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J.D. Davis has been everything the Mets needed and more

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It’s time to offer some praise for Brodie Van Wagenen’s best offseason move.

MLB: Cleveland Indians at New York Mets Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

As fans of the New York Mets, it’s easy to get bogged down in negativity. The team has made five playoff appearances in 30 years, they’ve gone 32 seasons since their last World Series title, and for large chunks of this year it appeared as if meaningful late-season baseball was just a distant dream.

A lot of that negativity this year has been directed at first-year general manager Brodie Van Wagenen and the moves he made this offseason. A lot of the criticism has been warranted, as many of said moves have not worked out in the short term while providing some potential long-term ramifications. But there’s no use harping on things that can’t be undone, and there’s no dwelling on the bad when things are so good right now.

Instead, let’s take a moment to direct some well-earned praise at a move Van Wagenen made that has paid immediate dividends and has been as much a reason for the team’s turnaround as Pete Alonso’s majestic home runs and Jacob deGrom’s stellar performances. On January 6, 2019, the Mets acquired Davis along with minor leaguer Cody Bohanek in a trade with the Houston Astros. In return, the club sent Houston a trio of minor leaguers—Ross Adolph, Luis Santana, and Scott Manea. Adolph entered the season ranked 11th on the Amazin’ Avenue Top 25 Mets Prospects list, while Santana came in two spots below him at 13.

At the time, detractors of the deal questioned why the team would part with two potentially useful prospects for a player with a career .194/.260/.321 slash line and 60 wRC+ with a -0.5 fWAR, albeit in limited action. I will be the first to admit that I was one of those people, and I’m willing to bet that many reading this may have been as well. While I thought Davis could be a perfectly cromulent bench bat who could provide some pop in a pinch, he seemed like a dime-a-dozen player who was out of place in a crowded (at the time) Mets infield.

Instead, Davis has turned into an invaluable cog in a Mets machine that has been chugging along over the past six weeks while taking down every team in its path. Setting aside his numbers for a moment—we’ll get to those in a minute—Davis has been the heart and soul of a team that’s filled with colorful personalities and an unwavering never-say-die attitude. Davis can be found in the middle of every celebration and every big moment, usually providing a gifable reaction to a key hit or a big play.

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

But charisma alone won’t win you ballgames or make you a good player. Thankfully, Davis’s performance has backed up his bravado. In his third major league season, Davis has amassed a career-high 109 games and 306 at-bats while crushing a career-best 15 home runs and driving in a career-high 44 runs. He’s striking out a career-low 20.4% of the time while putting up a .310/.372/.516 slash line with a 134 wRC+ and a 1.7 fWAR.

His production post-All Star break is even more eye-opening. Since July 12, Davis is hitting .371/.429/.610 with six home runs, a .238 ISO, a 171 wRC+ and a 1.2 fWAR. His batting average, OPS, and wRC+ outpace every other Mets’ batter during that span while his fWAR comes in just behind Amed Rosario for the club lead in the second half. In August alone, he has six multi-hit games while slashing .371/.397/.672 with a .311 ISO and a 171 wRC+. This month, he’s hit more home runs and driven in more runs than any other calendar month.

He’s also been one of the team’s most productive players at Citi Field, hitting 10 of his 15 home runs in front of the home crowd while putting up a remarkable .383/.445/.711 slash line, a .328 ISO, and a 203 wRC+ in 24 games. With men in scoring position, he’s hitting .280/.371/.451 with a 117 wRC+. Last night’s walk-off hit in the tenth inning to lift his club over the Indians was the shining moment in a season that has served as Davis’ coming out party to the Mets’ fanbase and the rest of the league.

His numbers come while Davis is mostly playing out of position in left field, a move made necessary by the aforementioned offensive numbers. For a guy who figured to be a bench bat, his offense has forced the Mets’ hand, and the club is better for it. The 26-year-old Davis has been everything the club could’ve asked and remains under team control through the 2024 season.

A deep dive into Brodie Van Wagenen’s first year with the Mets can wait until the offseason, when the full picture of the season becomes clearer. There’s no doubt that when his report card is handed out, there will be plenty of bad grades—the kind you were afraid to bring home to your parents when you were a child—but it’s worth dishing out some high marks for the moves that have worked out in the team’s favor. When looking at the full complement of moves he’s made, fleecing the Astros in a deal for Davis rises to the top of that list.

There’s no telling whether the 2019 season will end on September 29 in Game 162, sometime in November with a parade down the Canyon of Heroes, or somewhere in between. What is clear is that Davis will continue to get his chances and will likely continue to shine. If this team continues to trend upward, it’ll be easy to look at Davis’ production and attitude as a catalyst for those results.