The 27-year-old has been roughed up in limited MLB action over the last two years. He’s scuffled this year at Triple-A, too, though Alvarez has recorded 27 strikeouts against ten walks in his 15 1/3 innings and has posted better results in the past.
- ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin writes that Travis d’Arnaud began throwing yesterday at his home in California and is expected to report to the Mets’ Spring Training facility this week, where he’ll ramp up his rehab. The 27-year-old d’Arnaud has played in only 13 games this season, and Kevin Plawecki has struggled in his absence, batting .193/.287/.277. Mets catchers have been among the least productive in baseball this season, making d’Arnaud’s return to the club particularly important for the Mets. Rubin also writes that Zack Wheeler has resumed throwing off a mound and is targeting a July 1 return from Tommy John surgery.
The Mets have at least “some curiosity about” Padres first baseman James Loney, per Joel Sherman of the New York Post (Twitter links). Loney’s representatives at the Legacy Agency are expected to contact the club today to see if there’s a fit.
While Loney remains under control of the Padres, he’s reportedly able to opt out of his contract if a major league opportunity arises with another organization. As I explained this morning in breaking down New York’s options with Lucas Duda sidelined, Loney looks to be one of the most viable targets for the club.
Playing at Triple-A to open the year, Loney owns a .333/.368/.417 slash over 155 plate appearances with two home runs and just ten strikeouts to go with his nine walks. That’s not a terribly surprising batting line for the 32-year-old, who is a somewhat atypical hitter for a first baseman. Over his decade of major league experience, Loney has slashed .285/.338/.411, relying on average and low strikeout tallies to make up for a lack of pop.
Loney has also generally graded out well with the glove, though defensive metrics viewed him as a slightly below-average performer at first in each of his last two major league seasons. He also won’t require any kind of payroll hit beyond the league minimum, as the Rays released him this spring when trade partners failed to materialize. Tampa Bay remains obligated for his $8MM salary.
With San Diego rostering both Wil Myers and Brett Wallace, it doesn’t appear as if the Padres will be motivated to move Loney up to keep him in the organization. Wallace is hardly untouchable, but his salary is guaranteed and he’s capable of playing third base. On the other hand, as ESPN.com’s Buster Olney has noted on Twitter, San Diego would have the option of elevating Loney if another team offers him a big league job, which also means the club could potentially extract some trade value.
The Mets will, no doubt, consider alternatives. The left-handed-hitting Loney wouldn’t make much sense on the roster when Duda returns, after all, and it’s probably worth at least checking to see if there’s a better match elsewhere. As covered in the above-linked post, there are a lot of possibilities out there, though ultimately a low-risk fill-in would make plenty of sense.
One hypothetical candidate, Nick Swisher of the Yankees, does not appear to be a fit. Sherman notes that the Mets don’t have interest in the veteran, who has continued to post meager numbers at Triple-A.
With the news that Mets first baseman Lucas Duda is out for a significant, but still-uncertain amount of time, New York has been left scrambling to identify a replacement. Internal options are questionable, leaving the team eyeing outside help.
Needless to say, the summer trade market remains largely undefined. And early deals are generally hard to come by, at least for more significant players. We’ll also posit that New York is interested in players who have some kind of MLB track record to speak of, both in terms of offensive production and defensive work at first base.
Generally speaking, then, there are five approaches the Mets could take in looking at new additions — most of them, varying approaches to the trade market. Of course, the team could pursue multiple avenues over the coming months.
Let’s take a look:
Duda is under club control for one more season after this one, though he’ll be due a raise on a $6.725MM arbitration salary, with the hope that he’ll play at a high level now while providing a bridge to prospect Dominic Smith. But the first base position is far from a certainty, and it’s at least plausible to imagine that longer-term assets would be considered.
Chris Carter of the Brewers could potentially be had, but his big start and remaining control might make him a bit expensive — at least this far in advance of the deadline. He’s also a streaky, all-or-nothing hitter and is less valuable to a National League club that can’t shift him to a DH role if and when that becomes preferable.
The Cardinals could be willing to part with Matt Adams, a 3+ arb class player who has struggled at times in recent years and is somewhat redundant with Brandon Moss on the roster. Of course, Adams has returned to form somewhat thus far while Moss is set to depart via free agency, and the contending Cards may not wish to part with either. It’s worth bearing in mind that Adams has continued to do the vast majority of his damage against righties, so he’s really not an everyday option in the interim and would be a poor fit when Duda returns.
