The power hitter who was vital to New York’s 2015 World Series run will unfortunately be remembered more for his Game 5 errant throw to the plate than the bevvy of blasts he sent into the center field seats.
Duda, who spent eight years donning orange and blue, became the first casualty of the Mets season of discontent – and with several other players poised for the trading block – the fate of their return is in the hands of the front office.
Duda, who was drafted by the Mets in 2007, played all of his 760 career major league games for the Mets after making his major league debut in 2010.
His 125 home runs in a Mets uniform are seventh-most in team history and his 71 homers at Citi Field are the most in the ballpark’s history. He also has the Mets record for hit by pitch with 48, three more than David Wright.
Seems like a distant memory now, but Duda played all nine innings in right field during Johan Santana‘s no-hitter in 2012. Playing first base is where Duda excelled, he hit .251/.351/.480 in 459 career games at first.
It was a somber moment for the Mets as the pregame news of Duda’s departure seeped into the visiting clubhouse. Curtis Granderson, whose social media account has been documenting Duda’s low-key demeanor, lightened the mood by falling to the ground, grabbing his ex-fellow teammate’s leg as he tried to walk out the door.
Even though injuries plagued Duda these past two seasons, he still remained an offensive threat. His power bat will serve him well as a 1B/DH for the Rays who find themselves in the thick of a pennant race.
Manager Terry Collins praised his former first baseman. “He’s been a tremendous part of this team for a long time. We wish him all the best, and thank him for everything he’s done here in New York. He’s very responsible for our success in 2015 and 2016. … I talked to him and told him exactly that, and told him what a pleasure it’s been to watch him.”
As the changing of the old guard is in motion, the Mets are likely to promote their No. 2 prospect, Dominic Smith, to replace Duda at first base.
A mentor of Smith in Spring Training, Duda said he hopes the 22-year-old “turns out to be a 10-year All-Star.”
But with Jay Bruce the starting first baseman on Thursday, Mets fans will have to hold their breath for Smith’s MLB debut. And if Asdrubal Cabrera is sent to parts unknown, the anticipated arrival of Amed Rosario may not be far behind.
As Duda settles into his new role with the Rays, the Mets hope they can reap some trade deadline rewards come Monday.