Mets GM Sandy Alderson on Monday indicated that 1B Dominic Smith has not yet secured a starting job on the team for the 2018 season.
"He didn't win it in September, let's put it that way," Alderson said, according to Mike Puma of the New York Post. Alderson also said Smith would need to put a stronger emphasis on fitness.
"Dominic's going to have to be careful about his conditioning, certainly in the next few years if not throughout his career," he said, according to Marc Carig of Newsday.
"Their names are not in ink," I stated.
Later in the day, Puma wrote something similar...
"The Mets will head to spring training with Smith penciled in as the first baseman," he explained. This is why Puma believes the Mets will seek "somebody who could belong to a first-base mix," such as free agents Jay Bruce, Logan Morrison, or Adam Lind.
I assume SNY contributor and former Mets GM Jim Duquette was thinking along the same lines when he wrote for MLB.com that he expects the Mets to be interested in more or less every available free agent first baseman, ranging from Morrison and Lind to Eric Hosmer and Carlos Santana.
Sep 10, 2017; Smith is congratulated by shortstop Rosario after hitting a HR. Credit: Cruz-USA TODAY Sports
As a result, I also stated that -- based on conversations with people around baseball -- the Mets will 100 percent listen to teams interested in their young infielders, specifically Smith.
To be clear, I'm in no way suggesting the Mets have officially given up on Smith and fully intend on dealing him. For what it's worth, I think they're less inclined to deal Rosario, who they still believe will be an All Star sooner than later. I'm simply stating that -- because there are several free agent first baseman available this winter, as stated by Puma and Duquette -- I believe the Mets are open to trade talks that might move Smith in a deal that would improve them in a different area, specifically second base or center field.
This approach should be of no surprise to anyone that follows the business of baseball. It's smart to keep options open and work to improve. The thing is, it's also a tricky situation to navigate.
"He's an intriguing, promising player, I think anyone that has watched him will agree," a rival NL executive told me about Smith in October. However, he continued, "Fair or not, there are concerns around baseball about the young man's weight and conditioning and how it will impact his power, which are all things that scouts have been questioning since he was drafted."
Smith, who was drafted in 2013 and is still just 22 years old, hit just .198 with 15 extra base hits and a .395 slugging percentage during his big-league debut last season.
New York Mets first baseman Dominic Smith (22) at Citi Field.
According to a scout assigned to watching the Mets this past season, Smith would greatly benefit from returning to Triple-A, especially if the Mets move their affiliate to Syracuse this coming season.
Similarly, earlier this week, as well as in September, Newsday's Marc Carig wrote that Smith is far from a given to be the team's starting first baseman next season, despite his call-up this past summer. Instead, Carig feels it's still quite possible that Smith again begins his season in the minor leagues.
In the event Smith is a full-time, big-league first baseman next season, this one scout and his team expect him to be a .250 hitter, capable of 20 home runs, at least 20 doubles, and significantly more strikeouts than walks. The scout also wasn't overly impressed with Smith's fielding, but felt this is to be expected given Smith's age, inexperience, and transitioning off what is a horrendous infield at Triple-A Las Vegas.
There are three reasonable paths for Smith in 2018. He's either at Citi Field on Opening Day, either starting at first base or on the bench, he's starting every day at Triple-A, or he's traded this winter for another team's young, impact, under-team-control player that will help the Mets next year and beyond...
In the end, I expect him to remain with the Mets, if for no other reason than the Mets will not see eye-to-eye on his value at a time when creating a platoon at first base will be fairly easy to accomplish.
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. He recently left his position as Executive Editor and Dir. of Digital Content for SNY.TV to help sports brands build their own digital content businesses...