The Time for the James Loney Stopgap Is Over
Unlike last season, the Mets were proactive in replacing an injured player on their roster when the obtained James Loney from the San Diego Padres to replace Lucas Duda who was slated to be on the disabled list for a long time with a broken back.
Coming into the season, Loney was a .285/.338/.411 hitter who averaged 10 homers and 64 RBI in a season. His OPS+ was 105 meaning he was roughly a league average hitter. In his 55 games with the Mets, Loney has been a slightly better version of himself hitting .289/.339/.443 with six homers and 23 RBI. His OPS+ is 108, which is what Mo Vaughn‘s OPS+ was as a Met. Long story short, Loney is the perfect stopgap, but he is not a difference maker. The problem is he was taking over for a difference maker in the lineup.
Since Duda became the Mets everyday first baseman, he has hit .249/.350/.483 while averaging 28 homers and 82 RBI. His OPS+ over that stretch is 133 meaning he is batting at an All Star caliber level, and he is a difference maker at the plate. To put it into context, David Wright‘s career OPS+ is 133.
Essentially, the Mets have gone from a David Wright level of production at first base back to the days of Mo Vaughn. This drop in production goes a long way to explain why the Mets offense has been struggling since Duda has gone down with the broken back.
With the grim prognosis for Duda this season, and with the trade deadline having gone by, the Mets never made the necessary upgrade at first base. If the Mets were to shift Jay Bruce (128 OPS+ this season) or Michael Conforto to first base (129 OPS+ last year), they would go a long way to replacing that production. It is certainly worth a shot. The time for stopgaps is over. The Mets now need to find a real replacement for Duda’s offense. That isn’t Loney. Hopefully, it could be Bruce or Conforto.