First base belongs to Duda. This may be unpopular with a sect of Mets fans that has not been enamored with Duda for some time. But the fact remains that he’s their best in-house option at first base — and it’s not particularly close. Loney isn’t on the team anymore, gone via free agency. Wilmer Flores, who figures to start frequently at first against lefties, isn’t much of an option versus right-handed pitching.
That leaves Duda, whose .249 average and 57 homers from 2014-15 made him a roughly league-average offensive first baseman. The concern with Duda is not his ability but his health — he missed four months last year due to a lower-back stress fracture.
One popular scenario in the Twittersphere has the Mets trading Bruce, moving Michael Conforto to first base and signing a corner outfield bat such as Jose Bautista. That’s just unrealistic for a Mets team that is looking to trim payroll, not add to it. And there are no guarantees Conforto would be better offensively than Duda. Defensively, he would almost certainly be worse.
So Duda will be the Mets’ first baseman for at least another year. It’s a situation that has worked just fine in the past. The Mets believe it can work again.
If the Mets trade Bruce, will we re-sign Jerry Blevins?
— @cruzchristian88 via Twitter
It’s important to realize that any money the Mets save on Bruce’s $13 million salary won’t just be funneled back into the bullpen. The Mets will spend some of it on relief arms, to be sure. But general manager Sandy Alderson has been quite clear in saying the payroll needs to decrease from its current perch of about $150 million.
While Blevins would be a great fit for a Mets team seeking left-handed bullpen help, he’s said to be seeking a three-year deal worth up to $18 million. The mathematics on such a deal simply aren’t appetizing to a Mets team that needs more than just one additional arm.
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All it means is that the Mets are wary of the volatility of pitching. Harvey was never a realistic extension candidate due to his agent, Scott Boras, and now he’s an injury risk to boot. For all deGrom has given the Mets, he has also struggled to stay healthy, and won’t be a free agent until age 32. There’s little incentive for the Mets to lock him up now.
Likewise, would you feel comfortable handing out a long-term deal to Matz or Wheeler, neither of whom have been able to stay on the field? There simply hasn’t been much reason for the Mets to explore such things.
The one extension candidate who does make sense is Syndergaard, who seems as well-suited to remain strong into his 30s as anyone in baseball. Extension talk tends to heat up in January, when free agency slows. It wouldn’t surprise me to see the Mets touch base with Syndergaard at that time.
But be wary. A Syndergaard extension wouldn’t come cheap, which may make it difficult to complete at all.
With Amed Rosario penciled in at shortstop, who is the Mets’ second baseman of the future starting in 2018?
— @jonjy36 via Twitter
There’s a decent chance it’s someone not currently in the organization, considering the Mets’ former second-baseman-of-the-future, Dilson Herrera, is now with Cincinnati.
The most likely candidate is actually Neil Walker, provided he recovers from back surgery without issue. He and the Mets have spoken openly of their mutual interest in a contract extension, which might have happened already had his injury not interfered. Given the Mets’ dearth of in-house options, it’s not unreasonable to think the Mets might rip up Walker’s current one-year deal, tack on some additional cash and diffuse it over two or three seasons.
If that doesn’t work, the Mets could invest in likely future free agents such as Brett Lawrie or Howie Kendrick. Or they could turn to shortstop prospect Gavin Cecchini, who figures to see significant time at second this season for the very reason that the Mets don’t have an obvious future candidate for the position.
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
Source: Mets News / Inbox: Is Duda the man at first base in 2017?