At long last, the New York Mets have addressed one of their lingering questions, settling their logjam at first base by trading Ike Davis to the Pirates. In the deal, the Mets received righty reliever Zack Thornton and a player to be named later. This adds another arm to their struggling bullpen, but more importantly, it gives Lucas Duda a chance to finally explore his upside as an everyday first baseman. He’s begun to show it already, batting .264 with three home runs and nine RBIs with a .350 on base percentage.
The natural next step is to give Lucas Duda the RBI opportunities and lineup protection of batting cleanup.
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It isn’t as if the Mets’ initial choice at cleanup, Curtis Granderson, is an ideal cleanup hitter in Citi Field. Grandy was a great acquisition, but he’s not going to be the same player for the Mets that he was for the Yankees. Yankee Stadium favored the flaws in Granderson’s offensive game the way it would have favored the flaws in Ike Davis’ offensive game. This might seem — and, in fact, is — an unfair comparison for Grandy, who has shown he can prosper in a hitter’s park and is a veteran with a much more even temperament and broader threat potential (he’s got speed, and can play all three outfield positions) than Davis has at this stage in his career. But, consider the parallels: both are strikeout-prone lefties whose warning-track outs at Citi would land deep in the Yankee Stadium stands. Meanwhile, Duda is 6′-4″ and over 250 pounds, with a good eye and enormous raw power from gap to gap. If anything, it should be Granderson who should be protecting Duda in the lineup, while Duda gets more chances to convert the run-producing chances provided by Daniel Murphy, David Wright and speedy catalyst Eric Young, Jr.
With Duda at cleanup, Wright can continue to produce from the third spot and Murphy can move into the second spot as a line-drive, contact-hitting lefty with moderate speed. If the folks obsessed with alternating lefties and righties don’t have a collective conniption, Granderson would be a good choice to protect Duda. Chris Young (or Juan Lagares, who should absolutely have the everyday job in center field upon his return) could bat sixth, in front of the resurgent Travis d’Arnaud.
Lucas Duda has shown his potential as a hitter, and the Mets have finally almost cleared the path for him to commandeer the everyday job at first base. They need to position him in the lineup so that he can take advantage of the opportunity, and so the mets can properly diagnose him as an option.