Where will Dominic Smith be come the beginning of 2020 Spring Training? It is a thought many Mets fans have on their minds as the July 31st trade deadline approaches. After a night of late inning heroics where he hit a three-run blast to put the team up, most of these Mets fans are probably also Smith fans. With the best offensive rookie in the history of the franchise blocking Smith’s way to a proper everyday role, we have to wonder if the fan-favorite will be wearing different colors come next season.
And oh how the tables have turned from the beginning of last Spring Training. The sluggish, disappointing former first-rounder whose main critique was a lack of power has now blossomed into a slugger off the bench for the 2019 Mets. It’s a feel-good story of a player making the most of his limited opportunities. Recently he’s taken an outfielder’s mitt to try once again his hand in left-field in order to get everyday playing time, but no one admits they see him out there for a career. Again, with home-run champ Pete Alonso at first, where does that leave Smith?
A few possible trade suitors have been rumored. Some names spit out have been the Red Sox, the Rockies, and the Royals. While Smith fields well at first base, his limitations at other positions make the American League seem like a good possibility, which minimizes the Rockies’ interest. They also have our old friend and lefty Daniel Murphy at first, so a trade with them seems unlikely.
The Red Sox would be an interesting scenario, as they have favorable dimensions for a left-hander (although Smith recently hit oppo-tacos in three consecutive games) and not much in the way of competition at first. Currently they are fielding righty Michael Chavis who, while only 23 and playing well, could be a platoon candidate. The Royals also have a right-handed first basemen in Cheslor Cuthbert (had to look that one up), but an out-of-contention team buying at the deadline seems unlikely. They also already have Lucas Duda somewhat platooning as well.
While Smith is narrowed down to the Red Sox; Boston is certainly not narrowed down to Smith. The market is rich with corner players, so it’s doubtful the Mets can get anyone in return for the blossoming first-rounder. It is of note that the White Sox have recently said they were planning on resigning first basemen Jose Abreu which takes one name off the list, but there are still plenty of rentals that would appeal more to contenders.
Another idea to consider is that while Smith has only had 173 PA’s this season, 14% of them have come in high-leverage situations. Most of the everyday Mets hovered around 10% in this. Many metrics undervalue the importance of later innings; it is part of the reason why bullpens are often undervalued. Smith isn’t able to get as many PA’s as other Mets hitters, but if used correctly off the bench he can be at the plate for the biggest moment in every game. The power of that is incredibly undervalued, and Smith is actually fourth on the team in WAR for hitters because of this (4th on Fangraphs and 5th on Baseball Reference).
The Mets have Smith until 2025, and that can give them potentially the best bench bat in baseball. Can they really expect to receive that kind of value in return?