By: Noah Wright
Before Peter Alonso, there was Dominic Smith. Smith was the team’s first round pick during the 2013 draft, and steadily rose through the minors, improving every year. By the end of 2017, Dominic had been called to the majors after a season in the minors where he had a .905 OPS, and 134 wRC+. He had also been given good ratings for his glovework at first.
Smith may have struggled in his initial call-up, but at just 22 years of age, he was still considered the future of 1B for the Mets. However, Smith’s fortunes would change in 2018. Dom would start out in AAA, and eventually came to the majors and played 1B, as well as left field. Again, Smith had struggled having just batted .225/.255/.420 in 149 plate appearances. His fielding at first had been horrible as well, having -1 DRS at first. He was even worse in left field, finishing 2018 with -5 DRS. Smith spent most of the year at AAA, but was having trouble hitting there as well. He batted for a .708 OPS and 87 wRC+ at Las Vegas.
While Smith was struggling to perform in both the majors and minors, the Mets had another first baseman rising up through the farm: Peter Alonso. After an impressive showing between the single-A levels, and Double-A level during 2017, Alonso entered 2018 with a lot of potential. He showed what he could really do in a full 2018 season, blasting 36 home runs, and finishing with a .285/.395/.579 line in 574 PA’s (301 in AAA, 273 in AA). Alonso had done so well in Triple-A (.260/.355/.585, 139 wRC+), that he had passed Dominic Smith in terms of who the future at first base would be for the Mets.
Well, now it’s 2019, and Peter Alonso looks to take over the reigns at first base once he hits the cutoff for service time in mid-April unless injury occurs. Until then, Dom Smith looks to be just the stop-gap at first until Alonso is ready for the majors. After April, he’ll be nothing more than a bench bat, that is if he’s even doing somewhat average.
This leaves Smith’s future with the Mets’ up in the air. He’ll only be 23 to start the year, and turn 24 in mid-June, so his age should not be a concern. The Mets could go down two routes with Smith. One: they could trade him; two: they could keep him as depth. Let’s first go over what if they traded him.
Smith, like I said earlier, is still fairly young. He’s also only one season removed from being a top prospect who finished with a .519 slugging % at one point in the minors. Needless to say, he still has a little prospect value left. Right now, the Mets could use another pitcher, either in the pen or rotation. Jason Vargas is currently lining up to be the 5th starter for the Mets, and they don’t have any pitchers that are in the minors getting ready for that call to the MLB. Smith plus a mid-level prospect could bring back a solid back-end starter. Someone like Mike Leake, Danny Duffy, or Mike Minor. The Mets have also just lost hard throwing right hander Drew Smith to Tommy John surgery.
Keeping Smith might be a good idea. Afterall, the Mets are one of the most injury prone teams in the MLB. They’ve already had Todd Frazier and Jed Lowrie have some health issues early into spring training. Even though Cano was suspended for half of the year, he was placed on the DL just days before his suspension, and would miss a decent chunk of time.
I think the Mets will hold onto Smith for now. They need a solid platoon/part time player on the bench just in case. The event of an injury is too severe, and the way that Smith has been playing this year in spring training, having a 1.100 OPS so far, could be a positive sign. Plus even if they want to trade Dom, it might be better to see if he can rebuild some of that value he lost after a down year in 2018.