6:20pm: To make room for Duda on their 40-man roster, the Mets placed left-hander Jon Niese on the 60-day disabled list, reports Adam Rubin of ESPN.com. Niese underwent knee surgery Aug. 24, and it’s possible he has thrown his last pitch as a member of the Mets. New York will likely decline Niese’s $10MM club option after the season, per Rubin.
5:26pm: The Mets have activated first baseman Lucas Duda from the 60-day disabled list, per a team announcement. Duda will now return after going on the DL in late May with a stress fracture in his lower back. However, Duda will likely only serve as a bench piece for the rest of the year, according to Anthony DiComo of MLB.com. Duda worked his way back at the Mets’ facility in Port St. Lucie, Fla., but he didn’t appear in any rehab or instructional league games, as DiComo writes.
For the Mets, the activation of Duda comes on the same day they lost star right-hander Jacob deGrom for the season because of an elbow issue. Injuries have beset the Mets throughout the season, but the defending National League champions have still managed a 78-69 record and a two-game lead on the final wild-card spot. The absence of Duda has hurt the club, though, as fill-in James Loney has been among the majors’ worst regulars at first base this year.
Loney, whom the Mets acquired from the Padres as a result of Duda’s injury, has hit a meek .264/.305/.382 with seven home runs in 335 plate appearances. Duda was in the midst of a slow start before he landed on the shelf, having batted .231/.297/.431 in 145 PAs, but he still swatted as many homers as Loney (seven) in 190 fewer plate trips. The Mets are actually second in the NL in long balls (199), yet they’ve scored the third-fewest runs in their league (579). Only the bottom-feeding Braves and Phillies, two fellow NL East teams, have crossed home plate less.
Although he’s unlikely to fill a prominent role over the next several weeks, Duda’s comeback could help the 30-year-old remain in a Mets uniform past this season. He’s currently on a $6.725MM salary and is scheduled to make one more trip through arbitration, which will leave the Mets to decide whether to tender him in the offseason. That seems likely, as the powerful Duda combined to hit an easily above-average .249/.349/.453 with 97 homers in 2,340 PAs from 2011-15.