The Market Value of Post-Hype First Basemen

Logan Morrison came up with glove, power and patience and a big twitter presence. It was exciting. Then he was injured, the power waned, and he used that twitter account to upset his franchise. Now he’s a Mariner, traded for Carter Capps. And all of this means something for the Mets and Ike Davis.

The bar is so high when it comes to first base that a little bit of struggle can really hurt your trade value. The Mariners did buy two of the available first basemen — which is weird because they had one already — and that does mean that the supply was altered. But for every bit of good that might have meant for the Mets in their pursuit of trade value for their struggling first basemen, the move was also harmful. Logan Morrison was traded for a reliever.

Carter Capps is a good reliever. He might be a great one if he continues to improve his control. His strikeout rate was in the top 40 among relievers with more than 70 innings over the last two years. He has a great slider, a good change, and a 97 mph fastball. He’s under control until 2019. He could close, before or after Steve Cishek moves on.

He’s still a reliever, and is projected to put up about a half win next year. You’d think a first baseman who’s shown offense that’s 8% better than the league over nearly 1500 plate appearances and is under team control for three years would be worth more than a reliever, no matter how good he is. The problem with Morrison is that an ankle injury has hurt his defense, making him a likely Designated Hitter, and it’s sapped his power, too. And! American League first basemen were 13% better than the league with the stick last year. So Morrison has been below average to date among his new peers.

So we come to the Mets. They have two first basemen that were once better-regarded. Lucas Duda has been 15% better than the league average at the plate, but is a problem in the field. Ike Davis has been 12% better than the league. Though he supposedly had more upside in the field, the defensive metrics have ceased to be kind to him over the last two years. Duda has one more year of control than Morrison, but Davis is a free agent in 2017. Injury aside, they’re roughly comparable with Morrison.

And that’s why the same teams that were in on Hart and Morrison will now turn to the Mets. Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Tampa. And the Mets are holding two cheap first basemen, and then there’s Kendrys Morales and James Loney on the open market.

Perhaps the game of musical chairs will result in the Mets getting more for their first baseman than the Marlins did for Morrison. Davis was on the field roughly 50% more often than Morrison, his injury wasn’t as debilitating, and his power drop-off was more of the one-year variety than the slow, steady loss that Morrison underwent. If both Morrison and Davis are equally healthy and play to their projections, it’s Davis that will be worth more.

But how much more? The rumored names in Milwaukee are Tyler Thornburg and Mike Fiers, and both are flawed pitchers. Thornburg has an average changeup, 93 mph gas, and an up-and-down history of command. He was supposedly too much for Davis, and ow the talk has moved on to Fiers, who has an 88 mph fastball and is second in baseball in line drives allowed over the last two years. His changeup is decent, his curve is okay, he’s under team control until 2018, but the homers and line drives are a problem, probably created by his fastball.

If Ike Davis is traded, Mets fans may feel that the return is light. Unfortunately, what we learned from the Logan Morrison trade was that the market for a bounce-back first baseman — even if he’s young — is not great. The supply is too great, and the bar for excellence is too high.

With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.

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10 years ago

I think the case for Kendrys Mroales mentioned above is going to be a very interesting case this year. He is going to wish he accepted the 14.1 M QO. With Morrison, Hart and Smoak on hand I don’t see the Ms bringing Morales back. Given the availability of Davis, Loney, etc I think teams are going to be leery of giving up the pick for Morales. I think 1 year at 10M is the absolute best Morales will get in this market.

9 years ago
Reply to  jripper1268

Nice call you might be spot on with the money, will only be 4 months though.