Suddenly, the Mets have two, young, productive first basemen, only one starting spot for each of them, and a crowded infield and bench.
As a rookie, Peter Alonso has jumped on top of the national radar hitting .306 with 8 HR, 8 doubles and 21 RBI. His current 1.2 WAR has him jockeying with Arizona's Christian Walker for talk about Rookie of the Year.
Meanwhile, the 23-year-old Smith, who has played in 23 games this season, is currently batting .400 with a whopping .516 OBP in 31 sporadic at-bats, most of which he's had coming off the bench. He hit .321 in 19 games this past spring, suggesting his current in-season success is not a fluke...
In his current role, and given his production, Smith is on pace to be 3.5 WAR player in 2019, while serving exclusively as a pinch hitter of late-game defensive replacement.
"I don't think it would be a platoon situation," Mets manager Mickey Callaway said in late March when asked how he planned to handle having Smith and Alonso on the roster at the same time. "I think both of them have value on the field."
This was and is still true. The difference is that -- by hitting the way he did this past spring and continuing it into the regular season -- Smith's value has increased. The thing is, Alonso's value has also gone up...
At the same time, the Mets are desperate for arms and should be convinced that Alonso is the real deal and won't be relinquishing his hold on first base. In other words, should the Mets deal Smith for pitching...
According to poll by me on Twitter and Instagram, here and here, roughly 65 percent of 2,500 voters said, 'Yes,' the time to move Smith is now, especially if it can upgrade the current pitching staff.
Smith's value on the open market should not be based entirely on his production the past few months.
The fact is, during the summer of 2017, he -- not Alonso -- was considered the top first base prospect in all of the minor leagues. He was promoted to the Mets a few weeks later, at which point he was widely considered to be their long-term, future first baseman.
He struggled at the plate and in the field, though, and was later called out in public for his preparation and eating habits by then-GM Sandy Alderson. In response, Smith changed his diet, trimmed down, and returned to Triple-A in hopes of regaining the trust of the organization. With Alonso's legend emerging, Smith struggled through most of 2018, during which the team tried him out in left field.
"In my opinion, he needed a year to adjust to his body, which underwent a massive change entering last season," an anonymous NL scout told me during spring training. "This is not uncommon. He looks more comfortable with himself right now, and that's probably translating for him at the plate and around the bag."
In addition to needing pitching, and a future star at first base, the Mets also have plenty of depth on the infield, including Jeff McNeil, Todd Fraizer, Robinson Cano, Jed Lowrie and Luis Guillorme. I mean, even outfielder Yoenis Cespedes has expressed interest in playing first base as a way to protect his surgically repaired heels.
So, who has pitching depth and a potential need for Smith?
According to a talent agent representing multiple free-agent first baseman this past winter, the Marlins, Tigers, Rockies, O's, Astros and Nationals all express interested in adding a first baseman. However, each team planned to skip the free-agent market in hopes of eventually acquiring a young, league-minimum or cost-controlled option with big-league experience that could fit in with a rebuilding roster.
The Rockies in particular are said by insiders to be looking for a player like Smith, who would make for a good lottery ticket and potential stop-gap while waiting for two first base prospects to elevate through their system. In fact, by the time their first base prospects would be ready for action, Smith would be entering salary arbitration meaning his salary will begin to rise.
There is not a natural fit for Smith with the Nationals and Tigers. However, in addition to the Marlins, MLB insiders say the Astros, Rockies and Orioles all have the need for a young first basemen and should also be willing and able to trade veteran relievers and young arms with upside.
Interestingly, the Marlins are probably the best fit for Smith. Miami has young pitching to trade, but is lacking in impact, proven position players. They also have nothing on the current roster or on the horizon at first base. The Mets need pitching in the rotation, bullpen and for depth and options at Triple- and Double-A.
In March, roughly 30 days ago, I stated my belief that Smith was still capable of finding success. I would not go so far as to say he'd become Rafael Palmeiro or Will Clark, whom Mets executives compared him to the night he was drafted in 2013. But, I saw and continue to see an honest, self-aware 23-year-old, who better understands his strengths and weaknesses than he did a few years ago...
Smith has a history of slow starts followed by forward progress and proving people wrong. He's doing it again in 2019. However, with Alonso just 24 years old and under team control through 2024, Smith is quickly becoming expendable. He must know it, clearly we know it, the Mets have to know it and teams in need of a young first baseman are starting to know it...
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. His new book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!