The New York Mets could receive Eric Hosmer’s level of production by paying long-lost Lucas Duda to play first base in 2018.
The New York Mets have well documented budgetary constraints that will impede them from signing a top free agent like Eric Hosmer this winter. That doesn’t mean they do not have the chance to acquire equivalent production on the market.
In fact, not only could they get similar production, they could be paying a fraction of Hosmer’s expected cost to employ it.
Enter Lucas Duda, the first baseman the Mets and their fans know well.
After making his debut in Queens during the 2010 season, Duda found his way into becoming a mainstay in the Mets lineup until the 2017 trade deadline. Duda was sent to the Tampa Bay Rays due to his upcoming free agency and the Mets disappointment of a season, but failed to impress in his two-month stint down south.
In fact, he was downright awful in Tampa Bay slashing .175/.285/.444 in 52 games. The silver lining was Duda’s home runs stroke, as he was still able to salvage 13 home runs in such a dismal cold streak.
Believe it or not, that cold streak in Tampa may play right into the Mets’ hands. Ken Davidoff of the New York Post projects Duda to receive a one year, $7 million contract.
Meanwhile, Davidoff’s same predictions have Eric Hosmer receiving a seven-year, $150 million deal. This is significant because of what Duda can bring to the table when compared to a player like Hosmer.
Of course, there is a reason that Duda is slated to get a contract worth $143 million less than Hosmer. He’s 31-years-old, and the last two seasons have been up and down, to say the least.
He’s a limited player, but we knew that already. The thing is, his strengths are stronger than Hosmer’s.
According to MLB Trade Rumors, in 2017 Duda’s Isolated Power was .279, the highest mark of any free agent first baseman, and exactly 100 points higher than Hosmer (.179).
In walk rate, Duda sat at a reasonable 12.2 percent, while Hosmer was relatively weaker at 9.8 percent.
Then there was Hard Contact Percentage, a metric that Duda dominated Hosmer in for the 2017 season. Duda hit an absurd 42.1 percent of balls hard, which was far superior to Hosmer’s lowly 29.5 percent.
And what about the part of the game that isn’t considered Duda’s best, defense. Duda’s -0.1 UZR/150 and -1 Defensive Runs Saved show that he is limited defensively, but both numbers outpaced Hosmer’s -0.4 UZR/150 and -7 DRS.
And if all that does not sell you on the idea of Duda being capable of production on or above Hosmer’s level, here is a quick snapshot of their career resumes.
Comparing 2 current 1B free agents:
Player A: 1048 G, 127 HR, .342 OBP, .439 SLG, 111 OPS+, -20 DRS
Player B: 812 G, 138 HR, .340 OBP, .457 SLG, 120 OPS+, +9 DRS
Player A: Eric Hosmer
Player B: Lucas Duda#Mets @Mets
— Mathew Brownstein (@MBrownstein89) December 19, 2017
When you tie it all together, Duda hits the ball harder and for more power than Hosmer, while being more selective at the plate with a higher walk rate.
Even though Hosmer has been awarded four gold gloves, the defensive metrics have not been kind to him. They have, however, been much better for Duda, who may not always look like a spry cat in the field, but surely can play a capable first base.
The Mets have a legitimate opportunity to pay pennies for Duda this offseason. With Dominic Smith’s struggles in 2017, a one year contract for Duda makes all the sense in the world if the organization is serious about contending.