Mets deal Duda to Rays, acquire RHP Smith

July 27th, 2017

SAN DIEGO -- made a slow lap around the square-shaped visiting clubhouse at Petco Park, patting one former teammate on the shoulder, bending down to shake the hand of another resting on a couch.

"Dude," , one of his better friends on the team, said to him. "When I call you, pick up the phone."

About an hour earlier, general manager Sandy Alderson informed Duda that the Mets were trading the first baseman to the Rays for , a right-handed relief prospect who throws in the upper 90s. A pending free agent who served as the Mets' starting first baseman for the past half-decade, Duda became a casualty of the Mets' disappointing season -- the first of potentially several trade chips the Mets could spin for future benefit.

"The guys here, I've grown pretty close to," Duda said, still wearing a gray Mets T-shirt with the sleeves cut off. "It's a first-class organization that treated me extremely well. I was very proud to be a New York Met, and I'm going to be very proud to be a Tampa Bay Ray."

Duda's final half-season with the Mets was similar to many that came before it. Batting .246 with 17 homers in 75 games, Duda missed time early due to a hyperextended left elbow. When healthy, he dominated right-handed pitching, posting a .913 OPS with roughly one home run every 16 plate appearances.

Over eight years in Flushing, Duda batted .246 with 125 homers, including a franchise-record 71 at Citi Field. Perhaps best known for his errant throw home in the ninth inning of Game 5 of the 2015 World Series, allowing the Royals to score a game-tying run, Duda was adamant that the misplay not define his career. Even as injuries derailed him from 2016-17, Duda remained a productive member of the Mets' offense.

"He's been a tremendous part of this team for a long time," manager Terry Collins said. "We wish him all the best, and thank him for everything he's done here in New York. He's very responsible for our success in 2015 and 2016. … I talked to him and told him exactly that, and told him what a pleasure it's been to watch him."

In Smith, the Mets received the Rays' No. 30 prospect, per, a 2015 third-round Draft pick who advanced from Class A to Triple-A this summer. Smith will report to Double-A Binghamton with a chance to make a quick impact on the Mets.

Eventually, the Mets are likely to promote their No. 2 prospect, Dominic Smith, to replace Duda at first base. A mentor of Smith in Spring Training, Duda said he hopes the 22-year-old "turns out to be a 10-year All-Star." But it won't happen quite yet; the Mets started at first base for their series finale Thursday against the Padres, and may not promote Smith for days, if not weeks.

Much depends on the Mets' front office, with Bruce, , and all still trade candidates.

"We'll adjust and move on," Collins said.

With news of the trade breaking as the Mets spilled into Petco Park on Thursday, it created a somber pregame mood in the clubhouse. Duda hugged teammates and staff members, conversing privately with Collins in a clubhouse hallway. Granderson, who has long run a social media account poking fun at Duda's quiet, humble manner, jokingly fell to the floor, grabbing Duda's leg as he attempted to exit the room.

From San Diego, Duda will report to New York City, where the Rays are playing a four-game series against the Yankees. Rays officials plan to use Duda as a designated hitter, as they seek their first playoff berth since 2013.

"I don't think you can really prepare for it," Duda said. "It just kind of happens and you deal with it, and accept it, and be open to it. I'm extremely excited. I'm looking forward to starting a new step."