Despite the amount of depth the New York Mets own at first base, they shouldn’t move Dominic Smith before the regular season begins.
Throughout their many seasons of existence, the New York Mets have rarely ever had any depth concerns at the first base position.
Heading into this spring, that same trend exists with the 2020 version of the Mets. Currently, Pete Alonso will undoubtedly enter the 2020 campaign as the everyday first baseman.
Behind him, the Mets are slated to have Dominic Smith and Matt Adams, who’ll both be competing for the backup spot this spring. Since both players are capable of playing in the majors, some people believe that the Mets should look to trade Smith before the start of this season.
According to Jon Heyman of MLB Network, general manager Brodie Van Wagenen isn’t on the verge of parting with his serviceable first baseman as of right now.
Mets have the best 1B depth in baseball with star Pete Alonso backed up now by Dom Smith and Matt Adams. It may seem like Smith could be a trade candidate now but word is there are currently no active trade talks involving Smith.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) February 1, 2020
While there may be a time when the Mets do trade Smith this season, that likely won’t take place before the start of the 2020 campaign. For an organization that doesn’t always make the right decisions, keeping Smith through spring training is the correct move.
Given the high probability of injuries in spring, the Mets can’t afford to subtract from their depth before the end of training camp. If Smith were traded away and Alonso sustained a serious injury, the Mets would be forced to rely on Adams as a starter who earned just a -0.1 fWAR rating in 2019.
Unless Van Wagenen is blown away with an offer, Smith will likely begin the regular season within the organization. However, his role with the team isn’t quite as clear just yet.
Heading into this season, the 24-year-old is coming off an injury-plagued campaign that limited him to just 197 plate appearances over 89 games. Despite Smith remaining healthy throughout the offseason, the Mets opted to sign Adams to solidify their depth at the position.
Now, first-year manager Luis Rojas and the rest of his staff will be forced to choose between Smith and Adams for the backup first base spot on their 26-man roster.
Since Smith owns two minor-league options, he could easily be sent down if needed. As for Adams, he’s on a minor-league deal and the Mets would first need to remove someone from their 40-man roster before he could be called up to the majors.
Along with the possibility of an injury to Alonso, Smith has already proven that he’s been a much better all-around hitter than Adams, making him the more appealing option.
During last season, Smith produced 10 doubles, 11 home runs, 25 RBI, .243 ISO, .320 BABIP, .368 wOBA, 133 wRC+, 0.8 fWAR rating, and a slash line of .282/.355/.525/.881 as well. Over his 197 plate appearances in 2019, the left-handed batter also generated a 22.7% LD rate, 40.2% GB rate, 37.1% FB rate, 8.2% IFFB rate, 22.4% HR/FB rate, 36.8% hard-hit rate along with an average exit velocity of 88.0 mph.
Based on these metrics, Smith would have likely earned a WAR rating somewhere around 2.0 if he remained healthy throughout the entire season.
In comparison, Adams recorded 14 doubles, 20 home runs, 56 RBI, .239 ISO, .284 BABIP, .306 wOBA, 84 wRC+ along with his -0.1 fWAR rating and measly hitting line of .226/.276/.465/.741 over his 333 plate appearances during the 2019 season. In addition, the lefty also created a 23.6% LD rate, 31.3% GB rate, 45.1% FB rate, 12.5% IFFB rate, 22.7% HR/FB rate, 38.8% hard-hit rate and an average exit velocity of 88.4 mph.
Despite Adams’ ability to create slightly more hard contact, Smith was able to reach base far more consistently while still hitting for average and power during the 2019 season.
When comparing their splits, Smith was more effective against righties and far more productive against lefties than Adams in 2019. In fact, the numbers below are another reason why the Mets shouldn’t trade Smith until after spring training.
Against right-handed pitchers, Smith generated a .250 ISO, .316 BABIP, 133 wRC+, 9.9% walk rate, 23.0% strikeout rate and a slash line of .278/.354/.528/.882 over his 161 plate appearances.
As for Adams, he produced a .238 ISO, .297 BABIP, 89 wRC+, 7.0% walk rate, 35.2% strikeout rate along with a slash line of .230/.289/.468/.757 through his 270 plate appearances against righties.
Against left-handed pitchers, Smith created a .212 ISO, .333 BABIP, 132 wRC+, 8.3% walk rate, 19.4% strikeout rate along with a slash line of .303/.361/.515/.876 over just 36 plate appearances.
With Adams, the veteran slugger recorded a .242 ISO, .237 BABIP, 64 wRC+, 1.6% walk rate, 31.7% strikeout rate and a measly slash line of .210/.222/.452/.674 through his 63 plate appearances against lefties.
These results further display how Adams is solely just a boom-or-bust hitter and they also detail how his awful plate discipline against both lefties and righties would make him a detriment at the plate for the Mets.
If Adams continues to hit for power throughout this spring, then the Mets could look to trade Smith for future assets starting in April. But, if Adams struggles to slug at the plate, then Van Wagenen’s decision is easy.
Since Smith is eligible to enter arbitration for the first time next winter, there’ll likely be a lot of desire to move him before then. However, this spring could potentially determine his future within the Mets’ organization.
Van Wagenen will need to let things play out in spring training before making a final decision on Smith. By the end of March, the Mets should have an idea of whether they’ll want to continue investing in and developing Smith or if they’ll feel comfortable with Adams as their backup first baseman instead.