The Pittsburgh Pirates have traded for first baseman Ike Davis, per a team press release. Chris Cotillo first reported that a deal was done. The Pirates gave up minor league reliever Zack Thornton and a player to be named later to get Davis.
Davis currently has a .742 OPS in 30 plate appearances this year. In his career, he has an .828 OPS against right-handers, which is the role in the first base platoon that he is expected to cover. Davis seemed likely to be traded by the Mets, since he was making $3.5 M this year, and the Mets are going with Lucas Duda as their primary first baseman.
This move spells the end for Travis Ishikawa, who had a .664 OPS in 37 plate appearances for the Pirates. Ishikawa didn’t look like a good option at the start of the season, but won the job due to the offensive struggles from Andrew Lambo. Since then, Lambo has been hitting well with Indianapolis, but this trade means he’s not going to get a shot any time soon.
Taking Thornton in the deal is interesting, since he could have been had for free in the Rule 5 draft over the off-season. He’s a good relief prospect, capable of being a middle reliever in the majors. He doesn’t have the best stuff, but gets strong results off his sinker, generating one of the best ground ball rates in the system last year. I wrote in detail about Thornton during the Rule 5 draft. The fact that the Mets traded Davis for him makes me think the PTBNL could be more than your usual throw-in or cash considerations.
The timing of the deal makes me think that the PTBNL could be a 2013 draft pick. Draft picks can’t be traded until one year after they have signed. Last year the Pirates had signed all of their picks by July 8th. The decision for a player to be named later can be held for six months. That means any player currently in the organization would qualify for PTBNL status.
That’s really the only way the PTBNL makes sense. It’s possible that the Mets are deciding from a non-2013 pick who could be dealt at any time. But since they’ve been talking Ike Davis with the Pirates all off-season, it seems unlikely that they’d make a deal now, without knowing who they’re getting. If the PTBNL is a draft pick, then they probably already know who that player is.
As for the value of Davis, I wrote about him back in December, pointing out that he’s not worth a top prospect. He does have some value as a guy with power, and the offensive upside to be similar to Pedro Alvarez on the right side of the infield (low average and high strikeout rate included). His defense has struggled the last two years, so don’t expect a lot of value there. He will be a better fielder than Garrett Jones, but won’t add much value to his game. Offensively, I think he’ll be helped in a platoon, since he has struggled in his career against left-handers. He could be capable of putting up an OPS over .800 if everything goes right, but that’s not a guarantee.
It’s hard to fully judge the deal without knowing who the PTBNL is, and without knowing what you’re getting from Davis.