The Market Value of Post-Hype First Basemen

Logan Morrison came up with glove, power and patience and a big twitter presence. It was exciting. Then he was injured, the power waned, and he used that twitter account to upset his franchise. Now he’s a Mariner, traded for Carter Capps. And all of this means something for the Mets and Ike Davis.

The bar is so high when it comes to first base that a little bit of struggle can really hurt your trade value. The Mariners did buy two of the available first basemen — which is weird because they had one already — and that does mean that the supply was altered. But for every bit of good that might have meant for the Mets in their pursuit of trade value for their struggling first basemen, the move was also harmful. Logan Morrison was traded for a reliever.

Carter Capps is a good reliever. He might be a great one if he continues to improve his control. His strikeout rate was in the top 40 among relievers with more than 70 innings over the last two years. He has a great slider, a good change, and a 97 mph fastball. He’s under control until 2019. He could close, before or after Steve Cishek moves on.

He’s still a reliever, and is projected to put up about a half win next year. You’d think a first baseman who’s shown offense that’s 8% better than the league over nearly 1500 plate appearances and is under team control for three years would be worth more than a reliever, no matter how good he is. The problem with Morrison is that an ankle injury has hurt his defense, making him a likely Designated Hitter, and it’s sapped his power, too. And! American League first basemen were 13% better than the league with the stick last year. So Morrison has been below average to date among his new peers.

So we come to the Mets. They have two first basemen that were once better-regarded. Lucas Duda has been 15% better than the league average at the plate, but is a problem in the field. Ike Davis has been 12% better than the league. Though he supposedly had more upside in the field, the defensive metrics have ceased to be kind to him over the last two years. Duda has one more year of control than Morrison, but Davis is a free agent in 2017. Injury aside, they’re roughly comparable with Morrison.

And that’s why the same teams that were in on Hart and Morrison will now turn to the Mets. Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Tampa. And the Mets are holding two cheap first basemen, and then there’s Kendrys Morales and James Loney on the open market.

Perhaps the game of musical chairs will result in the Mets getting more for their first baseman than the Marlins did for Morrison. Davis was on the field roughly 50% more often than Morrison, his injury wasn’t as debilitating, and his power drop-off was more of the one-year variety than the slow, steady loss that Morrison underwent. If both Morrison and Davis are equally healthy and play to their projections, it’s Davis that will be worth more.

But how much more? The rumored names in Milwaukee are Tyler Thornburg and Mike Fiers, and both are flawed pitchers. Thornburg has an average changeup, 93 mph gas, and an up-and-down history of command. He was supposedly too much for Davis, and ow the talk has moved on to Fiers, who has an 88 mph fastball and is second in baseball in line drives allowed over the last two years. His changeup is decent, his curve is okay, he’s under team control until 2018, but the homers and line drives are a problem, probably created by his fastball.

If Ike Davis is traded, Mets fans may feel that the return is light. Unfortunately, what we learned from the Logan Morrison trade was that the market for a bounce-back first baseman — even if he’s young — is not great. The supply is too great, and the bar for excellence is too high.



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Graphs: Baseball, Roto, Beer, brats (OK, no graphs for that...yet), repeat. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris.


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jripper1268
Member
jripper1268
2 years 8 months ago

I think the case for Kendrys Mroales mentioned above is going to be a very interesting case this year. He is going to wish he accepted the 14.1 M QO. With Morrison, Hart and Smoak on hand I don’t see the Ms bringing Morales back. Given the availability of Davis, Loney, etc I think teams are going to be leery of giving up the pick for Morales. I think 1 year at 10M is the absolute best Morales will get in this market.

Scott
Guest
Scott
2 years 2 months ago

Nice call you might be spot on with the money, will only be 4 months though.

MH
Guest
MH
2 years 8 months ago

One issue with Morrison, however, is it’s not clear how hard the Marlins were trying to extract maximum value for him. They seemed to kind of just want to be rid of him. The case may be similar with the Mets, but they seem to be more deliberately playing the market than the Marlins ever really tried to.

Joebrady
Guest
2 years 8 months ago

I think you need to differentiate which Ike Davis you are talking about.

The NYMs had an Ike Davis with a .500 OPS and a 66/19 K/W. He was abysmal, so they sent him down.

Later on, they found a different Ike Davis who had a .872 OPS and a 35/38 K/W. Roughly half the Ks and twice the walks. I know it is tough, maybe impossible, but it would be nice to find out if he is going to swing at everything, or wait for the pitchers to come to him. I picked him up off of waivers last year and he was great before traded my regular 1B, and then Ike got hurt.

And, FWIW, he’s a lot like Hosmer, who lost strike zone or swing, and reclaimed it in the second half.

Duplicato
Guest
2 years 8 months ago

upside for Ike is very real. too bad the team is apparently so desperate to move him. He’s more or less the kind of lottery ticket they should be looking for. They should keep him and move Duda instead.

vivalajeter
Guest
vivalajeter
2 years 8 months ago

I tend to agree. If he had his same exact career-to-date, only with Seattle or a similar team, then the Mets would probably be looking to buy low on him.

