The New York Mets finally solved their first base problem on Friday as they traded Ike Davis to the Pittsburgh Pirates for RHP Zack Thornton and a player to be named later. In doing so, they avoided a potential season-long distraction. They also got a young arm who should be ready to help the beleaguered major league bullpen this season. The trade looks like a win for the Mets as well as for Davis, who needed to get out of New York.
The Mets had been shopping Davis since the day the 2013 season ended. GM Sandy Alderson was looking for a pitching prospect in return — the Milwaukee Brewers‘ Tyler Thornburg, for example. But potential trade partners found Alderson’s price too high, and the Mets kept Davis as they entered Spring Training. It was an awkward situation, but Davis and the Mets deserve a lot of credit for handling it in a professional and mature way.
They carried Davis into the season, where he was in a bizarre three-player platoon with Lucas Duda and Josh Satin. The right-handed hitting Satin got little playing time due to the dearth of left-handed pitching the Mets faced, but Duda and Davis both had their moments.
With the season a mere week old, the Mets decided to give Duda the first shot at extended playing time at first. Duda responded with a two-homer game against the Cincinnati Reds. Davis won the final game of the series with a walk-off, pinch-hit grand slam. Duda continued to hit well enough to stay in the lineup, but Davis, who didn’t get as much playing time, had only one hit in his last 16 at-bats.
As for what the Mets got in return, it’s a lot for a player who has a .666 OPS and 10 home runs over the past two seasons. Thornton is a sinkerballer with three-quarter delivery whose fastball sits in the low-90s. He has a high strikeout rate in the minor leagues and a low walk rate. Scouts feel that his strikeouts won’t necessarily translate to the majors, but he should continue to be a strike-thrower, which is what the Mets need out of the bullpen.
He’ll start out at triple-A, but count on him making an appearance in Flushing at some point this year. New York will also get a player to be named later. One rumor states it will be someone who the Pirates drafted last year. A draft pick can’t be traded until one year after he was drafted, so that could be true.
And so ends Davis’s time with the Mets. Ironically, the former first-round draft pick solved the Mets’ first base problem in 2010, replacing an injured Daniel Murphy and an ineffective Mike Jacobs. He was impressive in the field and at the plate, and continued to grow in 2011 before suffering an ankle injury in a collision with David Wright.
When he finally came back from that injury in 2012, he was not the same player. He was an automatic out for the first three months of the the 2012 season before finding his power stroke. He finished that year with 32 home runs, but started out dreadfully again in 2013. This time, there would be no recovery.
So, Davis will now try to resurrect his career in Pittsburgh, where he will platoon with Gaby Sanchez. The Mets will move forward with Duda and Satin at first base and another young arm in their organization.