In Bucs-Mets trade, no bigger winner than Ike
Fitting in won't be an issue as first baseman joins serious contender
Ike Davis didn't win the lottery, but in a few months, he might feel like he did.
A lightning rod with the Mets, the former first-round first baseman who delivered 32 home runs two years ago is a great addition for the Pirates, just as Justin Morneau was at the Trade Deadline a year ago. Davis is a good addition on a very strong team, a hitter who should deliver hits to win big games, but who won't be looked on to carry his team. Not with Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez around.
First base has been an ongoing issue for the Pirates, and general manager Neal Huntington didn't really have the resources available to address it over the offseason. He hoped that Andrew Lambo could step in to be the left-handed bat alongside Gaby Sanchez, but Lambo stopped hitting in Spring Training.
Give Huntington credit for making an early move to improve, even if this trade has been speculated about for a long time. It was a good fit. And on Friday night, Huntington and Sandy Alderson found a way to make it work.
Good for all parties involved, especially Davis. He's joining a contender, and manager Clint Hurdle and the veteran players make it easy for a newcomer to fit in.
Russell Martin found that out a year ago after leaving the Yankees. He still can't get over how easy it was to fit in with the Pirates.
"Nice people, good people," Martin said during Spring Training. "Really, just a large group of people who get along. You don't feel the selfishness like in most clubhouses. You feel a closeness. A lot of guys coming up together, the front office looking for guys who have that personality trait [of getting along]. It's hard to tell who is like that, but guys who aren't that way, when they come here, they just adapt, they kind of mold into that aspect.''
Davis, 27, brought the highest expectations with him when he arrived to the Mets in 2010. He had been the 18th overall pick in the '08 Draft (taken with the compensation pick gained when Hall of Famer Tom Glavine left as a free agent) after a great career at Arizona State. He needed only 182 Minor League games before becoming a fixture alongside David Wright in the Mets' lineup.
When Davis hit .264 with 19 home runs and a .791 OPS in his rookie season, he seemed to be scratching the surface of his talent. He drove in runs in nine of the Mets' first 10 games in 2011, but he then collided with Wright on the mound tracking a popup, and in the process, suffered an ankle injury that eventually would require surgery. Even though Davis bounced back to hit 32 homers the next season, his metrics were down, with a .227 batting average and 141 strikeouts. His story in New York became more about what he couldn't do than what he did, and that's never good for anybody.
Pittsburgh, playing for Hurdle, should be the perfect spot to get back on track. Davis will receive a jolt of adrenaline right away, playing in April games that will seem to mean more than any he played for the Mets, and will have a good chance to hit his stride by August, when the real heat of the playoff run arrives.
Huntington believes he has a team that can win the World Series -- he's right, too, just look at those arms in the bullpen -- but getting there won't be easy. The Cardinals are the strongest team in the National League, and every division is at least two or three deep with strong teams, meaning it might take 93 wins to wrap up a Wild Card. These early games are going to count for a lot.
While it remains to be seen whom the Pirates will acquire alongside 26-year-old reliever Zack Thornton in the trade, the deal makes sense for the Mets. They shed a little bit of salary, but more importantly open up first base to give Lucas Duda essentially a full season to see if he can become a player to be counted on. He always seemed miscast in the outfield -- a particularly athletic outfield these days, thanks to Juan Lagares, Curtis Granderson and the two Youngs, Eric Jr. and Chris -- and he can settle in and try to rake.
This was a simple trade in many ways, but a good trade. And nobody is in position to benefit more from it than Davis.
Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.