It's been a long time since the Red Sox have been in need of a first baseman. With the trades of both Kevin Youkilis and Adrian Gonzalez, the team will be in search of someone to play the position that has been held by one of those two since 2005. With the 2012 season ending with Mauro Gomez and James Loney manning the spot, they clearly don't have a great in-house option available. Judging by the free agent class, this is not the optimal year to be looking for a first baseman. Mike Napoli is the most attractive candidate on the list. The Sox will surely take a look at him, as he's a proven hitter with a great track record at Fenway. However, he likely won't come cheap, and he's approaching the wrong side of thirty.
Baseball has been moving in a different direction over the past few years, and young, cost-controlled assets are becoming one of the more valuable commodities in the game. This is where the Mets come into the picture. They happen to have two young, cost-controlled players who are each best suited to play first base. Lucas Duda has shown tremendous promise at the plate, but he's been forced to play corner outfield with Ike Davis already playing first, and has not been impressive with the glove out there. Because of this, there have been rumors swirling that the Mets will be looking to move Davis. The Red Sox should try to jump all over that possibility, as they'd have a quality first baseman under team control through 2016.
Davis has had a considerable amount of success in his first three seasons in the majors. While he's already established himself as an above-average hitter, he will only be 26 next season. Even with his young age, he has shown good plate approach thus far, which is something that typically doesn't regress through the prime-years. Not only has he had a double-digit walk-percentage in each of his major-league seasons, but he's shown a nice understanding of the strike-zone. He has swung at just 28-percent of pitches outside of the strike zone, while swinging at 66-percent of those in the zone. Both of those numbers are better than the league-average.
It's not only his plate approach, though. Davis has had the results to go with it, being better than the league-average first baseman at the plate in every season he has been in the majors. He showed huge flashes in his rookie year, and finished with a .264/.351/.440 slash-line that year, and was 7th in Rookie of the Year voting. He put up even better numbers in 2011, but he hurt his ankle after colliding with David Wright just 36 games into the season, and wasn't able to return. He impressed many when he was on the field that year, though, and held a 156 OPS+ at the time of the injury.
There were big expectations for Davis heading into 2012, but in Spring Training news broke that he may have Valley Fever. With this, he struggled tremendously at the beginning of the year. However, by the end of the season, he was swinging like everyone expected him too. His .227 batting average left much to be desired, though much of that can be blamed upon a .246 batting average on balls in play. Even with that, he was still able to finish with a .771 OPS, a 110 OPS+ and and an equal wRC+. He didn't meet expectations, but he still showed a great ability at the plate. Because of his mild struggles, he may be able to be had for a cheaper price, too.
With a trade to the Red Sox, Davis could be expected to be even better at the plate, too. Using Fangraphs' park factors, Fenway Park is more hitter-friendly than Citi Field in every aspect besides triples, and that's not really a concern for a player with the speed of Davis, who only has two in his career.
It's tough to know how much the Mets will be wanting for Davis, since team-controlled assets are extremely valuable. Boston has some valuable assets in their minor-league system, and they need to hold onto them. However, there have been stories that New York is upset with their first baseman for his nighttime behavior, and they may interested in quantity if high-quality is unavailable. The Red Sox's depth fits well there. I'd be comfortable trading a bottom-half-of-the-top-ten prospect, in some sort of package that could possibly include other lower-level prospects, or depth players on the major-league roster. One intriguing name could be Andrew Miller, who was impressive after shifting to the bullpen and is great against lefties. He's expendable for the Red Sox, too, with Rich Hill slated to return next year.
If the Mets want one of the top-5 prospects for Davis, I would not entertain that deal. There is absolutely no guarantee that they'd be able to get that, though, and he would be a perfect fit for Boston. As an above-average hitter, and by all accounts, a quality defensive first baseman, he could easily be at least a 3-4 win player for the next four seasons. The Red Sox need to start stock-piling these type of players, who have steady year-to-year production, and remain under team-control for a significant chunk of time. If the price isn't too high, Ike Davis would be a perfect place to start.