different at first base. If the Mets are planning to contend in 2014 (and that's what they're saying), they'll need to depend on someone other than Ike Davis or Lucas Duda to create runs in the middle of the order.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.
Matt Musico's Mets opinion has been featured on MLB Trade Rumors, MetsBlog, Amazin' Avenue, Mets Merized Online, Mets Minors, and Rising Apple. To keep up with Matt, you can follow him on Twitter.
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