Mets, Giants Swap DH Options With Trade of Darin Ruf for J.D. Davis

Darin Ruf
Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

The Mets and Giants made a minor trade on Tuesday as the deadline approached, with first baseman/designated hitter Darin Ruf heading to New York in exchange for third baseman-ish/designated hitter J.D. Davis. Three minor league pitchers — Thomas Szapucki, Nick Zwack, and Carson Seymour — are joining Davis in San Francisco.

After thriving in a platoon role in 2020 and ’21, Ruf has struggled this year, hitting .216/.328/.378, though still with a robust .886 OPS against lefties. Davis has performed similarly, hitting .238/.324/.359, but without the beneficial platoon split. The two hitters involved in this trade are both right-handed DH-types who have broadly similar value on the surface, but there are differences in their two profiles that matter enough for teams on two very different 2022 trajectories to make this trade.

Ruf is the easier player to utilize, thanks to large platoon splits that Davis has not historically possessed. The Giants attempted to expand his role this season, giving him more starts against righties (34) than he had combined in 2020 and ’21 (24), and while his true platoon split is likely smaller than the 316 points of OPS it is this season, he’s definitely a player who needs to be used carefully when not possessing the handedness advantage. The Mets clearly value Ruf’s ability to be a top-notch accomplice to Daniel Vogelbach at DH, given that they’re sending some minor league extras along as sweetener.

ZiPS Projection – Darin Ruf
Year BA OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB OPS+ DR WAR
2023 .226 .317 .428 367 50 83 15 1 19 52 44 118 2 103 0 1.0

Zwack is a 2021 draftee having a good first full season in the minors. A low-90s sinker isn’t going to wow anyone these days, but he’s had enough success in A-ball that he’s worth checking in on to see if he can surpass that Double-A wall that can stymie lower-grade pitching prospects. Szapucki is a better-known name, spending the last two seasons in Triple-A and with two unfortunately unforgettable appearances in the majors so far. I’m not convinced that he won’t have a future as a fifth starter in the majors. One has to remember that, unlike in the majors, minor league offense has exploded rather than evaporated, so Szapucki’s decent performance in the high minors makes him worth a flyer. Seymour doesn’t get a lot of press in the scouting world, and while he’s got solid velocity — certainly better than Zwack or Szapucki — he lacks consistent secondary pitches. His debut has been very good, but I wouldn’t take it too seriously; 23-year-olds ought to be pitching quite well against A-ball hitters.

ZiPS Projection – Thomas Szapucki
Year W L ERA G GS IP H ER HR BB SO ERA+ WAR
2023 8 8 4.66 24 24 114.0 107 59 17 54 123 91 1.0
2024 7 7 4.55 23 23 107.0 98 54 15 50 116 93 1.0
2025 7 7 4.55 22 23 105.7 96 53 15 49 117 93 1.0
2026 6 7 4.59 20 21 95.7 87 49 14 44 106 92 0.9
2027 6 6 4.59 19 19 90.0 81 46 13 42 100 92 0.8
2028 6 6 4.61 18 18 84.0 76 43 13 40 95 92 0.7

Without an exploitable platoon split, Davis is a difficult player to find playing time for when things aren’t going well. But with the Giants rapidly drifting out of the playoff picture, a few interesting minor league names and a reduction of guaranteed money is worth the differences between him and Ruf. Davis has struggled this season, but he still hits the ball hard — average exit velocity of 93.3 mph — and he did hit .288/.373/.472 from 2019 to ’21. The Mets are trying to hold off the Braves, so there’s not a lot of interest in being patient and hoping he figures things out this season. San Francisco does have this luxury, and should they tender him a contract this winter, they have two more years to see if he can be a full-time DH. Davis also comes with the alleged ability to play third base, but in truth, this part of his skill set is best deployed in emergencies. In other words, if the Giants are looking for a possible successor to Evan Longoria at third, well, they’re still looking for one.

ZiPS Projection – J.D. Davis
Year BA OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB OPS+ DR WAR
2023 .269 .350 .413 320 41 86 17 1 9 38 34 98 2 108 0 1.1
2024 .262 .343 .403 290 37 76 15 1 8 34 31 89 2 103 0 0.8

In the end, this trade is a good match of wants and needs for both teams. The Mets wanted a lefty-masher with more certainty, and the Giants wanted to get good value for a veteran role player. That’s just what happened.





Dan Szymborski is a senior writer for FanGraphs and the developer of the ZiPS projection system. He was a writer for ESPN.com from 2010-2018, a regular guest on a number of radio shows and podcasts, and a voting BBWAA member. He also maintains a terrible Twitter account at @DSzymborski.

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sadtrombonemember
6 months ago

Wait, the Mets traded JD Davis and three prospects for…Darin Ruf?

I know JD Davis is not performing anywhere near where he was the last couple of years but he’s not that far removed from a few years where he was crushing the ball. I would much rather take a chance on fixing Davis than continuing to trot Ruf out there and I wouldn’t even need the incentive of some prospects to do it.

Jimmember
6 months ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

That is what I was thinking.

vicfirth98member
6 months ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

I agree…I don’t understand this trade at all. I honestly cannot understand how or why they thought they needed to move 3 prospects and JDD for a guy who isn’t moving the needle for them at all. This is crazy. Totally agree with you, I’d rather have JDD 1-for-1 over Ruf, let alone 3 prospects on top

68FCmember
6 months ago
Reply to  vicfirth98

They aren’t really prospects, they are just minor league arms. These kind of guys change hands constantly. On Eric’s report they are #27, #29, and unranked and all old for their level. Guys like that get sold back and forth constantly.

LenFuego
6 months ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

Struck me that way at first blush too, but Ruf is a very high OBP guy (.370 in 2020, .386 in 2021 and even .328 this year despite just a .216 BA). Still, three prospects seems like a haul … and when Farhan Zaidi wants your prospects it ought to make you nervous about giving them up.

LenFuego
6 months ago
Reply to  LenFuego

Just checked JD’s OBP numbers … and they are almost identical to Ruf’s in each of those three years. So yeah, not sure what the Mets are doing giving up three prospects in this deal.

I guess the platoon split has value for a role player.

Last edited 6 months ago by LenFuego
sadtrombonemember
6 months ago
Reply to  LenFuego

It’s a pretty marginal upgrade getting Ruf’s better hitting against left handers. The only real advantage is if you’re in a series vs the Dodgers and all their great lefties. It’s not like the Braves, Brewers, or Phillies are going throw more than one lefty at you in the playoffs. (I can’t remember the Padres or Cards handedness).

hughduffy
6 months ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

For the Braves, it’s just A.J. Minter, Tyler Matzek, and Dylan Lee.

toddpratt
6 months ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

“prospects”