Lucas Duda has played a major role in keeping the Mets’ offense afloat this season, but as Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports writes, the 31-year-old first baseman is likely to be looking for a new team this winter. Heyman reports that “barring some change,” Duda is expected to leave the Mets and sign with another team as a free agent this offseason.
While the league is densely populated with talented first basemen at the moment, Duda has a chance to cash in this winter if he maintains his current level of performance. Despite missing about three weeks with a hyperextended left elbow — marking the third consecutive year that he’s spent time on the disabled list — Duda has been one of the Mets’ best hitters, posting a .264/.396/.582 slash line with seven homers over 111 plate appearances.
Duda, a veteran of eight MLB seasons, has never been a great contact hitter, but his .345 career on-base percentage and his average of 26 homers per 162 games should make him at least somewhat attractive to teams in need of a slugger. With that said, power-hitting first basemen seem to be less valuable than they once were. Despite the fact that both hit more than 30 homers in 2016, Mike Napoli and Chris Carter both remained on the market until February and had to settle for team-friendly deals during the most recent offseason.
Duda stands to lose playing time as soon as this summer to Dominic Smith, who is rated as the Mets’ No. 2 prospect and the second-best first base prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline. Smith, 21, is currently tearing up the Pacific Coast League, posting a .329/.382/.507 slash line with seven homers over his first 225 Triple-A plate appearances. With Smith checking in at 6-foot and 250 pounds, it’s not as if the Mets can move him or the 6-foot-4, 255-pound Duda to another position in order to keep both in the lineup.