The Mets haven’t gone into the offseason with this much uncertainty in a long time. If the pennant-winning campaign of 2015 seems an eternity ago, think about the year prior. Of course, the seeds of the future NL Champs were in place, but nobody knew nothin’ about where it would end up. Where it would end up was not a good place, a not-quite-mediocre 79 wins. The year began with a portent and – it being the Mets and all – a hint of comedy. After the player introductions on Opening Day, the Mets took the field without anyone at first. As we clever souls in the stands made Abbott & Costello jokes, it was found out that starting first baseman Ike Davis was…ummmm…errr…indisposed. The Mets had gone into the year with two candidates for the first base job, Davis and Lucas Duda. It was Duda who would win the battle, Davis being shuttled to Pittsburgh before the year was three weeks old. Now Duda is gone, having been dealt to the American League this past August, just ahead of his free agency. In Duda’s absence, touted prospect Dominic Smith was summoned from the wilds of Las Vegas to man first.
We knew a bit about Smith before his arrival. He was the team’s first round pick in 2013, the eleventh overall in that draft (a sidebar: he was picked 21 spots before a fella named Aaron Judge was scooped up by the Yankees, but that’s another story). We’d heard he had power, we’d heard he was a good fielder. His progression through the minors seemed painfully slow at the beginning, calling to mind Mets draft busts of the recent past – anyone remember Kirk Presley? But eventually, he found his stroke, slashing at a .302/.367/.457 clip for Binghamton – a team in a pitchers’ league – with 14 home runs and 91 RBI in 2016. Over the course of his MiLB career, the power was slow to develop, but his defense was what the scouts seemed to rave about. So at the outset of his Major League career, we were expecting somewhat of a Keith Hernandez type of player: a slick fielder who will hit you a bunch of doubles and have low – relatively low for this homer-happy era, anyway – home run numbers. He arrived in Queens looking more like George “Boomer” Scott than Hernandez. To be fair, at the tender age of 22, he did…O-kay for the Mets after his call-up, a.745 OPS in nearly 300 plate appearances. He didn’t set the world on fire, played a decent first base; basically, he was good enough to fill the void at the tail end of a lost season.
Now, though, it seems the Mets are casting about for a veteran first baseman to fill the role. Supposedly, there has been contact with free agent Adam Lind and of course there’s pining from the fans for a miracle signing of Eric Hosmer or Carlos Santana. Heck, there have even been rumblings about a reunion with Duda. In any case, GM Sandy Alderson has stated flatly that Smith “did not do enough in September” to win the job outright. For his part, we’ve heard that Smith has been working his tail off, trying to shed extra poundage and come to camp in fighting trim. He’ll need to. Over here, it seems like a misallocation of resources to sink precious dollars into a position that already might be covered. For all their brave talk about unseating the Washington Nationals at the top of the division and storming to another World Series, right now it doesn’t look like the Mets will be in that hunt, not with all the uncertainty on this roster. So why not give Smith a chance?
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