Mets manager Mickey Callaway said Tuesday that, assuming the health of Adrian Gonzalez, it will be a tough decision regarding whether the team carries Dominic Smith or sends him to Triple-A Las Vegas.
"That's something that is going to be a tough decision," Callaway said. "Dom Smith has come into camp looking really good. He's in great shape, he did a great job this offseason of preparing. I had a talk with him, and the expectation for Dom is to go out there and do everything he can to be on the major league team."
Smith, who lost 30 pounds this offseason, arrived at camp earlier this week.
"I feel more athletic than I've ever been," Smith recently told Ken Davidoff. "As an athlete, I feel like this is the most advanced I've been for sure in my career."
The expectation after Gonzalez signed earlier this offseason was that he would be the starting first baseman.
"There is somewhat of a defined role as far as starting a certain amount of games," Gonzalez said last month, adding that he plans to serve as a mentor to Smith in St. Lucie.
However, Smith told Davidoff shortly before arriving at camp that he has not given up trying to beat out Gonzalez for the starting job.
"I'm definitely ready to still go out and still battle for a spot," he told Davidoff. "I want to show the Mets that I am here and I want to be the future first baseman."
Smith, 22, hit .198/.262/.395 with nine HR in 49 games last season, during what was his big league debut.
Gonzalez, 35, hit .242/.287/.355 with three HR in 71 games last season, before it ended prematurely due to a back injury.
In October, Sandy Alderson criticized Smith's conditioning and said he did not play well enough in 2017 to be anointed the starter in 2018, though the team remains optimistic about Smith's future.
Danny Abriano, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Callaway is saying what he has to say at this point. However, if Gonzalez is healthy, there is almost no chance Smith will be on the Opening Day roster.
Even if the Mets carry five bench players to start the season, there will be no reason to carry Smith if he isn't the starting first baseman. Like Gonzalez, he can only play first base. And like Gonzalez, he's a left-handed hitter. And the aforementioned is why I was opposed to the Mets bringing Gonzalez aboard.
It can be argued that the Mets needed a hedge in case Smith couldn't be counted on to start the season. But they could have brought in someone who at least offered more versatility than Gonzalez.
Sure, there's a chance Gonzalez will find the fountain of youth. But it's a very slim one. Anointing him the starter before Spring Training even started seemed shortsighted, though perhaps it took that assurance for Gonzalez to agree to sign. Maybe the Mets will quickly cut bait with Gonzalez if he's struggling and turn to Smith, but their track record when it comes to stuff like that isn't great.
The concern regarding Smith in the minors (until recently) was that he wouldn't hit for enough power once he reached the majors. Well, the power was there when he came up last season. And as was the case throughout his minor league career, it's fair to believe that the batting average and on-base ability will get there soon as well. Let's just hope that he isn't kept down longer than he should be.