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Farewell to Lucas Duda, the Mets’ underrated first baseman

As the New York Mets find themselves on the outside looking in on the National League playoff picture, the first domino has fallen in team’s trade deadline sale of veterans on expiring deals.

The Mets have traded first baseman Lucas Duda to the Tampa Bay Rays for right-handed pitching prospect Drew Smith, the club announced on Thursday night. And thus, an era came to an end.

Duda, 31, was much maligned by some fans during his eight-year tenure in New York, yet the slugging first baseman found himself ranked 13th on the Mets’ all-time home runs list prior being traded to the Wild Card-contending Rays.

It’s unfortunate that a contingent of the fan base will always remember Duda for his errant throw in Game 5 of the 2015 World Series, but if we’re going to focus on individual moments, I choose to think of a handful of others…

May 28, 2013: Moments after David Wright delivered a game-tying hit, Duda stepped in against Mariano Rivera in the 9th inning at Citi Field. On a 1-1 pitch, the Mets first baseman looped a single into right field, sending Wright home and delivering a walk-off knock against the greatest closer in baseball history.

May 12, 2014: With the Mets clinging to a 9-7 lead and the team’s closer-at-the-time Kyle Farnsworth faced a first and third situation with just one out in the 9th. Brian McCann scorched a ball down toward first base where Duda made a tremendous diving stop, fired to second for one out and retreated back to first just in time to receive the throw back to him for the final out, clinching a wild victory for the club.

September 28, 2014: Sitting on 29 home runs for the season, Duda walked to the plate in what would be his final at-bat of the 2014 campaign and launched a 2-2 breaking ball well over the right field wall for a two-run shot. It remains Duda’s only career season of 30 home runs.

September 26, 2015: As the Mets were on the precipice of their first division crown in nine years, Duda provided the keynote as he launched a first inning grand slam against John Lamb and the Reds. New York went on to win the game 10-2, clinching the National League East for the first time since 2006.

October 21, 2015: Looking to advance to their first World Series since the 2000 season, Lucas Duda put on a show in Game 4 of the NLCS at Wrigley Field. After crushing a three-run home run in the first inning, Duda added a pair of doubles and a walk, finishing with five RBIs as the Mets swept the Cubs to advance to the Fall Classic.

In the end, Lucas Duda finishes his Mets career as a severely underrated player. In his eight seasons with the club, the left-hander batted .246/.343/.457 with 125 home runs, 146 doubles, 378 RBI, 325 runs, an .801 OPS and a 121 OPS+.

And, contrary to popular belief, Duda was an above average defender, too, as he finishes his time in New York with 11 defensive runs saved, a 1.9 UZR and a 0.6 UZR/150 in 472 games at first base.

Duda was good for a 6.9 fWAR in his career with the Mets, which is not far behind Eric Hosmer—a player expected by some to get a pretty large payday this offseason—who has a 7.5 fWAR despite playing in 226 more games.

I’ll never understand how any Mets fan could dislike Lucas Duda, as he came up as a practically unknown player, surpassed the highly touted Ike Davis, played any position the team asked him to—Duda amazingly made 223 career starts in the outfield—and transformed himself into an integral piece to this organization when nothing was expected of him. That’s the kind of guy you should want to root for, and it’s a big part of why I’ll miss watching Lucas Duda don the orange and blue.

While it makes sense for the Mets to make this move, with their being so far back in the Wild Card race and Dominic Smith on the cusp of making his major league debut, the trade of Duda remains bittersweet.

“I was very proud to be a New York Met,” Duda told reporters just following the news of the trade. If we’re being honest, Mets fans should be proud, too.

They lost a good one.

Photo credit: Jake Roth – USA Today Sports

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