The first to go was Daniel Murphy. That was the result of the Mets deciding they would rather have Ben Zobrist then later Neil Walker as their second baseman in 2016. Juan Uribe would also depart via free agency as he would pursue an opportunity to be the Indians everyday third baseman.
Kelly Johnson would leave via free agency, but the Mets would soon realize their mistake by not re-signing him. As a result, they would trade Akeel Morris to the Braves to reacquire Johnson. That move would be a key factor in the Mets making it back to the postseason in 2016.
While Murphy, Uribe, and Johnson left via free agency, the Mets just plain got rid of Ruben Tejada. Even with Chase Utley destroying his leg, the Mets would tender him a contract. On the eve of Opening Day, the Mets would opt to release Tejada thereby saving them some money.
Lucas Duda lasted a little bit longer. In 2016, he would suffer a back injury, which cost him most of the season. He would rebound in 2017, but the Mets wouldn’t. As a result, he was moved at the trade deadline in exchange for Drew Smith.
That left just Flores and Wright. With Wright going down just 37 games into the 2016 season, it was really just Flores remaining. Even with the Mets not winning the past few seasons, Flores was a reminder of that glorious 2015 season with a number of walk-off hits and game winning RBI. Those memories are now history as Flores was non-tendered, and he signed a free agent deal with the Diamondbacks.
Really, when you look at the Mets team, 2015 seems forever ago.Looking at the current roster, the only position players who will be active on Opening Day are Michael Conforto and Juan Lagares. If Travis d’Arnaud is healthy, that makes three, and when he returns, if he returns, Yoenis Cespedes will make four. There isn’t much remaining from the pitching staff either. From the starting rotation, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz remains, and in the bullpen, Jeurys Familia is only one remaining, and that is because he was brought back in free agency.
It really is a shame too. That 2015 group was very likeable. It was a team who electrified not just Mets fans, but all of baseball. At the time, it seemed like this was going to be the dawn of a new era of Mets baseball. If things broke right, it could be another run like there was with the 1980s Mets teams. Sadly, it never happened.
Still, we have the memories. Hopefully, the Mets now have a team who could win. And who knows? Perhaps we will one day talk about how the players who got their experience with the 2015 team being the players who leaned on that experience to help put the Mets over the top in 2019.
Now, one thing I have been upfront about is that I am partial to Lucas Duda. For me, seeing Duda go from the Mets organization was more than just seeing a good player leave, it does close a small chapter of my life. Unlike most writers, I want to be upfront about my biases because everyone writes with some bias. If you understand that, you’re better able to assess the evaluation.
Now before addressing this specific trade, Duda was arguably worth a second round pick or the equivalent due to the changes in the qualifying offer system. Ultimately, when assessing the Mets trade of Duda for Drew Smith, the question is whether the Mets accomplished that in this deal.
The answer? Maybe.
On the one hand, only earlier this year his trade value was just a fourth outfielder in Mikie Mahtook. However, judging his value on that alone is silly. It’s very possible the Tigers made a bad trade. It’s also possible Smith got better as the year progressed. With Smith, it seems both might be true.
Based on various scouting reports, Smith is a reliever who throws it in the high 90s and he can reach 99 MPH. He combines that with a good but inconsistent curveball. Both pitches have been dominant for him this year with him going 1-2 with a 1.60 ERA, 0.911 WHIP, and an 8.0 K/9 across three levels of the minors and in two different organizations. Smith certainly gets the most out of these pitches because he locates both of these pitches well.
Looking at the stats and his stuff, there is a lot to like. He has been getting good results. One thing that stands out with him is he has allowed just five extra base hits in 45.0 innings pitched. Four of those extra base hits were doubles, and the lone home run he has allowed was to now fellow Mets prospect Peter Alonso. Remarkably, that homer is the only one he has allowed in his career.
On the downside is there’s not a lot of strikeouts. For someone with his stuff, you’d expect a lot more. More troubling is the fact he has yet to strike anyone above Single-A. It should be noted he’s pitched 4.2 innings above Single-A. One of the reasons why his strikeouts are low could be his fastball is a straight fastball.
Ultimately, Smith is an interesting relief prospect, but in some ways, he’s also a project. Given Duda’s production, the Mets probably should have done better than this. Arguably, they should have also received another lower level prospect in return to mitigate some of the boom/bust potential in Smith.
However, this analysis does ignore the down market for sluggers like Duda, and the fact Sandy Alderson probably waited too long to trade him. It also ignores this is a pitcher with high upside. If he hits his ceiling, and he’s in an organization where he very well could, you’re probably calling this trade a win for the Mets.
Another factor is this trade does make room for Dominic Smith to play sooner rather than later. This will allow Smith to get his feet wet this year and make the necessary adjustments heading into the 2018 season to help him be a much better player.
Overall, the Mets likely sold low on Duda. In the end, we’re probably not going to care much if Smith becomes the 10 time All Star Duda said he wants him to become. We’ll care even less if Smith becomes a dominant late inning reliever. As of today, anything is possible