If At “First” You Don’t Succeed…Get Depth

An article by posted on September 13, 2011

There’s an old saying related to baseball that, “If at first you don’t succeed, try the outfield.”  But if the Mets march to the beat of their own drummer, they changed that philosophy from the “outfield” to “first base.”  John Olerud leaves as a free agent, no problem!  Throw Todd Zeile there.  Mo Vaughn hasn’t played in a few years and was an American League DH at his most feared.  Hey, I have an idea: why not put him at first?  He’s played there a bit!  Doug Mientkiewicz?  Yeah, he was a first baseman.  But he was pretty bad at baseball.

What’s funny about the team this year is that seemingly, EVERYONE gets thrown at first base.  After Ike Davis took a freak-accident-spill on a routine infield pop-up earlier this season, like many Mets injuries, it didn’t seem like much…but he hasn’t played since.  Evidenced as such, the Mets have thrown four guys at first base not named Davis.  In fact, Daniel Murphy holds the lead with 46 games started at 1B, and 37 games for Lucas Duda.  Ike Davis played 36 games at first base, and Nick Evans has started 27 game at 1B (as of Tuesday).  If Evans finishes out the season at 1B, four guys could theoretically finish playing less than 50 games each at 1B.  The Mets have not had a ton of turnover at first base in its history, so this is significant.

You know what I find interesting?  That when Ike Davis is anticipated to return next season, the Mets find themselves in a position of strength: a lot of guys who can play first base. Bonus: all of them have proven they can hit and play the position well enough to be every day players or at the very least, in a platoon situation.

Clearly, the position is Ike Davis’ to lose come next year in Spring Training.  At least, this is how I am looking at things.  Lucas Duda has been pretty much hand-selected by Terry Collins to be his starting right fielder in 2012, and obviously for the remainder of the season.  Leaving us with Daniel Murphy and Nick Evans as the odd men out.  All of a sudden, the Mets and their Front Office have a position of value and strength to use as trade bait.

Who is the odd man out, singular, though?  In that respect, odd “men” and that would be Nick Evans and Daniel Murphy.

                                        

It’s funny with these two.  I’ve made no secret about my appreciation of Daniel Murphy, as I feel his defensive woes are much ado about nothing, plus he’s shown he’s at a position of strength as a first baseman.  If he had a more consistent position, whether first, second or third base…anything in the infield, really…he’d certainly be a big asset to any team.  Nick Evans is a bit limited to where he can play, as his biggest strength has been showcased at first base, but he also has experience at left field.  However, we all know left field is locked up by Jason Bay till 2013.  Unless he is traded.  But that’s not the hypothetical here.

Anyway, defensively and offensively, Daniel Murphy might have a slight leg up on Nick Evans on the Mets.  Yet, his value could be used to get more parts in return in a trade.

See where I am going with this?  Is Nick Evans more valuable as an off-the-bench guy in 2012 for the team?  Or is Daniel Murphy going to be counted on for the team in a bigger way?

Another thing to consider is the Jose Reyes situation.  If Reyes is not figuring into the long-term vision of the team, where Ruben Tejada plays in 2012 will impact how the Mets will look at the future of the aforementioned players.  Clearly, the easiest scenario is that Reyes will re-sign, Tejada will play second base and all is right in the world.  But if Reyes flies the coop, Tejada will easily be penciled in at shortstop next year.  Right now, while Daniel Murphy rests his legs, he’s also the only one of the previously mentioned with any regular second base experience.   Another item that would weigh in his favor of staying with the team than Nick Evans.

Overall, Evans took several years to prove himself, but with regular-ish playing time, he’s shown that he can keep up with the big boys.  Murphy though was able to smack the hell out of the ball from day one pretty much.  We’ll also need to consider that Evans is out of options.  Like, negative amount of options at this point with how many times he’s been put on waivers (Cot’s and MLB Contracts has no information on his current status unfortunately).  Daniel Murphy isn’t arb eligible until 2013 due to his injuries in the last few years.  This could go either way: he’s so cheap it makes sense to keep him around, or trade him while his value is high and let him become another team’s “problem.” (But he’s a good problem to have)

There is a surplus at first base for the Mets for 2012.  I guess on one hand, it’s good that the Mets have so many serviceable players to fill in when their every day players go down at this point.  On the other hand, the odd men out look to be Daniel Murphy and Nick Evans.  Either way, their value is at its highest and it would make sense at this point to see about the future without either of those players in the organization.

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