It was a bit of a disappointing season for J.D. Davis this year, especially coming off his promising 2019. He hit just .247/.371/.389 with just six home runs, and he drove in 19 runs. His season was good for 0.5 fWAR, which was a far cry from 2019 even in a shortened season. He showed flashes at third base, where he played most of the year, but he still cannot be reliably counted on to man the hot corner.
Of course a case could be made to trade Davis. If the designated hitter does not return to the National League next year, Davis most likely becomes a man without a position. He has steep competition on the team with the manager needing to find at-bats for the productive bats of Jeff McNeil and Dominic Smith. Davis certainly has value should the Mets find a team interested in acquiring him. Even in a down season, he still had a 117 wRC+, he is still relatively young, and he’s only a year removed from a fantastic season. He might be better suited for an American League team unless the National League adopts the DH full-time.
However, with the way the team is currently constructed, Davis might be far too valuable to trade. Both Smith and McNeil are lefties. So are Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto, Robinson Cano, and Luis Guillorme. The Mets are lefty heavy, and trading Davis will not help them in that regard. He is a nice right-handed complement with some pop to the rest of the lineup and is more versatile than the others since he can technically play left field in addition to third.
Davis’s 2020 season is hard to judge. By his own admission it was tough not having hitting coach Chili Davis in the dugout and he seemed to just never get on track. While the numbers this past season certainly need to be looked at, his 2019 season cannot be denied. He hit .307/.369/.527 with 22 home runs and and 57 RBIs, and he had a 136 wRC+ and was worth 2.4 fWAR. It was an amazing season every way you look at it. This is a man who also has a minor league batting title to his credit, so given his track record the bat seems to be there.
Davis isn’t arbitration-eligible until 2022, so any contract would be buying out his arbitration years. After a down year in a shortened season, a contract now could be a lot more reasonable in case he replicates his 2019 next year and the price tag shoots up.
The wild card here is George Springer. He is a proven right-handed bat that would shore up the Mets’ defense in center field. He should definitely be on the team’s radar this offseason, and should he sign, that could make either Davis or Brandon Nimmo expendable. With McNeil in the outfield, Nimmo would be left without a position and could possibly fetch more in a trade.
The Mets are at a crossroads right now, with a need to start making decisions about their talent on the roster. Their young stars are going to start getting big raises, and Davis is part of the group that they need to decide whether to pay or trade. Given his past performance and they way the roster is currently constructed, they should pay him.