The Mets need to make multiple guesses about the health and likely production of their in-house options at first base before considering whether to acquire someone new heading into 2019.
Triple-A 1B prospect Peter Alonso will almost certainly be promoted and starting every day at Citi Field at some point after May, which is typically the cut off for Super Two qualification. This delay is common around baseball -- just ask Kris Bryant, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Mike Trout and countless other top prospects that were held down by their teams until late Spring, early Summer for financial benefit.
I'm sure the Mets would prefer to use Jay Bruce, Wilmer Flores and Todd Frazier at first base until Alonso is promoted...
However, in the case of Bruce and Frazier, the Mets need to make a final ruling on if are they skilled and swift enough to man first base every day, given that it has never been either player's primary position. Also, is Bruce's lower back and spine and plantar fasciitis something that will again pop up early in the season as it did in 2018? And, can the Mets expect 140 games out of Frazier, who had rarely missed a game before 2018, but then suffered multiple injuries after joining the Mets last winter?
In the case of Flores, who will be a free agent after next season, will his set of arthritic knees hold up on with regular playing time? If so, can he return to hitting left-handed pitchers, who dominated him last season, despite several years of it being the other way around?
And let's be honest, though he has consistently mashed the ball in Double- and Triple-A and now the Arizona Fall League, there is no real way of knowing whether the 24-year-old Alonso will be an instant hit. He could be the game's next great power-hitting first baseman, but he may also need time to adjust, such has been the case with SS Amed Rosario, who was considered the best prospect in baseball before his promotion two summers ago.
It's also worth noting that, given the natural regression due to age, the best case scenario for the above trio would be to combine for 30 or so HR, hit .240 and produce 2-3 WAR, which would land them middle of the pack among full-season first basemen. The more likely outcome will be a lot less hits, home runs and overall production, while each deals with nagging aches and pains and inconsistent playing time.
The other outcome, which should be determined by the new front office, could be to eat some of their salary and trade Bruce and/or Frazier, while adding a new center fielder and first baseman, knowing Yoenis Cespedes and Alonso can be late-season additions to the roster.
The thing is, the free market for first basemen is not that exciting, as it will include Matt Adams (30), Lucas Duda (32), Marwin Gonzalez (30), Mark Reynolds (35), Danny Valencia (34) and probably Logan Morrison (31), who has an $8 million mutual option that will most likely be declined.
The above six names, not to mention the countless other free-agent options, all have similar risks and unpredictability to Bruce, Flores and Frazier. So, it almost certainly will make no sense to a front office to eat money to deal Bruce and Frazier and then spend more money to sign a potentially comparable player.
The trade market will offer much better options, but usual suspects Jose Abreu (White Sox), Brandon Belt (Giants) and Wil Myers (Padres) will almost all likely stay put.
In other words, the only two first basemen in all of baseball that should be under serious consideration by the Mets are Justin Smoak (Jays) and Paul Goldschmidt (D-backs), both of whom are reportedly available in trade.
Goldschmidt is a perennial power hitter and six-time All-Star earning $14.5 million next season, after which he will be a free agent for the first time in his career. He'd look amazing in blue and orange for one season, after which the Mets can gamble on Alonso full-time. In reality, though, given Alonso's presence and Arizona's asking price, I do not expect to see Goldschmidt playing 81 games in Citi Field. And, frankly, if I had to guess, I'd say it's far more likely the D-backs keep Goldschmidt and trade him next July if they can't work out a contract extension this winter.
The above essentially also applies to Smoak, 32. However, because he's earning half the money of Goldschmidt, I actually think there's a better shot he is traded now not later.
There is a legit argument to be made that the Mets should consider dealing for Smoak, even if the team plans to promote Alonso. However, all of the above options outside of him and Goldschmidt are weak. And, with the Angels, Yankees and Red Sox all in the market for an upgrade, the price for these two men will be significant.
All of the above is why I expect the Mets to pick up the best fit among the middle-of-the-road free agent options, while also betting on Bruce, Frazier and Flores to hold down the fort before bringing up Alonso. In a perfect world, everyone looks healthy and is mashing in spring training and the Mets will have options. In reality, someone will get hurt, someone will struggle and the new front office will be happy they chose depth over crossing their fingers.
In the end, though, the easier path to improving the roster should not go through first base. Instead, the better path -- again -- is to either upgrade at catcher, lock in an everyday catcher, and/or brea the bank for Manny Machado, which on its own would make the decision about first base nearly irrelevant.
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!