Meanwhile, the Twins are as buried as any team in baseball, but it’s not clear that any of their first basemen are really trade candidates. Byung-ho Park would be a significant piece to pursue given his contract and promising early major league results, and certainly looks to be a part of Minnesota’s plans for a hopeful renaissance in the near future.
It’s always tough to assess which players are available, or could be as the deadline approaches, but usually there are some clear short-term veterans who can be had. It’s not really evident this year whether that’s the case, however.
The Orioles never seemed like the best fit for Pedro Alvarez, and he’s struggled at the plate. But he’s also needed now, filling in at times at third with J.J. Hardy out, and it’s anyone’s guess as to whether the club wants him on the roster moving forward. Baltimore could like the idea of shedding some salary to pursue other additions, though, and it did ship out a similarly-priced Alejandro De Aza in early June last year.
Other similarly questionable targets include Logan Morrison of the Rays, Mitch Moreland of the Rangers, and Justin Smoak of the Blue Jays. All are priced in the $4MM to $5MM range and play for teams that could, at least in theory, turn to other options while still seeking to make a run at the playoffs. Of course, only Smoak is hitting among this group, and Toronto seems rather unlikely to give up his bat at this stage.
In some ways, it’s even less clear whether the Rockies will have any willingness to talk about Mark Reynolds, but he’d also be a consideration. He’s a high-K hitter, of course, but is off to a nice start and is owed just $2.6MM this year. Also, Reynolds hits from the right side, making him a nice option to pair with Duda if and when he’s back in action.
That brings us to Kelly Johnson, who was acquired last summer by the Mets from the Braves. He’s back in Atlanta now, and there’s probably no team more willing to trade early than the struggling, rebuilding Braves. Of course, Johnson is off to a slow start and would at best be a solid bat, so he looks more like a stopgap solution.
If the idea of adding Johnson and eventually moving him around the diamond holds appeal to New York, there are some other much more speculative names to consider, too.
MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo noted an interesting suggestion, tweeting that a scout opined that Jonathan Lucroy of the Brewers could be an interesting piece. In theory, he could fill in at first while also shoring up a questionable backstop situation down the line. Of course, Lucroy is expected to be widely pursued, and won’t come cheap.
There are some other options out there who could step in temporarily at first before moving to other spots or filling multi-positional utility roles. Trevor Plouffe of the Twins and Luis Valbuena of the Astros have both seen limited action at first in the majors but are primarily third basemen. Neither is particularly cheap. Their availability is questionable at best — especially at this stage of the season. Minnesota can keep Plouffe for another year and already declined to deal him over the winter, while Houston surely hopes to contend and has plenty of uncertainty at the corners (though plenty of options, as well).
There are plenty of players with significant MLB time who are currently awaiting their next opportunity at the Triple-A level with other clubs. Some possibilities include Travis Ishikawa (White Sox), Allen Craig (Red Sox), Jesus Montero and Casey Kotchman (Blue Jays), Jason Rogers (Pirates), Chris Parmelee and Nick Swisher (Yankees), and Tyler Moore (Braves). Casey McGehee of the Tigers would be another possibility, and he’d give the Mets another option at third as well. And don’t look now, but old friend Ike Davis is producing at Triple-A for the Rangers, who don’t have much need for him so long as they remain content with their current options at the major league level.
Then there’s James Loney, who is the type of patient hitter the Mets like in addition to being a polished fielder. He’s putting up typical numbers in the Padres organization — .333/.368/.417 — and might be the most obvious and realistic target. The Rays are paying Loney’s way this year, aside from a pro-rated portion of the MLB minimum, and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that he can abandon his deal with San Diego if a major league opportunity arises.
We shouldn’t forget that there are still some players kicking around on the open market, though none seem to be particularly promising. Justin Morneau would be a nice fit, but he’s not expected to pick up a bat until June due to elbow surgery and comes with other, more serious health questions. If he is able to return to the field, though, there could be a match, but it’s hard to see him as a viable option for some time.
Jeff Baker, Alberto Callaspo, and Corey Hart all remain free agents, but none have been particularly productive in recent years and it’s not entirely clear whether they’re interested in pursuing new contracts. There’s reason to believe that Michael Morse could have something left in the tank after giving the Pirates solid production in a 45-game run late last year, though he was cut loose by Pittsburgh after just eight plate appearances in 2016. His power numbers have plummeted of late, and he’s not much with the glove, but he’s also done quite a bit with the bat at the major league level.
