When the Atlanta Braves non-tendered first baseman Matt Adams on Friday, Sandy Alderson should have been on the phone immediately.
It shouldn’t be necessary to send Mets general manager Sandy Alderson a wake-up call. But, you never know. Hear ye, hear ye, first-baseman Matt Adams has been non-tendered and is now available as a free agent. Rack ’em up and get it done.
Adams played so well last season for the Atlanta Braves at first base that he forced the team to move perennial All-Star, Freddie Freeman, to third base. In 130 games between St. Louis and Atlanta last season, Adams hit .274 with 20 home runs and 65 RBI. Not exactly prime-time numbers but almost certainly beyond the range of what the Mets can expect from Dominic Smith in 2018.
The non-tendering of Adams by the Braves comes as a surprise, but the fact is Freeman is ticketed as the regular first baseman for the Braves, leaving Adams in a one-dimensional role as a bench player.
Adams’ season was divided into two halves, one outstanding and one not so good. Writing for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, David O’Brien points out the discrepancy:
“Adams hit .299 (40-for-134) with 12 homers, 20 extra-base hits, 31 RBIs and a .988 OPS in his first 34 games with the Braves from May 21 through June 25, but posted a modest .248 average (39-for-157) with seven homers, 20 extra-base hits, 27 RBIs and a .746 OPS in 66 games the rest of the season.”
The Braves tried fruitlessly to trade Adams before Friday’s non-tendering deadline, but there were no takers, probably due to the fact he would have generated around $4.5 million in his final year of arbitration, while his expected price as a free agent will be less.
For those who believe in a player’s upside, there are the first-half numbers produced by Adams. I’ve said all along the Mets need to be more proactive than reactive. With Adams, this is an opportunity to do that.
Using The Marcels projection system originally developed by Tom Tango, Baseball Reference projects Adams’ 2018 season to look something like this: .259 BA 19 HR, 65 RBI, .472 SLG and a .786 OPS.
Move over to Dominic Smith, and you get this: .237 BA 13 HR, 39 RBI .439 SLG and a .745 OPS.
The Mets, like all teams, hype their young players like Smith. They have to, which makes a story written by Marc Carig for Newsday in which Sandy Alderson openly criticized Smith, mainly for his weight issues all the more interesting. Since then, Smith has been on a crusade to correct the problem and to endear himself to Alderson.
But the red-flag question has to be why Smith needed a kick in the butt from Alderson in the first place? Conditioning is kindergarten for major league ballplayers in today’s age of baseball. Players train 12 months a year, and if there’s any question about their conditioning efforts, it’s usually a message about over-training and risking injury due to over-bulking.
Mind you, this takedown by Alderson came nine months after Smith was also talking about his weight problem see here in this video:
In Adams, the Mets would get a proven six-year veteran, albeit one with limited skills, who can help the team now, and without any hand-holding along the way. Smith needs some polishing anyway, so what would it hurt to have him play most or all of the 2018 season at Triple-A?
Send him down there with a message that says, “Look, we like you, and we want you to be a part of this organization for years to come. But you need to prove you can control your weight over an extended period, because that, in our judgment, is the only thing holding you back.”
There is most certainly a team out there who is going to reel in the services of Matt Adams. If the Mets move fast, they can probably sign him to a one-year deal for $3.5-4 million, which is in the same range as the amount they will be paying Wilmer Flores and Travis d’Arnaud for the upcoming season.
Remember, it’s about being proactive, not reactive in June when Smith is batting .230 and lumbering around first base, still trying to get hold of his weight.