The New York Mets may have added aging lefty slugger Adrian Gonzalez, but that doesn’t mean they lack faith in their young first baseman Dominic Smith.
The New York Mets made a controversial move when they decided to bring Adrian Gonzalez to Queens on a league-minimum contract. The acquisition has been met with mixed responses by both fans and pundits alike, with most of the outrage stemming from the idea that Gonzalez has the leg up on the Opening Day first base job.
Heard the Mets are taking the approach that Adrian Gonzalez, if healthy, will probably be their first baseman to start the season. There is a good chance Dom Smith will begin the season at Las Vegas.
— Mike Puma (@NYPost_Mets) January 16, 2018
So, how could the organization have any faith in Dominic Smith if they just signed Adrian Gonzalez and Jay Bruce, two slugging lefties that can adequately play first base?
First, let’s tackle the report of Smith opening 2018 in Las Vegas, because this rumor is not the career-altering move some are making it out to be. Smith had his Major League cup of coffee in 2017 and subsequently fell on his face as he slashed .198/.262/.395 in 49 games played, hardly living up to his Top 100 prospect billing.
If he were sent down to start the year, he certainly would not be the first, or the last, player to experience a demotion. Even legends like Mickey Mantle and Sammy Sosa were sent down after their big league debuts.
The point is, spending more time in Las Vegas could be positive for a player like Smith who needs to regain his confidence. Now, to the A-Gon issue.
By bringing in Gonzalez, the Mets have actually shown they believe in Dominic Smith’s long-term prospects at first base. At the same time, they’ve displayed a lack of trust in Smith by not anointing him as the everyday starter for a team that plans to contend this season.
The catch in all of this is that Gonzalez will be entering the 2018 season as a 36-year-old, which means the front office surely cannot view him as a long-term option for the position. Beyond just his age, Gonzalez will also be coming off an injury-plagued 2017 that saw him endure a pretty serious back injury.
In simple terms, he’s a reclamation project: a low-risk, high-reward player whose aging body the Mets are trying to squeeze every last ounce of skill out of. Maybe he’ll hit 20 home runs and produce 75 RBI in Queens this season, or perhaps he won’t even make it back from his March trip to Port St. Lucie.
Either way, Dominic Smith is this team’s future at first base. If the Mets did not believe that sentiment, they would’ve looked elsewhere in the free agent market to players like Lucas Duda or Logan Morrison.
Unless the Mets have given up on Dominic Smith, signing Lucas Duda wouldn’t make a lot of sense. https://t.co/5lmVIAWdai
— Rising Apple (@RisingAppleBlog) January 12, 2018
Yet, the organization never even seriously considered a longer-term solution at the position. Instead, they signed a 36-year-old Gonzalez and inked Bruce to a three-year pact.
And about Jay Bruce, he’s an outfielder first and a part-time player at first base second. Do not believe for a second that Bruce committed to a three-year contract with the Mets with the intent of playing first base on a regular basis.
Take a look at the New York Yankees’ signing of Chris Carter before the 2017 season as a case study. With young stud Greg Bird coming off a break from the game in 2016, the Yankees brought in Carter as insurance for Bird.
If he was slow to get into a rhythm, Carter would be able to step in and hold down the position. Did the Yankees using Carter as a hedge against the possibility of Bird floundering in 2018 mean they had given up on him as their first baseman of the future? Absolutely not. Plus, we all saw how the Carter signing turned out
The signing of Gonzalez has been viewed as a slight by the New York Mets towards Dominic Smith. If you employ a longer-term view, you can see that the Mets future plan at first base is Smith.