Jose Abreu has made waves for himself akin to Yoenis Cespedes and Yasiel Puig before him as the latest Cuban defector to try his hand at stardom in Major League Baseball. The soon-to-be 27-year-old slugging first baseman profiles as a prolific power hitter with defense that projects to land him as a designated hitter before long.
Abreu has monster power. The Cuban export once smashed home runs in six consecutive games and blasted off for 35 home runs in only 87 games for the Cienfuegos during the 2011-2012 season. Abreu has the type of power that could change a franchise similar to the way that Puig’s presence coincided with the Los Angeles Dodgers’ surge earlier this year.
The New York Mets have money to spend this winter in an attempt to improve their 74-loss team into an 89-win club that could seek, at minimum, a Wild Card berth next season. As evidenced by the Boston Red Sox, a change of this magnitude isn’t impossible. The Mets need to replace their below-replacement and replacement level players with better players. It sounds comical, but to upgrade marginally over several key positions brings the Mets much closer to playoff contention than would appear on the surface.
The Mets received very poor production from their first basemen this year. Ike Davis struggled his way to a demotion and faced the kind of offensive troubles that has left the club with the difficult decision about tendering him a contract that would eat into $3M of their offseason pool. While Davis’ struggles are warrantably worrisome, his .281/.458/.517 clip over his last 120 plate appearances would be comparable to the Dodgers’ Adrian Gonzalez over the course of a full season. Furthermore, Davis has suffered defensively in such a harsh manner that defensive metrics account that he has cost the club nearly two wins since 2011.
Lucas Duda has faced similar struggles, but comes with the disadvantage of never showing the same high-ceiling potential that Davis continues to boast. Duda’s largest sample of success at the big league level came in 2011 when he managed to hit .292/.370/.482 during the second half of the season, but hasn’t come close to touching those numbers since. He has been tasked in playing out of position for the majority of his career and has cited that he’s much more comfortable at first base. Unfortunately for Duda, he’s still a below-average defensive first baseman and while he has value by drawing walks and having a very complimentary isolated power, it would appear that Duda is the lesser of the two options.
The two options are simply those at this point, and lend themselves to the front office pondering the value of one or both of the players. Can the club afford to sit and watch one or both struggle for several months next season in hopes that the duo will breakout into a modern day rendition of Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire? If the Mets are going to take a flyer, Abreu makes perfect sense for a commitment that would leave them financial flexibility moving forward.
Mets first basemen hit .234/.353/.368 in 694 plate appearances during the 2013 campaign. The outstanding figure is the incredible .353 OBP that was led by Davis during his perennial second-half surge. Ideally, the club would like to see an uptick in slugging from the position, and Abreu would be able to help provide that.
While the upside in investing in Abreu is tremendous, the downfalls are also evident: At 27-years-old, he’s already projecting to be a defensive liability and he has yet to face Major League pitching. This hasn’t seemed to hurt Puig, but Cespedes has been bothered by a wrist injury and suffered a steep offensive decline during his sophomore year in the bigs.
Abreu would be a nice fit for all 30 clubs if he could replicate his Cuban League numbers, but to try to make an accurate conversion would be near-impossible. Would it be reasonable to assume that he could produce .234/.353/.368? It doesn’t seem improbable, and at the very least it seems unlikely that he wouldn’t produce a similar line with his monstrous power. A six-year deal with an average annual value between $10-12M seems to be the price that Abreu’s camp is seeking, but will his production be more valuable to the team than Davis could provide if healthy and confident?
It would be intriguing to see the Mets involved in the Abreu camp, but it would be difficult to watch Davis leave after seeing the success that Chris Davis has had in Baltimore. If Davis is fully confident and healthy, his on-field value could easily exceed that of Abreu’s for roughly $7M less that could be spent on other deficiencies.
Should the Mets sign Jose Abreu to a six-year pact and effectively end Davis’ time with the club? Does Davis deserve one final opportunity in Flushing before being shipped away? Do you believe that the Mets should explore alternative options altogether? Let us know your thoughts on the predicament the Mets face at first base below!
Photo Credit: USA Today