At age 26 and with a 32 home run season to his name last year, there are those who still feel the best is yet to come for Ike Davis. Unfortunately, there are more reasons to believe Davis has peaked.
After a terrible start which saw him get sent down to the minors for a few weeks, Davis is hitting .172/.262/.261 on the season, good for a 48 wRC+. There are few, if any, positives to be found from his batting profile right now. His strikeout rate is at 30.8 percent, the highest of his career. His grondball rate is at a career high 45 percent, as is his 13.3 percent popup rate, while his flyball rate is at a career low mark. His swinging strike rate is at 13.2 percent, more than a point higher than it was in 2012. His contact rate inside and outside of the strike zone are both at career lows.
On top of all that, his numbers against lefties continue to be abysmal, with a .416 OPS and 15/1 strikeout-to-walk ratio against them in 52 at-bats. That number is actually below his career .613 OPS against southpaws.
With a line of .240/.325/.432 in almost 1,400 career plate appearances, it's fair to wonder how much, if any, value Davis has at this point. It's far likelier teams view him in the mold of a Brandon Moss as opposed to a big-time piece. This quote from a San Diego Padres consultant pretty much says it all:
I honestly don't see why Ike Davis is held in such high regard. He's a classic example of empty power.— Christopher D. Long (@octonion) July 6, 2013
There hasn't been much talk about trading Davis or rumors about teams interested in Davis since he has spent the entire season either not hitting or in the minors. While the Mets would likely be hesitant to give up Davis for nothing, they probably don't need to be blown away to trade him at this point, especially considering that he's going to receive a sizable raise after the year. There's also the fact that once Lucas Duda returns from the disabled list, a platoon of him and Josh Satin could be used at first base. On top of that is the ever-looming presence of Wilmer Flores.
The Trade Market
While Davis' value isn't anywhere near as high as it was last offseason, there still figures to be suitors if he's made explicitly available. The Red Sox had interest in Davis last offseason, but with the emergence of Mike Carp, they don't make a whole lot of sense now. The Yankees are currently using Lyle Overbay, who has a .719 OPS, at first, but given his .802 OPS against right-handed pitching, they seem more likely to target a right-handed complement for him.
The two best teams for a potential Ike Davis trade would be the two teams who have gotten less production out of their first baseman than any teams in baseball: the Milwaukee Brewers and the Colorado Rockies. For the Rockies, Todd Helton hasn't been too terrible, posting a .245/.322/.378 line, but he's only played in 63 of the Rockies' 92 games. Their replacements for Helton haven't been good, and Helton himself is a free agent at the end of the year.
As for the Brewers, they had planned to use Corey Hart at first, but after undergoing knee surgery, they were forced to scrap by at the position and it hasn't worked out at all. Their first baseman this season, which includes the likes of Alex Gonzalez, Yuniesky Betancourt, Juan Francisco, and currently a guy named Sean Halton, have a collective line of .201/.247/.332, good for a 55 wRC+ and -2.9 fWAR. Both are by far the worst in baseball at the position. In fact, they may end up setting a record for first base futility.
Given that Ike Davis is essentially a platoon player at this point, any potential return will be limited. Complicating things further is the fact that Davis will likely receive a hefty raise in arbitration this year, and an expensive platoon first baseman is even less valuable than a cheap platoon first baseman. However, teams do love power hitters and they are willing to pay for power at the expense of other tools.
If the Mets were to deal with the Rockies, two potential targets include left-hander Tyler Matzek and reliever Wilton Lopez. Matzek, a hard throwing 23-year-old, was taken 11th overall in the 2009 draft and has struggled a lot in his minor league career, especially with control. He has 411 career strikeouts in 416 minor league innings but also 301 walks. In 2013, he has a 3.59 ERA in 16 starts at Double-A Tulsa, but also a 59/47 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Lopez has struggled for the Rockies this season with a 4.43 ERA and a pedestrian 4.08 xFIP, but he was an phenomenal reliever for the Astros from 2009-2011.
Finding potential pieces on the Brewers is tough, as they also don't have a great farm system. One potential piece the Mets could target is pitching prospect Johnny Hellwegg, who they faced last Friday. Hellwegg, ranked the Brewers #6 prospect by Baseball America in the offseason, also throws hard and has 391 strikeouts in 402 minor league innings, but he's also issued 276 walks. 22-year-old second base prospect Scooter Gennett could also be a target. While he hasn't hit in the majors, he has a .757 OPS in four minor league seasons.
Outfielder Norichika Aoki could also be an interesting target, as the Brewers seem likely to trade him after it was figured out he'll be a free agent after 2014. Aoki has posted a 115 and 110 wRC+ in the last two seasons and has played solid defense in right field. It's unlikely Davis straight up would be enough for Aoki, but perhaps a pitching prospect or two could be thrown in to at least make the idea somewhat enticing for Milwaukee.