New York Mets’ outfielder/first baseman Lucas Duda has been on the disabled list for more than a month, but the Mets haven’t really missed him. Duda began his minor league rehab yesterday in the Gulf Coast League, but when his rehab is over and he is ready to rejoin the Mets, there won’t be any room for him on the roster, leaving him on the outside looking in.
For the first three months of the season, Duda was the Mets’ every day left fielder, and the only fixture in a revolving door of outfielders the Mets had for much of the first half of the season. But since Duda has been out, things have changed. Eric Young has become the every day left fielder, and an essential part of the Mets as their leadoff hitter, Marlon Byrd has emerged as the every day right fielder, and arguably the team’s second most important hitter behind David Wright and youngsters Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Juan Lagares have formed a nice tandem in center field.
Young could move over to center field, making room for Duda in left field, but that would mean a steep drop off in the quality of the Mets’ outfield defense, which has been a key part of their success over the past month. Duda could play right field, especially if Byrd is traded, but Duda failed miserably in right field last season and again, that would hurt the Mets defensively.
Duda was actually beginning to play first base regularly when he was injured, as Ike Davis had been sent to the minors to fix his swing. However, Davis is back and has formed a platoon with Josh Satin at first base, leaving no opportunities for Duda to play his natural position, unless Davis is traded or sent back to the minors.
This means that when Duda is healthy, he could be in for an extended stay with triple-A Las Vegas. There’s little point in having him come off the bench as a pinch hitter, and his production this season doesn’t warrant a return to the lineup while four other outfielders are making positive contributions on a regular basis. Duda could be put on the trading block, but after sitting out for more than a month and without a proven MLB track record, he doesn’t bring much value on the trade market.
In his absence, the Mets have started to find some answers in their outfield, but those answers, namely Young, Nieuwenhuis and Lagares, have created new questions about Duda and his future with the Mets. The only thing we know for sure is that right now there’s no room for Duda on the Mets’ roster.