J.D. Davis was one of the breakout stars on the Mets last season, hitting .307/.369/.527 with 22 home runs, 57 RBI and 65 runs scored in 410 at-bats. He was one of the driving factors in the Mets’ second-half turnaround, and at just 24 years old, he’s not even arbitration-eligible until 2022 and under contract until 2025.
There’s just one, kind-of major problem: He doesn’t really have a position on the Mets.
See, Davis is naturally a third baseman but showed last year that he can play at least left field if needed, starting 71 games in left as opposed to just 27 at third. He wasn’t great, but he was serviceable, and his bat more than made up for it. You would think that with the stat line Davis put up at the plate that he would be a lock for a starting spot, but that’s not how the lineup is projected to shape out in 2020.
With Robinson Cano’s contract clogging up second base, Jeff McNeil, one of the best pure hitters in the MLB has to slide over to third, and with Rookie of the Year Pete Alonso at first and Amed Rosario at short, the opening day infield is pretty much set in stone.
As for the outfield, that’s where it gets a little bit tricky. Michael Conforto is penciled into right field, but as for the other two positions, they’re up in the air. The Mets don’t really have a center fielder, but as of right now, it’s probably going to be Brandon Nimmo. Nimmo was hurt for a lot of last season, so he never really got into a groove at the plate. His numbers took a noticeable drop from his breakout 2018, but you have to think that he’s going to get back to form in 2020 if he stays off the IL.
That would leave Davis in left, right? Well, that’s where a monkey wrench gets thrown in. There’s a lot of talk about the Mets adding a center fielder this offseason, with everyone from Cameron Maybin and Brett Gardner to Starling Marte and Mookie Betts having their names thrown around as options. But frankly, I don’t think any of these are necessary.
Nimmo is fine — nothing great — but he’s fine. If he gets back to form as he should, it’s not worth pushing him over to left and bumping Davis out of the lineup, which will most likely happen. Gardner and Maybin are significantly worse at the plate and no special upgrades defensively, and Marte and Betts would take a boatload of prospects that the Mets frankly don’t have to get them, and then they would have to go and resign them or let them walk after 2020. With Nimmo and Davis being very talented and very controllable and other players that will need extensions soon (Conforto, Marcus Stroman, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, etc.), they should be the outfield of the future.
But wait, there’s more! And this is where it gets really complicated.
Last season, the Mets inked infielder Jed Lowrie to a two-year, $20 million deal, but the utility man dealt with injury after injury and setback after setback, ending up playing parts of nine games, going 0-7 with a walk in his eight plate appearances. If healthy this year, where is he going to play?
But that’s the little problem. The big problem is the savior of 2015, Yoenis Cespedes. After missing all of last season with a bunch of injuries (including one mysterious one on his ranch) and playing only 38 games in 2018 and 81 games in 2017, it’s been a while since Mets fans have seen the Cespedes they expect. Will he come back this season? Who knows, but if he does, he and his almost $30 million contract will certainly slide into left field, displacing J.D.
This is my plea. Don’t have a spot for J.D.? Make one. It’s not often the Mets come across this kind of talent. Don’t trade away five more years of J.D. because of one year of Cespedes and Lowrie, both of whom I would be shocked if they are on the roster next season.
Besides, even if Cespedes is active, there’s no way that he will start every game, as the Mets will certainly limit his usage to try to keep him off the IL. As for Lowrie, Davis should be starting over him anyway, the only difference here is he’s making almost 20 times as much money. Not only that, but Cano at his age will also likely need regular rest, so in that case they can either plug Lowrie in at second or slide McNeil over and have room for both Yo and J.D. in left and at third.
And that’s if everyone stays healthy. If just one player who isn’t Wilson Ramos or Rosario goes down, Davis is back to a lock in the lineup, just like he should be. Still, with no guarantees of health and the age of some of the Mets core players along with regular rest days for everyone on the team, Davis should see plenty of playing time.
Don’t trade J.D. (and Dom Smith but that one is a little bit harder to justify), because before you know it, Cespedes, Cano and Lowrie are all on the IL and all of a sudden Luis Guillorme is an everyday starter while J.D. and Dom are killing it elsewhere. Depth is a good thing, and with the injury history of the Mets, a necessary thing. It’s not something to be traded away.
There’s real championship potential in this team both this year and down the road, just please don’t trade away the future.