Terry Collins and the New York Mets tried to make it easy. They tried to basically hand the first base job to incumbent Ike Davis or outfield-converted Lucas Duda. It became clear one of those big lefty bats the Mets waited for would be anchored at first. The problem is, neither of those bats are big and neither of those guys produced consistently last year. To make matters worse, they can’t even stay healthy. The calf of Davis and hamstring of Duda have kept them inactive throughout March and unable to prepare for a season in which they both have something to prove.
At this point the position serves as an enormous question mark for the Mets as neither player can get on the field (or in the cage) and opening day is less than three weeks away. Maybe it’s time for Collins to try an alternate plan with guys we know are ready to go for March 31st.
My point here is that because of the injuries and unproductiveness, its time to stop waiting around for one of these guys to shows us something. Davis doesn’t deserve to be heir to the Mets first base throne anymore and Terry Collins needs to have a contingency plan in case what he expected doesn’t work out at all.
It could be beneficial for Collins to move Daniel Murphy over to first base. That would open up a second base spot, where Eric Young Jr. can get some playing time. Young is the fourth outfielder and is certainly available to play the spot and Murphy’s bat is a much more competent one to have at first base than either of the current options. Murphy has played 172 games at the position, so it isn’t completely foreign to him. He isn’t great in the field but he’s an upgrade from Duda and Davis just hasn’t produced at the plate. Young Jr. is somewhat familiar with second base also; has played 52 games there in his career.
What it comes down to is whether you want to see Young Jr. in the lineup or Duda/Davis because Murphy will have his spot in the batting order either way. With the uncertainty surrounding both Duda and Davis, I would be inclined to let Young play a little second base and hit at the top of the order. I’ll take my chances with EY as a sparkplug and playing second base than taking the risk Duda or Davis is going to be adequate. Young Jr. led the National League with 46 stolen bases in 2013 and helped the Amazin’s create runs as much as anyone.
It’s also felt in baseball that first base is a spot some of the best teams get production out of and Murphy is the best hitter on the team not named David Wright. A .290 career hitter, Murphy is the type of consistent bat many teams have over at first base. If Davis can’t be that guy, the Mets need a new one; maybe it’s Murph.
Collins spoke about trying to give Davis 90 at-bats during spring training; a goal that is impossible now with Davis in a walking boot after aggravating his right calf. The Mets have given Davis every opportunity to be the first baseman over the years, even in not-so-subtle ways. The organization has waited on Davis through slumps that have sometimes lasted months. The chances of him being the answer long term look extremely slim at this point.
New York also wanted to showcase Davis to other teams in the event they could move him, but that seems unlikely now with this setback. With him unhealthy, he’s virtually untradeable being he hasn’t shown worthy of being traded for. The idea in general was for Davis to knock the rust off in spring to avoid another disastrous season like 2013 which featured Davis in the minors for a stint. When he was up with the big club, Davis hit .205 and struck out around once every three at-bats.
Duda has been bothered by that hamstring and hasn’t been able to stamp his mark on the first baseman’s job either. Due to his fielding woes, Collins and company thought it’d be best to get Duda away from the outfield while waiting for his bat to come around to a level of major league contribution. He is expected back later in the week and says he’ll be ready to begin the season, but who knows?
The career .246 hitter much like Davis, strikes out too often and doesn’t get on base at a consistent clip. It seems obvious that less work in the cage and at first base during spring isn’t a recipe for success.
The other two first base options are right-handed hitting Josh Satin and left-handed hitting Matt Clark. They have both showed flashes of quality but neither is up to the task of playing in the majors every day. One of them will certainly be on the team and in this scenario it would be Satin because Clark hits lefty like Murphy, Davis and Duda. Clark could also find his way on the 25-man roster if some of the left handed bats are left off for whatever reason.
It’s impossible to trust either of the two guys the Mets have competing for the job at first base. If either Davis or Duda are sidelined much longer, the Amazin’s are going to have decisions to make.
Met fans that show up to Citi Field and watch this team deserve to do so with the best lineup out on the field. Eric Young Jr. and Murphy in the lineup gives you a better chance to win than Murphy and either Duda or Davis, at least right now. Until we actually see something from them, the Mets need to rethink what they are doing at first base.