Flip-flopping Bay and Duda?

Right now, we’re looking at Duda in right and Bay in left. Duda is clearly a significantly below average outfielder, Bay is probably a slightly above average outfielder. Why not put Duda in left and Bay in right? That would definitely make the outfield better for this year and would also cement Duda in left for the future which is probably where he belongs. Why should we force Duda to learn right field when he’ll probably move to left as soon as Bay leaves anyway? The only reason would be to respect Bay’s tenure in left and not inconvenience the veteran player. But frankly Bay doesn’t deserve this respect given how awful he’s been. He should be forced to move to right both to make this year’s team better and so that Duda can become comfortable in the position where he’ll most likely end up in the long term anyway. What do you think?

– Josh, via email.

I’ve seen this come up a couple of times elsewhere and wondered about it myself. First things first: It’s almost certainly not going to happen unless Bay suggests it himself. As much as Duda’s development is and should be a priority for the Mets, getting Bay corrected is important too. And I can’t imagine the team will want to give him another thing to think about beyond the whole hitting thing he clearly spends a lot of time thinking about.

Plus, while Josh is right that Bay hasn’t done much on the field in the past two seasons to earn any deference from the Mets, he is by all accounts a hard-working veteran leader in the clubhouse, and for a variety of reasons (and as we’ve seen time and again) those guys get a ton of respect in baseball. Forcing Bay to switch positions at 33 could easily be perceived as jerking him around — especially if it didn’t go well — and is the type of thing that could make the younger players lose faith in their manager and front office.

Moreover, and most importantly, I’m not certain it would actually benefit the Mets in the short or long term. You’re talking about the same personnel with the same range (or lack thereof), and there are about as many balls hit to right field as there are to left field. They’re going to cover the same amount of ground regardless of where they’re standing.

The defensive metrics say Bay is a below average left fielder due to limited range, though he appears decent to the eye. Duda was by all accounts pretty woeful in his audition in right field last year. As Patrick Flood pointed out in an email discussion hashing this out, the standards are higher for right fielders, so Bay’s defensive stats would likely dip (and Duda’s benefit) after a switch because those rates are calculated against league average. But since Bay would still be Bay and Duda would still be Duda, switching them theoretically wouldn’t change much in terms of total runs saved by the Mets.

Toby Hyde noted in that same email chain that a switch might make some sense if Bay had an outstanding arm, but though Bay’s throws are generally accurate he’s not exactly Jeff Francoeur.

I guess the caveats to all that would be a) if there’s something about picking up the ball off the bat in right field that Duda just can’t handle and won’t be able to adjust to or b) if trying to play right field starts affecting Duda’s development on offense. Neither seems likely enough to merit messing with Bay.

In any case, it seems like Andres Torres has his work cut out for him.

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