These things ALWAYS come back to bite you.
And when Michael Cuddyer retired, besides clearing a bunch of cash on the payroll, the Mets lost their backup first baseman, leaving one glaring hole if Lucas Duda went down to an injury.
Now, on May 23rd, Duda is still out of the lineup with a back problem and the Mets think it can be a disk issue.
“It’s pretty concerning. He’s tried to go out the last couple games and played and it’s still bothering him,” manager Terry Collins said. “We had him examined by a doctor today and it was recommended he take a couple of days so, you know, that could lead to something else. So we’ll just have to wait and see.”
This doesn’t sound good and if it’s a disk issue, the best the Mets could hope for is that it will relieve itself with rest. But rest means time and the club need to put someone at first base during that time.
Right now, Eric Campbell is the primary first baseman. But that’s not his natural position and at the plate, he looks like Eric Campbell of last season, when he was unfairly considered the poster boy for offensive futility, hitting .214 with one RBI on the season.
Wilmer Flores was supposed to be the primary backup, but he’s on the disabled list with a strained hamstring. He is set to begin his rehab assignment this week and can be activated on the 27th. However, before you think everything is saved, remember he’s learning the position and at the plate, he’s doing OK, with a .255 average with a homer and two RBI in 19 games. Sure it’s better than the Campbell experience and you would live with Flores’s numbers at shortstop, but at first you need better.
The fact is, if you are going to give away defense at first, you need to make it up with offense. Neither Campbell, nor Flores will win a gold glove out there or are even good defensive players, so they are not long term solutions.
And that’s the real problem. Because Alderson decided to overlook a backup first baseman during the off-season, the Mets are now stuck, especially if Duda is out for any length of time. Remember, they could have signed an Ike David and put him in Las Vegas as insurance and didn’t.
Now the Mets can dip into the minors if they want to, but at Las Vegas they have career minor leaguer Marc Krauss at first, owner of a .222 average and before you think Dominic Smith, the Mets highly touted first base prospect, just remember, he’s only 21, in Double-A and Sandy Alderson and company probably doesn’t want to start the clock on the guy. But he’s at least hitting .278 with four homers and 31 RBI.
Smith definitely needs more seasoning and, unless the Mets were backed into a corner here, won’t risk their prized prospect. He’s not like Michael Conforto, a polished product, who thrived in the spotlight last year. It’s going to take a real emergency for the Mets to call him up this season.
That’s why the Mets had Alejandro De Aza take ground balls at first this past week, because they don’t have many options.
It’s going to stay like that until the trading market opens up in another month.
Like it or not, this is the new normal for the Mets at first.
And they have no one to blame for this but themselves.