As the Mets’ offseason kicks into high gear under new owner Steve Cohen, new team president Sandy Alderson, and the front office staff that is eventually assembled under Alderson, several tough decisions about the makeup of the roster will need to be made.
There will almost certainly be a new center fielder and new catcher brought in from outside the organization, and there’s the potential that a trade for a superstar — perhaps Cleveland’s Francisco Lindor — could shake things up further.
The Mets will also have to further address a starting rotation that did them in this past season, with that rotation help likely coming via free agency. That could mean one of the Mets’ big position player moves will come via trade — regardless of whether it’s Lindor or another player — with some key big league pieces perhaps being on the move in such a scenario.
That takes us to J.D. Davis, who along with Brandon Nimmo, Amed Rosario, and Andres Gimenez, has seen his name come up in trade rumors as the hot stove heats up.
While Davis was one of the Mets’ better hitters in 2019 and productive again in 2020 (though he struggled a bit during the shortened season), it’s fair to argue that he has more value to the Mets as a trade chip than as a member of their team in 2021 and beyond.
The above is to take nothing away from Davis, who is a cerebral hitter, great personality, and meticulous worker who has given it his all while trying to improve his defense at third base and in left field.
But there are a bunch of reasons why he might not be a great fit for the Mets moving forward.
First, if we assume that the DH will return to the National League in 2021, and it seems likely that will be the case, having Davis as a key cog makes more sense than it otherwise would. But it’s still a tough fit.
Even without Robinson Cano clogging up second base or the DH spot, the Mets still have a glut of DH/left field types.
In a world where the Mets add a new center fielder (think George Springer or Jackie Bradley Jr.) and trade for a star infielder (think Lindor), it’s likely that the only “open” spot in the everyday lineup would be at DH. This is because Davis does not profile at third base or in left field (more on that below).
If Dominic Smith is still on the team — and he absolutely should be — it’s hard to argue against him being the DH most days. That would likely leave Davis as a part-time player.
And if the Mets don’t trade any key cogs from the big league roster this offseason, it’s even harder to find a regular role for Davis.
In the scenario where no key cogs are traded, with the Mets likely adding a new center fielder via free agency, they would need to find playing time for Nimmo, Smith, and Davis.
While New York could theoretically use Smith or Pete Alonso at first base (with the other at DH), Jeff McNeil at second base, Andres Gimenez or Amed Rosario at shortstop, and Davis at third base, the numbers for Davis at third tell an ugly tale
Davis was worth -8 DRS in 34 games at third base in 2020 after being worth -9 DRS there in 31 games in 2019. Extrapolate that over a 162-game season and you get someone who is unplayable at the hot corner. That means that unless the Mets expect Davis to turn things around there, the only viable spot for him on the diamond is in left field. And he’s not really viable there, either — especially when you take into account Alderson’s desire to no longer neglect team defense.
In left field in 2019, Davis was worth -11 DRS in 585.1 innings over 79 games. He was worth -1 DRS there in 52 innings over eight games in 2020. Extrapolate that over a full season and you get roughly -20 DRS.
With defensive numbers like the above and with Nimmo a perfect fit for left field, it’s very hard to see the Mets using Davis there.
Again, Davis is a good fit for the Mets as a right-handed DH to complement a left-hander like Smith. But is he more valuable as a trade chip?
Davis is arbitration-eligible and under team control through the 2024 season, which means that a team in need of a full-time DH could possibly place a high value on him.
That team might not be the Indians, since they have Franmil Reyes. But Davis could potentially be of interest to other teams as the Mets kick the tires on trade possibilities this offseason.
To be clear, there are scenarios where Davis could be a great fit for the Mets in 2021 and beyond. But it seems likelier that he’ll be the odd man out sooner rather than later.