By Brad Kallet
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He was given every chance in the world to prove himself, and he failed time and time again.
It was simply time to move on.
Mets general manager Sandy Alderson did the right thing by shipping first baseman Ike Davis to Pittsburgh on Friday night. What the Mets got in return from the Bucs is almost immaterial.
New York was carrying three first basemen on its roster through the first three weeks of the season, and it was incredibly limiting. Both Davis and Lucas Duda are both left-handed and struggle against lefty pitching, and neither can play another position. (We’ve all seen Duda in left field, and it isn’t pretty.)
So somebody had to go, and Alderson did the right thing by making Davis the odd man out. He’s struggled mightily for over two seasons and he was making too much money. And with an offseason full of trade rumors and speculation, it must have been rather uncomfortable having him on the roster. Liked, admired and respected by his teammates, the first-round pick who was once thought of as a cornerstone of the franchise had been relegated to backup duty.
It had to have been a drain on the players in the clubhouse to have to constantly answer questions about having three first basemen and what the future holds for Davis. By all accounts, Davis was as professional as can be in how he handled his demotion. He praised Duda and accepted his new role as a pinch-hitter in stride, but that doesn’t mean that his presence wasn’t a distraction for the club. His fault or not, his situation was an issue.
With Davis gone, Duda no longer has to look over his shoulder and deal with the awkwardness of competing against his good friend. The job is now securely his, which should help him relax and give him confidence.
With the inconsistent slugger no longer on the roster, the Mets now have more versatility on their bench. They’ve wisely rid themselves of dead weight and have saved roughly $3.14 million in the process.
I’m maintained for some time now that I prefer Duda to Davis as a player. I never liked Davis’ propensity to argue with umpires on nearly every strike-three call — especially when you’re hovering around .200 — and I always felt that Duda had a smoother stroke and worked counts far better than the Arizona State product did. But is Duda the answer? I’m not going there yet. He most certainly has a ton to prove, but it was imperative that Alderson commit to one first baseman and jettison the other. You can’t have both Davis and Duda on a roster, so one had to go.
I don’t need to spell it out for you. We all know how Davis’ Mets career has gone. A big-time prospect, he showed a ton of potential in the beginning of his career, got hurt in a freak collision with David Wright and then was never the same. Aside from a strong second half in 2012, he’s been nothing short of terrible for two seasons. The 27-year-old had the chance — again — to win the job in spring training, but he got hurt. And he didn’t exactly set the world on fire in his first month of the season with the Amazin’s (.208 average).
I don’t want to hear about upside, the fact that he was once a top prospect who had brief success at the major league level. Davis had over four years to cement himself within this organization, and he never did. He’s also no longer a pup. Was New York supposed to wait until Davis was 33 for him to live up to his billing as a premier power hitter? Just roll with .215 batting averages for the next six years in case Davis suddenly finds himself?
Sometimes you just have to abort, as difficult and disappointing as that might be. Any sports fan knows that potential often times doesn’t equate to success. We see busts in the first rounds of amateur drafts every season. We frequently see players shine in the big leagues before pitchers get the book on them and figure out how to get them out. We also see 20th-round picks come out of nowhere to hit .325 and become Hall of Famers.
The other first-round pick of the Mets in the 2008 MLB Draft, selected four slots below Davis? Reese Havens. He never made it to the big leagues and retired in January.
Oh, and Jeff Francoeur was once called “The Natural” by Sports Illustrated. He’s hit .300 once (his rookie season) in his nine-year career, and is currently playing for the El Paso Chihuahuas in the Pacific Coast League.
Such examples are endless.
And yes, I’ve criticized Alderson in the past — I did so just two weeks ago — but he’s being unfairly condemned for supposedly selling low on Davis and not getting enough back in return. Well you know what? When you don’t produce for two years, you’re not going to have any kind of value. What was Alderson supposed to get? He’s made some terrific trades in the past, but he wasn’t going to convince any general managers that Davis was the second coming of Chris Davis. .205 batting averages don’t get you much back in return.
And even if Davis does become the next Chris Davis, this was still a strong trade. As far as I’m concerned, Ike could go on to hit 40 home runs each of the next five seasons — even make the Hall of Fame (Don’t laugh. OK, you can laugh) — and I would never blame Alderson for this trade. You know why? Because he was never going to do it in Queens. And at the end of the day, that’s all that really matters.
For what it’s worth, New York received 25-year-old Zack Thornton in the deal. Thornton pitched to a 1.23 ERA in 7 1/3 innings with eight strikeouts and a walk for Triple-A Indianapolis before being dealt. No, we don’t know what Thornton is and what he could be, but we do know that the Mets’ bullpen isn’t exactly a juggernaut. Let’s see what he can do.
And according to CBSSports.com/WFAN baseball insider Jon Heyman, the player to be named later in the deal is “fairly significant.” He’s expected to be a Pirates draftee from 2013, according to Heyman, so we won’t know who that player is until after this year’s draft.
Goodbye and good luck, Ike. Sometimes marriages run their course. It was time for you to go.
Brad Kallet is an editor and columnist for CBSNewYork.com. He has written for TENNIS.com, MLB.com and SMASH Magazine, among others. You can follow him on Twitter @brad_kallet.
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