It’s anyone’s guess how this all turns out, but a temporary fill-in seems most likely at present. Players like Johnson, Loney, and Morse look to be the best bets, as they’d all represent affordable and somewhat flexible assets, buying the Mets some time to see how Duda recovers while GM Sandy Alderson and his front office staff canvass the market for bigger adds.
After all, the biggest rental targets (Edwin Encarnacion? Jose Bautista?) won’t be made available unless and until it’s clear their teams are fully out of contention at the deadline. The best-case scenario may involve the addition of a player who’ll plug the gap now and fill another role upon Duda’s return, making for an efficient acquisition, but even smaller game will be more plentiful come July.
Trouble is, the optimal outcomes may not be plausible — at least during the stretch that a replacement is most needed, and at least for a palatable price. In the final analysis, New York has plenty of possibilities, but also some tough calls ahead.
Mets assistant GM John Ricco suggested today that the club is in the market for a first baseman with Lucas Duda suffering a stress fracture in his lower back, David Lennon of Newsday reports on Twitter. “We’re not going to be able to replace Lucas Duda internally,” said Ricco.
Duda’s timetable remains unclear, but he’s struggled through back issues of late, leading up to the diagnosis of a seemingly significant injury. Signals from the team were that he’d be out for at least four to six weeks, with a lengthier DL stint quite possibly in the cards.
It’s also not immediately clear what the team might look to do in terms of an outside addition. Certainly, it would need to be an upgrade over the various internal possibilities. For now, Ty Kelly and Eric Campbell are available to fill in. Infielders such as Wilmer Flores, David Wright, or Neil Walker could conceivably be shifted over to first, or the club could even experiment with moving an outfielder there.
Clearly, though, the Mets are not enamored of those possibilities, and it doesn’t appear as if any creative shuffling of veterans is presently under consideration. If the club does indeed go outside the organization, it’s possible to imagine a pure fill-in or a more permanent solution.
In weighing the possibilities, it’s worth remembering that Duda remains controllable via arbitration for one more season. And there aren’t many clubs with apparent trade chips that would likely be willing to deal at this stage of the season. New York may be forced to cobble things together with a minor addition for the time being and wait for an opportunity for a more robust solution, all while monitoring Duda’s progress.
The Mets have placed first baseman Lucas Duda on the 15-day disabled list due to a stress fracture in his lower back, tweets Marc Carig of Newsday. There’s no definitive timetable for his return, but manager Terry Collins said that it “will be awhile,” tweets MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo. ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin tweets that Collins added it’ll be “at least” four to six weeks for Duda, though that seems like a fairly optimistic timeline.
In a corresponding move, the Mets have selected the contract of infielder Ty Kelly from Triple-A Las Vegas. Carig tweets that Kelly will get some time at first base along with Eric Campbell, but the club could also try Wilmer Flores and even Michael Conforto at first base in his absence. To clear room for Kelly on the 40-man roster, the team has designated left-hander Dario Alvarez for assignment, Rubin tweets.
Duda, 30, has seen his batting average, on-base percentage and power output each take a significant hit this season, and Mets manager Terry Collins admitted over the weekend that he was “really concerned” about the status of his slugging first baseman’s back. Duda batted .249/.350/.483 and launched 57 homers from 2014-15 while providing offense that was roughly 35 percent better than that of a league-average bat (per metrics like OPS+ and wRC+), but he’s been a shade below average with the bat this season and has seen his struggles escalate rapidly over the past couple of weeks. In 13 games (11 starts) dating back to May 5, Duda is hitting .171/.292/.220. That endpoint is admittedly arbitrary in nature (Duda homered twice on May 4) but does speak to his recent struggles at the dish.
The indefinite loss of Duda is a blow to a Mets lineup that currently ranks 25th in Major League Baseball with 167 runs scored, especially considering the fact that they’ve recently seen one of their hottest hitters, Conforto, go into a lengthy slump with a significant increase in strikeouts. Travis d’Arnaud is already on the disabled list and doesn’t appear close to a return, and Curtis Granderson is hitting just .200/.297/.419 on the year. The rest of the Mets’ infield — Neil Walker, Asdrubal Cabrera, David Wright — has been productive, but Wright is currently mired in a slump of his own and comes with durability concerns due to his ongoing bout with spinal stenosis. Yoenis Cespedes has been a stabilizing force in the middle of the Mets’ lineup, hitting an incredible .298/.381/.660 with an MLB-best 14 homers and an NL-best 35 RBIs. (His .660 slugging also leads the Senior Circuit.)
