Mets and Lucas Duda avoid arbitration with one-year deal

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Masahiro Tanaka isn’t the only one getting rich today. Adam Rubin of ESPN reports that the Mets and first baseman/outfielder Lucas Duda have avoided arbitration with a one-year deal worth $1.6375 million. On Friday, Duda filed for $1.9 million while the Mets filed for $1.35 million, making the midpoint $150,000 less than what the two sides eventually settled upon.

Duda, soon to be 28, was eligible for arbitration for the first time and can become a free agent after the 2016 season. He finished 2013 with solid numbers despite a low batting average and playing half his games in a pitcher-friendly park, posting a .223/.352/.415 line. He missed 76 games between June 22 and August 25 with a strained left intercostal.

The Mets were expected to trade first baseman Ike Davis during the off-season, but ended up holding on to him and agreeing to a one-year, $3.5 million deal to avoid arbitration. Such a trade would have opened up first base for Duda. Now that the Mets have a full outfield, Duda projects to start the 2014 season on the bench.

Justin Turner is a postseason monster

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A not-insignificant amount of the Dodgers’ success in recent years has to do with the emergence of Justin Turner. In his first five seasons with the Orioles and Mets, he was a forgettable infielder who had versatility, but no power. The Mets non-tendered him after the 2013 season, a move they now really regret.

In four regular seasons since, as a Dodger, Turner has hit an aggregate .303/.378/.502. His 162-game averages over those four seasons: 23 home runs, 36 doubles, 83 RBI, 80 runs scored. And he’s also a pretty good third baseman, it turns out. The Dodgers have averaged 95 wins per season over the past four years.

Turner, 32, has gotten better and better with each passing year. This year, he drew more walks (59) than strikeouts (56), a club only five other players (min. 300 PA) belonged to, and he trailed only Joey Votto (1.61) in BB/K ratio (1.05). He zoomed past his previous career-high in OPS, finishing at .945. His .415 on-base percentage was fourth-best in baseball. His batting average was fifth-best and only nine points behind NL batting champion Charlie Blackmon.

It doesn’t seem possible, but Turner has been even better in the postseason. He exemplified that with his walk-off home run to win Game 2 of the NLCS against the Cubs. Overall, entering Wednesday night’s action, he was batting .363/.474/.613 in 97 postseason plate appearances. In Game 4, he went 2-for-2 with two walks, a single, and a solo home run. That increases his postseason slash line to .378/.495/.659, now across 101 plate appearances. That’s a 1.154 OPS. The career-high regular season OPS for future first-ballot Hall of Famer Albert Pujols was 1.114 in 2008, when he won his third career MVP Award. Statistically, in the postseason, Turner hits slightly better than Pujols did in the prime of his career. Of course, we should adjust for leagues and parks and all that, but to even be in that neighborhood is incredible.

In the age of stats, the concept of “clutch” has rightfully eroded. We don’t really allow players to ascend to godlike levels anymore like the way we did Derek Jeter, for instance. (Jeter’s career OPS in the playoffs, by the way, was a comparatively pitiful .838.) Turner isn’t clutch; he’s just a damn good hitter whose careful approach at the plate has allowed him to shine in the postseason and the Dodgers can’t imagine life without him.