By Ernie Palladino
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To Ike or not to Ike? That is the question.
Is it better to say farewell to Ike Davis or suffer the slings and arrows of another potential ice-cold start from a player from whom so much was expected?
That is one of the many questions Sandy Alderson will ponder in the offseason as he tries to piece together a competitive squad for 2014. Davis, believe it or not, could become a lynchpin in finding either a mid-line power hitter to add a little juice to a faulty lineup, or draw another arm in the likely probability that Matt Harvey undergoes Tommy John surgery.
Davis did enough the second half of the year before suffering a probable season-ending right oblique strain to make himself a somewhat attractive gamble for others who don’t wear the Mets’ colors. But should the Mets get rid of him?
The answer is, it all depends. There’s no way he draws a blockbuster, franchise-turning player, regardless of what kind of trade he’s part of. But he could help pull in a more consistent bat. Packaging Davis with a minor leaguer — how about shipping off Dilson Herrera, the 19-year-old middle infield yield of the Marlon Byrd-John Buck trade? — could help the short-term goal.
The gamble there, of course, is that Davis straightens himself out and becomes a popular and productive slugger for somebody else, far away from a team that could use a feel-good story to bolster their resurgence plans.
Then again, Davis’ overall season has been enough of a disaster that Herrera could become the attractive commodity in that deal. Herrera automatically became the Mets’ No. 9 prospect when he arrived out of the Pirates’ farm system, even though this was really his first full season playing a full Single-A schedule.
If Alderson is dead-set against depleting the talent below, then Davis’ individual trade value becomes a great uncertainty. That .165 average with five homers and 18 RBI over his first 63 games, which resulted in a demotion to Triple-A Las Vegas, can’t and won’t be overlooked by any fish swimming close to Alderson’s hook.
But then, that comeback since his demotion which has seen Davis hit .269 with four homers, 15 RBI, and a .435 on-base percentage in 47 games should not be discounted, either. He went into a .206 slump (6-for-29) over the 10 games that led into his muscle strain Saturday night in Washington. But before then, he had baseball’s fourth-highest on-base percentage in August.
He was becoming more disciplined at the plate, having drawn 38 walks since his July 5 return. But the lack of overall power for a player who hit 32 homers in 2012 was disturbing.
So Alderson is faced with more than one decision regarding Davis. The first baseman is eligible for arbitration at season’s end, and Alderson must consider whether he’s worth that cost. If they go the arbitration route, it will mean Alderson saw some real progress the second half of the year, and that he truly believes Davis can become one of the offensive cornerstones the Mets always thought he could be.
Or, should Alderson just throw him on the block and try to get the best deal he can? Perhaps he can squeeze the Rockies for a half-decent arm, or get an outfielder such as Norichika Aoki from the Brewers. He might even look good in Yankees pinstripes.
The oblique will heal in due time. Whether the inconsistency that has plagued Davis ever will is uncertain.
Whether Alderson will wait around and see is the question.
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