In yesterday’s game against the Atlanta Braves, New York Mets’ manager Terry Collins put Lucas Duda in the lineup at first base for the first time this season. With Ike Davis in the minors and showing no signs of being ready to return anytime soon, there’s no reason for Duda to play anywhere but first base for the time being.
Although he’s shown some improvement defensively this season as the every day left fielder, Duda’s natural position is first base, and in his first game there this season Duda had four hits and made several good defensive plays, as he looked far more comfortable on both offense and defense.
There’s also no reason for the Mets to shuffle Daniel Murphy back to first base in Davis’ absence when it’s so easy to move Duda there instead. Murphy has played much better at second base this season than he has in past years, and the Mets should avoid moving him if at all possible.
Not only does putting Duda at first base and Murphy at second base give the Mets the best lineup to help them win games, but it also allows the Mets more opportunities to give playing time to the young members of their outfield. With Duda at first base, it allows players like Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Juan Lagares, Collin Cowgill and Jordany Valdespin to play more frequently. The Mets need to be evaluating their younger players for the future, and Duda moving to first base helps them do that.
Most importantly, playing Duda at first base allows the Mets to evaluate him as a possible long-term solution at first base. There’s no guarantee that Davis is going to be able to get back to the big leagues, and his struggles the past two seasons have created serious doubts as to whether the Mets can move forward with him as their first baseman following the season. Davis’ loss is Duda’s gain, as he now has an opportunity to audition to be the Mets first baseman for the rest of 2013 and possibly 2014 as well.
It’s a solution so simple that it’s a shame that it took Collins and the Mets a week to figure it out. Playing Duda at first base can help the Mets win games in the short term, while also allowing them to evaluate players for the long term. As long as Davis is in the minors, that’s the way it should stay.