Ike Davis and the arbitration conundrum
December, 2, 2013
By Buster Olney | ESPN.com
Mike Stobe/Getty ImagesIke Davis was so bad in early 2013 that he was demoted to Triple-A in June.If you were to draw a line to trace Ike Davis' hand movement when he was in his deepest slumps, it would look more like something from a kid’s maze than the mechanics of a successful hitter. The hands went down, then up, then forward, and by the time he got through all of that his timing would seem more serendipitous than anything, as Keith Hernandez spoke of here after Davis broke an 0-for-24 slump in May.
Davis is just 26 years old, but after hitting 19 homers in 2010 and then batting .302 in 36 games in a 2011 shortened by injury, he hit .227 with 140 strikeouts in 2012 and only .205 in 2013, amid questions about whether his swing is fixable. But Davis' salary is climbing, through service-time driven arbitration, and he'll be set to make something just south of $4 million in 2014.
There may have been a time when Davis would've been a candidate to be non-tendered -- and the deadline for teams to tender contracts, formally, is midnight Monday. But the financial context has changed enough that increasingly, clubs appear willing to pay well (or overpay) for players under control for one season at a time. The working mantra of the 2013-2014 winter seems to be: There's no such thing as a bad one-year deal.
Even if the Mets follow up on some of the trade conversations they've had and move Davis (Colorado could be a possible landing spot, as well as Tampa Bay), the idea of paying him $3.5-$4 million in a one-year obligation isn’t regarded as a reach; the Mets would find a taker for Davis. Because if he bounces back, he could be a good value, and if he doesn’t, well, some other team would just dump him next winter.
The Yankees doled out $85 million to sign Brian McCann, and Cardinals committed $53 million to Jhonny Peralta; Nelson Cruz, Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo are looking for tens of millions of dollars; Robinson Cano is looking for close to $300 million.
So somebody will place a small-bore bet on Davis and hope that he can work through the maze of his hitting mechanics, and fix his swing.
I asked rival evaluators for feedback on Davis, his swing and the question of whether it could be fixed. Their answers:
Evaluator No. 1: "[His swing has] leaks and hitches.