If I may paraphrase a line from the Billy Joel classic, “New York State of Mind.” “Some folks ‘need’ to get away.” Lucas Duda was one of those folks.
Duda’s power potential was always the lure for the Mets when he was a seventh round pick in 2007, but he was a Southern California kid who never maximized his ability in New York.
With no plans to re-sign the impending free agent, much less extend a qualifying offer, the Mets traded Duda to the Tampa Rays for 23-year old right hander Drew Smith. In parts of eight seasons with the Mets, Duda hit 125 home runs and is seventh on the club’s all-time list.
This critique is not a knock on Duda as a person because he is a good person. From watching him since he debuted in 2010 to now, I just feel he was not cut out to play in New York. Duda seemed to lack the “fire in the belly” that is needed to succeed in a baseball town like New York where the fans are relentless.
Unfortunately, his signature moment as a Met will be his errant throw home in the 9th inning of game five of the 2015 World Series that allowed the tying run to score. The Mets would go on to lose the game and the Series in 12 innings.
Duda’s career splits indicate he was a poor two-strike hitter which led to his inconsistent performance throughout his Met career. The left-hand hitter saw a lot of off speed stuff with two strikes and could never stay out of extended slumps.
Duda hit 125 home runs as a Met but 80 were solo shots. That’s nearly 2/3 of his entire career total which tells me that opposing pitchers challenged him with no one on base, but refused to “give in” to Duda with men on. A respected scout once told me that Duda has “too many holes as a hitter that an opposing pitcher can exploit with ordinary stuff.”
Duda could do something unique and that’s haunt the Mets and Yankees this weekend at the same time when he makes his Tampa debut and is running on adrenaline, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that this deal will turn out bad.
This trade gets the ball rolling for the Mets on what should be the beginning of a make over of their everyday lineup and bullpen.
Reportedly, the Mets inquired about some of Tampa’s top prospects including speedy outfielder Jake Fraley but they get back a 23-year old right hand reliever in Smith who began his pro career with Detroit in 2015 and was traded to Tampa early in this minor league season.
Smith has a plus-fastball and average curve ball. At times, he’s struggled with control but he’s shown he can improve. Last season, Smith walked 23 batters in 48.2 IP with 62 strikeouts in A-Ball for Detroit’s West Michigan team. After joining the Tampa organization, he’s walked only 5 in 33.1 IP in 27 games.
A National League scout who has followed the Rays’ organization said Smith is “a good acquisition.”
Now, the Mets need to see what they can get for Addison Reed and maybe something for Asdrubal Cabrera, although that market seems to have dried up some.
The ball is rolling and the Mets need to “keep up with the Joneses” and the youth movement in major league baseball. Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith, the Mets’ top shortstop and first-base prospects, should be here shortly.