To get back impact value in trade, it requires giving up impact value in trade.
And that's where the Mets' breakout hitter J.D. Davis comes into play.
Davis, 26, exceeded expectations in 2019, which marked his first full big-league season despite making his debut with the Astros in 2017. At the time of his first promotion, Davis had been Houston's ninth-best prospect.
Acquired in trade from the Astros this past January, Davis made Brodie Van Wagenen and his staff look brilliant by hitting .307/.369/.527 with 22 home runs and 22 doubles in 410 at-bats during 2019.
Davis would be an everyday player on most MLB teams. However, this past season with the Mets, he mostly split time with Todd Frazier, Dominic Smith and Jeff McNeil, while jockeying between left field and third base.
In August, Davis told the New York Post that he aspires to one day win a Gold Glove at third base, but there's little evidence to indicate that is even close to possible.
In an effort to improve his versatility, Davis said he plans to work this offseason on improving his agility, specifically in left field, where he feels he struggled with quickness and -- because of it -- made mental mistakes.
"He always had a rocket arm at third base," an NL talent evaluator told me Monday. "He's a big kid (6'3, 230 lbs), though, and he'll get bigger, so his lack of speed and a strong first step are not going to improve. He has to be a corner outfielder or end up in the other league."
Assuming the Mets do not sign or trade a full-time, established star to replace Frazier, Jeff McNeil and Jed Lowrie will likely get most of the playing time at third base, which will push Davis to the outfield or back to the bench.
"I bet, in time, he's that guy who gets traded to the American League, puts up big numbers and Mets fans will be angry about that. But there's no guarantee he could have survived enough in the field in New York to put up those same numbers," the same evaluator continued. "Sometimes it's best to move that guy now when you still can. Players like him can drive a GM crazy and then, before you know it, he's settled in to being just a power bat off the bench."
This is a good point, especially if trading Davis now can bring back a young pitcher.
It appears the Mets understand this idea because, in a recent tweet, the New York Posts's Mike Puma cited team sources that said they view Davis as an asset that could be traded this winter for pitching.
It's possible the Mets need a fifth starter next season since Zack Wheeler could soon leave as a free agent.
It's also worth noting Marcus Stroman is a free agent at the end of next season, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz are free agents after 2021, and the Mets have just two starting pitchers in their top 10 prospects who are projected to be ready for the big leagues before 2023.
The point being, at a time when Van Wagenen can use McNeil in left field or third base, Lowrie at third and second base, plus having the option to sign a free agent to join the mix, Davis right now may be Van Wagenen's best shot at trading for a young, team-controlled starting pitcher that can be on his roster in the event Matz or Syndergaard walk after 2021.
Otherwise, the Mets may continue to need pitching, all while Davis, McNeil and Lowrie continue to push one another around the field and on and off the bench.
In August, Davis told me every baseball player, not just himself, will say it is more difficult to succeed when dealing with sporadic playing time as opposed to being in the lineup every day.
"It's difficult, but it's not an excuse," he admitted. "You tend to relax more and not feel like every at-bat is a live-or-die situation because you feel more comfortable and more a part of the team."
As an aside, Davis also told me he still believes he can be a two-way player, being used everyday as a position player, while making himself available in mop-up duty to help extend innings for the bullpen.
Davis was drafted by the Astros in 2014 out of Cal State Fullerton, where he pitched 66 innings and had a 3.00 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and 48 strikeouts. He again got the attention of baseball as a pitcher in 2017 when striking out four of the 11 big league hitters he faced and hitting 92 mph with his fastball.
Pitching aside, though, his power and ability to hit are real and can't be ignored...
In looking back at clips of Davis hitting during 2018 with the Astros and this past season with the Mets, I don't see much difference in his swing. However, he is clearly taking a different approach at the plate and showing more discipline with pitches outside of the strike zone. The result was getting more barrel on balls in the strike zone, which resulted in tremendous velocity and power off his bat.
In other words, there is every reason to believe Davis is the hitter he showed himself to be in 2019, at least based on how improved and consistent his contact rates, ground ball-to-fly ball ratios and other peripheral stats were the entire season.
"I had his game power (entering 2018) around a 40, 50 rating, which, if I had to predict, would be some place around 15-20 home runs in the big leagues," the same talent evaluator said about Davis' ability to hit for power. "If he can continue to narrow his strike zone and not lose those hard hit rates, and of course get around 550 plate appearances, in this league right now he can jack 30, 35 home runs no problem."
In the end, I'd trade Davis only for a young, controllable starting pitcher that has already shown an ability to pitch well in the big leagues. He doesn't have to be an ace, but he has to be more than a fifth starter or upper-level prospect. Otherwise, I'd keep Davis, sign a pitcher and let the McNeil-Lowrie-Davis situation work itself out in spring training.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. His new book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!