I would think that they won’t give him away though. Worst comes to worst, they can see if he’s the same hitter that he was in the 2nd half of the year. If he returns to form, he’s a terrific bargain. If he doesn’t, then they’ll still get nothing for him.

chri521
Member
2 years 8 months ago

Problem is Duda has zero trade value and a total defensive liability. He’s a DH and that market is already overcrowded.

MH
Guest
MH
2 years 8 months ago

He did the same thing in 2012 too, except they waited him out instead of sending him down. wRC+ went from 80 in the first half to 142 in the second half. In both years, he was just an absolute mess in the first half, in the most visually apparent way I’ve ever seen with a player. His batting stance could completely change at bat to at bat. I’m not usually big on the “eye test” but I’d never seen anything like it. He’d go from Craig Counsell to Alfonso Soriano within a single game.

Duplicato
Guest
2 years 8 months ago

Plenty of teams are set with worse DHs than Duda at this point.

Pat G
Guest
Pat G
2 years 8 months ago

FWIW, hosmer has a much better pedigree, is younger, and had better career trajectory. Just because they both struggled and recovered, doesn’t mean they have the same career prospects going forward.

Ike certainly showed a better approach at the plate when he came back from AAA. But let’s not forget it was only ~150 PA before he got hurt and had his season end. It would be foolish to overweight that when making a prediction about his value going forward.

There certainly is the upside that he backs into a 35 HR season, but we might have already seen his power peak. Mark Trumbo is his probably his best case scenario.

In the end he should be probably looked at as a 1.5-2.5 win player, and I would think he’s more valuable in a trade to a team like the rays who are trying to avoid giving up draft picks. Let the mets make kendrys his best offer at a year or two for 8MM per.

Pat G
Guest
Pat G
2 years 8 months ago

call me crazy, but what about shipping BOTH ike and duda out, and signing a Kendrys who would come at a lower perceived cost because we have a protected pick AND we already signed granderson. neither is a world beater, both have a fairly replaceable skillset.

makes ALOT of sense

Pat G
Guest
Pat G
2 years 8 months ago

I’m not sure why I felt the need to capitalize full words in the middle of sentences, while not starting any sentence with a capital.

Duplicato
Guest
2 years 8 months ago

grammer polise Strikes agin % ;-)

vivalajeter
Guest
vivalajeter
2 years 8 months ago

Wouldn’t they be paying more than twice as much money in Morales (compared to Davis; it’d be, what, 5-10 times more money than Duda?) for a 1B that might be worse than either Davis or Duda?

Dave
Guest
Dave
2 years 8 months ago

why yes, they would be doing exactly that. I defended Ike to anyone who would listen in 2012, citing his battle with Valley Fever, a potentially life-threatening illness. I don’t have an answer for 2013 though. That said, I would rather keep Ike and hope he figures it out from day one this year. He obviously has good upside – if you take the last four months of 2012 over a full season, he’d have hit 40 homers. Or great downside. If you can plug him into the 6 or 7 hole in the lineup, there’d be less pressure to drive in runs.

There’s not a great answer out there for the Mets. Morales isn’t it, I think even at the same price as Davis. He’s 3 years older and has just as many question marks as Ike. Duda I’m done with. If you can trade him for a bag of balls, I’m in.

Zach
Guest
Zach
2 years 8 months ago

I actually hear there’s a good chance hey go after Morales if his market continues to be non-existent. That would be a really good 3-5: Wright, Granderson and Morales. Murphy could bat in front of them, with Chris Young and D’Arnaud behind them 6th and 7th. The priority, though, is shortstop, where they have a complete black hole, although there is already that rebound hope for Tejada. .280/.330/.340 with CONSISTENT, solid defense would be nice. I think the Mets would’ve stuck with him had he been good in the field. That’s what did him in as far as having value.

Dave
Guest
Dave
2 years 8 months ago

Who do you suppose leads off for the Mets in 2014? Do they have an option who projects better than a .320 OBP?

Brooks
Guest
Brooks
2 years 8 months ago

If Tejada can get back to his .330+ ways, I would throw him in the lead-off spot. And call me crazy but I would put Duda in the two hole and hit Murph lower in the order to drive in runs since he hits and hits well with RISP but doesn’t walk ever. There will prob be plenty who disagree with me there.

Brooks
Guest
Brooks
2 years 8 months ago

The first round pick is protected but they would still have to give up the third round pick to sign Morales. They might be hesitant to do it when they already have two first basemen, but I would rather them do it for Morales than Drew.

j
Guest
j
2 years 8 months ago

Why is there this widespread view that Duda is “a problem in the field?” I watched him play 1b and he looked completely average to my eyes. Defensive stats don’t show that he’s been a disaster in the field, either.

Brooks
Guest
Brooks
2 years 8 months ago

I disagree that Duda is a problem in the field. If you are talking about the outfield then yes, of course. But Duda will never see the outfield again. He is actually quite competent at 1B.

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