After several seasons of above average production at first base, the Lucas Duda era is over in Flushing, as the Mets shipped the big lefty slugger to Tampa Bay. Since taking over the starting first base spot in 2014, Duda has been the ninth best hitter at the position in all of baseball, running a 128 wRC+ and accruing 7.3 fWAR. Injuries have been a problem, but when healthy, Duda was a valuable player, no matter how often he was criticized for being “unclutch.”
In return, the Mets will receive 23-year-old right-handed reliever Drew Smith. Smith, acquired earlier this season from the Tigers in exchange for outfielder Mikie Mahtook, was the 30th best prospect in the Rays’ system according to MLB Pipeline. He features a hard but straight fastball than can get to the upper 90s and complements that with a curveball that still needs refinement. Smith spent most of this season in High-A, striking out more than a batter per inning and running an ERA of 1.60 across four teams.
Despite the low ranking, Mark Feinsand reports that several teams were interested in Smith, as he has a “really good arm.” Given that the market for rental bats is pretty much nonexistent (look no further than the underwhelming return the Tigers got for J.D. Martinez), this actually seems like a pretty good return in context. The Mets probably had a choice between grabbing very raw prospects years away from the majors or lower-upside guys that might contribute sooner. Grabbing the latter allows the Mets to build bullpen depth as they attempt to rebound next season.
With Duda gone, Jay Bruce will get the start at first base tonight. Anthony DiComo reports that a Dominic Smith promotion is not imminent, but it seems reasonable to expect the Mets’ number-two prospect to debut before too long.