Sandy Alderson's Gambit: The Ike Davis story

David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

How can Alderson play the Ike Davis trade market?

Sandy Alderson wants to trade Ike Davis. Everyone knows this, including the general managers and front offices of Major League Baseball's other twenty-nine teams. Alderson wants to get something of value—a live Double-A arm or better, it seems—in any deal for Davis.

These seem to be at odds. How does Alderson possibly expect to get a good return for Davis when it's so obvious that he has to trade him? My guess: Maybe it's not so obvious.

Let's put aside the fact that Alderson is openly shopping Ike (and to a lesser degree, Lucas Duda), as he sees the once-touted future Mets first baseman as a redundant, $3 million anchor. While fans and the rumor mill are sensitive to such chatter, there's really no reason for Alderson and team to hide the ball. It's pretty obvious that looking to move him is a perfectly cromulent if not proper course of action. Still, Alderson has to sell the idea that he's willing to keep Davis for 2014 and beyond. Here's how he does that.

1. Be honest about how you're in a tough spot.

The facts:

  • The Mets can't afford the public relations disaster that would happen if Ike is given away for free and he hits 30 homers again, and/or if Duda bombs.
  • The Mets can't take on a bigger salary than Ike's in exchange for Ike.

It's pretty clear that Alderson needs to get a meaningful return for Davis, and one that isn't going to cost a lot in dollars and cents. That's not doable unless he's getting a B-prospect in return. The downside is too big otherwise. He can't take on a salary without hamstringing the team's budget going forward, and he can't take the risk of the trade blowing up in his face because LOLMets, amirite?

2. Point out that 2014 isn't all that important to the Mets.

This is a pretty easy case to make, unfortunately. The team's budget is effectively maxed out at under $90 million, which is ridiculous. Matt Harvey is out for the year. There's nearly a 100 percent chance that the Mets' Opening Day first baseman, whomever he may be, will have spent meaningful amounts time at Triple-A last year, and there's a very good chance the team's Opening Day shortstop will, as well. The bullpen is a cornucopia of who-knows-whats. The team projects to hit 75 to 80 wins, if that.

Alderson apparently has approached negotiations with 2015 and beyond in mind. The three guys rumored to meet the Mets' interests are all pitchers with 5-plus years of team control remaining, and only one, Tyler Thornberg, has experience in Triple-A or MLB.

3. Explain that Davis isn't actually entirely redundant.

This is a tougher one, but it's not impossible. There's a logjam at first base, at least on the left-handed side of the platoon, with Duda, and there's little reason to think that Davis would get most or many of the starts against left-handed pitching with Josh Satin available. But there's a way out here. Chris Young isn't all that great against right-handed pitchers. If Duda platoons with Young to some meaningful degree—say he gets 200 plate appearances as the starting left fielder (yuck)—and picks up another 100 or so of injury fill-ins for Ike, pinch hitting duties, or other randomness, that's fine. It's not ideal, but it's not ridiculous to think that Duda and Ike could go-exist on this team as otherwise designed.

4. Assert that Davis' value is more likely to increase than decrease.

This is the hardest one—maybe. It comes in two parts.

First, Alderson has to remind other GMs that Davis is really cheap, relatively speaking, for 2014. Any team (even the Mets!) can afford to make a $3.5 million mistake for a season.

Second, Alderson should note that between now and Opening Day, some guys are going to get injured. If the Yankees, for example, find that Mark Teixiera is hurt, they'll be in the market for a first baseman. Demand for 1B/DH types is almost certainly going to go up, not down, between now and April 1. And there's no reason to think that Davis's value is going to go down, even if his spring training is mediocre. It may even improve if he has a solid spring.

Taken together, Alderson can demonstrate that it's better for him to keep Ike Davis than to settle for a non-prospect or the like, and if his would-be buyers don't pony up soon, the price may just go up.

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