A couple of months ago, Ike Davis was crushing the ball, rapidly establishing himself as the Mets' most valuable commodity in his second full season. Davis has improved in leaps and bounds in every year as a pro, and if he simply were to sustain his first two months across a full season, he'd be one of the better players in the majors.
Davis had an unfortunate injury path--day-to-day became 15 days on the DL, which became a couple of months off, which became season-ending surgery (it's not official yet, but it's coming).
At the same time, the Mets were trying to figure out their best solution at second base. Brad Emaus had been a disappointment and was exiled back to Toronto. Justin Turner had started out hot, but Terry Collins was still flirting with the platoon arrangement with Daniel Murphy at second.
Once Davis went down, Murphy slid over to first, reprising his position from 2009. Murph played solid defense at first in 2009; he often looked unorthodox, but he tended to hold his own there. Turner snagged the second base job full-time. As a temporary solution with the goal of winning in 2011 in mind, this was a good outcome.
Flash forward to the present, where it no longer looks like the Mets will be competing for a playoff berth in 2011. The Phils and Braves have had excellent years and have left the Mets many games back. And the Mets are about to trade the great Carlos Beltran. It's been a good run, especially considering the low expectations from local and national media and the sheer number of injuries they've had, but it's time to start looking to 2012. This implies that they should be trying to figure out who fits in--and where.
Which brings me back to Daniel Murphy. For all the talk about Murphy at second, he's played the equivalent of fewer than 20 games there in his major league career. He spent over twice that much time in left field, of all places. Here's how Murph's defensive history shakes out:
1B - 1188 innings (58.2%)
LF - 464 2/3 innings (22.8%)
3B - 220 2/3 innings (10.8%)
2B - 168 innings (8.2%)
The Mets have 60 games remaining. That means that if Murphy stays healthy, he'll get a chance to log another 500 or so innings at 2B, assuming a few double switches and off-days. That would quadruple his major league experience there. Murphy is now an established major league hitter, sporting a career .287/.337/.439 line and a 109 OPS+ in 1,086 PAs. It is worth using the season's last two months to figure out where Murphy fits in going forward. Back when Davis seemed like he would return, it made sense to have Murphy fill in at first, as a stopgap, so that they could get their best players on the field at once. Long-term, though, if Murphy has a future with the Mets, it's at second base (or third if Wright is eventually moved to the outfield).
This implies that Justin Turner be relegated to bench duty/occasional starts against lefties. It's unfortunate, because Turner has done very good work for the Mets this year. But it's time to evaluate for the future and get Murphy some extended work at second. If Murphy isn't going to stick at second, I'd rather know by the end of the year than in June 2012.
First base, then, is the question mark. The solution is pretty clear at this stage, if you're set with Duda in right and Murph at second: the Mets should give plate appearances to Nick Evans at first and hope for the best from the defense (which will have quite a few negative spots). Once Beltran gets dealt, I'd stack the lineup as follows:
1. Reyes (SS)
2. Evans (1B)
3. Murphy (2B)
4. Wright (3B)
5. Duda (RF)
6. Bay (LF)
7. Pagan (CF)
8. Thole (C)
Overall, you're not losing much offense from Turner to Evans; in fact, you might be gaining a bit of power. (The downgrade is on run prevention.) I'll leave it to a poll.