Don’t Just Give Away Lucas Duda
With the Yankees pulling off that blockbuster last night, which included Todd Frazier, one of the few logical landing spots for Lucas Duda might have been eliminated. Considering the Tigers got a less than impressive haul for J.D. Martinez, who was widely considered the best bat on the trade market, it makes you wonder if the Mets are going to be able to get anything of value in exchange for their trade pieces – namely Duda. Certainly, that is troubling considering the Mets don’t want to lose the impending free agent without getting anything in return for him.
The soon to be 32 year old Duda is having another good year at the plate for the Mets. Through 67 games, the slugger is hitting .244/.351/.542 with 16 homers and 34 RBI. His 132 wRC+ is in the top 10 in the major leagues among first baseman with at least 250 plate appearances. Essentially, Duda is in the top third of first baseman. It is a position he has been since he took over the first base job from Ike Davis in 2014.
Arguably, a player like that is a second round draft pick or similar talent as the new free agent compensation system in place awards teams a second round pick for players the reject a qualifying offer and sign elsewhere.
Generally, one WAR is worth approximately $8 million. (Business Insider). In 2014 and 2015, Duda averaged a 3.3 WAR. After a lost year last year, Duda is seemingly back to being that player, which would make him worth about $26 million per year. With last year’s qualifying offer being $17.2 million, Duda is arguably worth whatever the qualifying offer number will be for the 2018 season.
But there is a difference between being worth the money and whether giving Duda roughly $20 million is a good allocation of resources. The Mets have significant holes that need to be addressed this offseason. The team needs to overhauled their bullpen. They also need a second baseman, third baseman, center fielder, and possibly a catcher. With the 22 year old former first round pick Dominic Smith waiting in the wings, the real question is whether another year of Duda is worth it?
There’s just no clear cut answer to that question. As easily as you can point to Duda’s production and the value in giving Smith more time to develop in the minors, you can also argue Duda hinders the Mets ability to build the best possible team in 2018. Moreover, there is the risk Duda could re-injure his back.
Of course, Duda can also reject the qualifying offer. Coming off his 2014 season, he rejected a three year $30 million contract extension. He could similarly reject a qualifying offer to get the contract he believes he is worth.
No matter which direction the Mets go there is a risk. Considering the likely worst case scenario is the Mets are stuck with a first baseman with a good OBP capable of hitting 30 homers a year, keeping him instead of moving him for something less than what he is worth is a risk well worth taking.