Way back in 2005, the Rays selected a first baseman named Ike Davis in the 19th round of the MLB Draft. Davis did not sign and was drafted in the first round by the Mets three years later. Could Davis finally arrive with the team that originally drafted him via a trade this offseason?
On Sunday, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe discussed Davis as a possible trade fit for the Red Sox and Rays, with the qualifier that Mets special assistant (and ex-Blue Jays GM) J.P. Ricciardi said that he would be shocked if Davis is actually traded. But if the Mets are willing to part with Davis at some point this offseason, should the Rays target him as a trade option?
Davis, 25, had a solid season in 2012, posting a .227/.308/.462 line (110 OPS+) in 584 plate appearances with 26 doubles, 32 homers, and 90 RBI, striking out 141 times against 61 walks. He was excellent from June 9th to the end of the year after a tough start, managing a .265/.347/.565 line (150 OPS+) with 20 doubles, 27 homers, 69 RBI, and 82 strikeouts versus 43 walks. Looking at Davis’ overall stats on the season, they have to remind you of Carlos Pena with the big power but low batting average with plenty of strikeouts- but the big issue is that Davis doesn’t walk nearly as often. On the season, he walked at a 10.4% clip, which is fine except for the fact that he strikes out so much. Even during his hot stretch from June on, Davis walked 10.9% of the time. Coincidentally, that 10.9% clip is the same walk rate that Pena had over the first six years of his career. Since arriving in Tampa Bay in 2007, however, Pena’s walk rate has jumped to 15.7%. The increased patience played a huge role in Pena’s incredible stretch from 2007 to 2009. Could Davis be a candidate for that type of uptick in patience? He is still improving, so there’s a chance- although by no means is Davis about to break out with a 46-homer season like Pena did in 2007. But even if it doesn’t happen, you hope that Davis can be a little more consistent moving forward and be a 35-homer threat annually with a solid average and on-base percentage. With no answers coming at first base for the Rays right now, they might be willing to give a lot for a player like that.
Davis will be arbitration eligible for the first time this offseason and will be under team control for the next four years. He should get a little expensive down the line, but that should not be an issue for at least the next couple of years and that certainly won’t preclude the Rays from going after Davis.
The Mets aren’t exactly an offensive juggernaut and they’re not about to trade Davis unless it nets them significant improvement for their team. An interesting option for a straight-up trade could be Jeremy Hellickson. Hellickson also has four years left under team control (he’ll be arbitration-eligible for the first time after the 2013 season) and although he’s very talented, he has some enigmatic qualities to him as well. A big problem with that is that the Rays aren’t exactly dying to trade Hellickson. The Rays have to think about trading Hellickson because his agent is Scott Boras and you have to assume he won’t sign a team-friendly extension, but that’s an issue to worry about in a few years, not before he’s even arbitration-eligible. A Davis-Hellickson would be a swap of two players whose teams don’t want to trade them, which would be pretty strange although not impossible. The Rays would rather get the deal done with some of their other starting pitchers. They would be more than happy with a straight-up Davis for Davis trade, Wade for Ike, although the Mets won’t be jumping at that deal. Could an Ike Davis deal possibly be built around say Wade Davis and Chris Archer? In that trade, the Rays get a big bat for their lineup, losing rotation depth but still having plenty in that regard, while the Mets get two pitchers with the ability to either start or relieve with good potential in either role. Archer is little more than a prospect after 6 major league appearances and 29.1 innings pitched, and Davis does not have a great track record as a starter, so the Mets would certainly be taking on risk in this deal (the Rays are as well- Davis could continue striking out like crazy and not getting on base), but they also have a realistic chance of turning their first baseman into the number two and number three starters in their rotation for years to come. You can also do a whole lot worse than a couple of fire-balling relievers with the potential for the late innings, which Davis already is and Archer could easily become (and the bullpen might be a more severe need for the Mets than the rotation anyway right now).
If the Mets are willing to deal Ike Davis, the Rays can make it worth their while in a mutually-beneficial trade. It will be a tough decision for the Mets to decide whether to part with their homegrown slugging first baseman, but if the right offer comes around they will have to consider it, and the Rays could make as good of an offer as anyone with their young pitching.