It’s unlikely that Conforto sees any immediate time at first base, as he lacks experience at the position, though if and when he does get a lengthier look there, the Mets could make some use of the Juan Lagares/Alejandro De Aza platoon that was expected to patrol center field before Cespedes re-signed. One name that is not in consideration is Double-A first baseman and top prospect Dominic Smith, tweets Carig. Collins says that Smith, who has just 47 games above the Class-A level under his belt, will not be coming up anytime soon. Rubin tweets that Wright, too, offered to play some first base in Duda’s absence, but Collins said a move across the diamond for the team captain is not a consideration, either.
The Mets polished off a three-game sweep of the Brewers today and now head into a big three-game series with the NL East-leading Nationals. New York goes into the series 1.5 games behind Washington. Here’s the latest from the Amazins…
- Lucas Duda underwent tests on his bad back this morning and he’ll be re-evaluated by team doctors on Monday, manager Terry Collins told reporters (including Peter Botte of the New York Daily News). Collins admitted that he’s “really concerned” about his first baseman’s status, with David Wright also seemingly implying that Duda could miss some time. Duda is off to a slow start, hitting .231/.297/.431 with seven homers through his first 145 PA.
- Asdrubal Cabrera wasn’t considered a marquee signing during the Mets’ offseason but the veteran infielder has thus far delivered a very solid performance, the New York Post’s Zach Braziller writes. Cabrera is hitting .278/.333/.373 through 171 plate appearances and despite some subpar defensive metrics, he’s been a valuable fill-in at shortstop with Wilmer Flores injured.
- Does Stephen Strasburg’s extension with the Nationals offer any lessons for the Mets and Matt Harvey? Newsday’s David Lennon notes that at the moment, the Mets are simply trying to get Harvey on track after a very rough start to his season. The two aces invite comparison in many ways (i.e. both Scott Boras clients, both early-career Tommy John patients), though perhaps the most interesting point of divergence is how the Nats famously shut down Strasburg in the season following his TJ surgery rather than use him down the stretch and into the postseason, whereas the Mets used Harvey throughout their run to the World Series last year.
- A scout who has followed Matt Harvey since his amateur days offered his assessment of the struggling Mets right-hander to Kevin Kernan of the New York Post. “There’s no deception in his delivery. “He is throwing across his body and the hitters are getting a good look at everything,” said the scout, who added that Harvey looks out of shape and is presenting “no fear factor, no intimidation.”
The Mets considered sending Matt Harvey down to help the slumping ace regain form, but he talked his way into remaining with the big league club and will make his next start, according to Newsday’s Marc Carig. “We dissected every angle there was,” said manager Terry Collins. “In the end, knowing this guy like we do, he wants to pitch. He wants to fight through it. He isn’t going to run and hide. He wants to get out there. So we’re going to do that.” Interestingly, in addition to mulling a minors trip for Harvey, the Mets pondered removing everything from his locker and setting those belongings on fire – which then-Mets reliever Bobby Parnell did last season when he was struggling. It’s unknown if Harvey actually did it, per Carig, who adds that the Mets believe his problems stem from a lack of confidence. After logging 427 innings of 2.53 ERA pitching to accompany a 4.78 K/BB from 2012-15, the 27-year-old Harvey has regressed significantly in both categories in 2016 (5.77 and 2.87, respectively).
- On the heels of a less-than-stellar Saturday showing – five innings, five hits, four earned runs and three walks – Mark Simon of ESPN.com wonders if the Mets should also be concerned about starter Jacob deGrom. After bursting on the scene with back-to-back dominant campaigns, deGrom has been merely good in 2016. He entered Saturday with the majors’ 16th-worst hard-hit rate, which is in stark contrast to his eighth-best mark from last season, as Simon writes. Moreover, deGrom’s K/9 has dipped from 9.00-plus in each of the previous two years to 6.59 this season. The soon-to-be 28-year-old has also lost a couple miles per hour of velocity compared to last season, per PITCHf/x.
First baseman Lucas Duda was scratched from the Mets’ lineup Saturday and had an MRI on his back, as ESPN’s Mark Simon notes. The nature and severity of Duda’s issue is unclear, although he’s batted just .192/.300/.404 in May. “Having him out of the lineup is a huge loss for us, especially against right-handed pitching, which we’re going to see two games here and two games in D.C. (next week),” says manager Terry Collins. “We have to look at the big picture. We can’t aggravate this thing to where it becomes a major issue. We hope that it won’t.” Here’s more on NL injuries.