The Mets have not ruled out a 2016 return for first baseman Lucas Duda, reports SNY. Duda has been on the shelf since late May because of a stress fracture in his lower back, and an early August setback in his recovery caused the Mets to shut him down for 30 days. The 30-year-old slugger is now back to hitting soft toss in Port St. Lucie, Fla., and could soon partake in live batting practice, per SNY.
The optimistic update on Duda comes during a week in which the Mets have lost second baseman Neil Walker and right-hander Zack Wheeler for the season with injuries, while ace righty Jacob deGrom will miss at least one start with forearm soreness. Despite injury issues and an underwhelming record (69-66), the defending National League champions are only two games behind St. Louis for the NL’s second wild-card spot.
One reason the Mets aren’t nearly as formidable as they were last year is an inability to score runs. Despite being second in the NL in homers, the Mets have totaled the third-fewest runs in their league. Duda’s replacement, James Loney, hasn’t helped matters. Loney has batted a meager .258/.302/.369 in 299 plate appearances, making him one of the least effective first basemen in the sport this year. Duda wasn’t that much more successful in his 145 pre-injury PAs (.231/.297/.431), but he did combine to hit an easily above-average .249/.349/.453 with 97 long balls in 2,340 plate trips from 2011-15.
If Duda comes back sometime down the stretch and shows he’s healthy, it could help him stay in a Mets uniform beyond this season. As MLBTR’s Jeff Todd wrote last week, Duda is a potential non-tender candidate for the upcoming winter. He’s currently on a $6.725MM salary and is scheduled to make one more trip through arbitration.