A year ago, many New York Mets fans wanted to see the club move on from Dominic Smith. In the middle of 2019, he’s someone the team should refrain from trading because he’s the best left field option they have.
Smith is different from many of the other trade chips on the Mets. He’s young, controllable, and is currently having by far the best season of his career. The left-handed-hitting Smith is playing out of position, however, leading many to believe a deal is inevitable at some point before Opening Day 2020.
Ideally, it would be great if Smith could remain with the Mets through this season and next as a first base and left field option with many pinch-hitting opportunities throughout the year. The reality is the Mets may not be able to get away with this. Their roster contains far too many men playing out of position. Jeff McNeil is a second baseman who is destined to play anywhere but while Robinson Cano is around. J.D. Davis has no natural position and shortstop Amed Rosario looks destined to at least attempt center field.
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Until the Mets figure out how they will align this team defensively for 2020, I cannot get behind trading Smith. They may get pulled into a situation where another deal comes along soon after, leaving them with fewer bats than desired.
Any quality team can survive with men playing out of position. Plenty of corner infielders have moved to left field the same way Smith has. It’s the best way to get your top names in the lineup without sacrificing all that much on defense. Left field isn’t an easy position, but it’s not the same adventure as center field or right field.
In his short time as a regular left fielder, Smith has shown an eagerness to get better. First base is still the better spot for him, but he’s passable as a left fielder more than most athletes would be at this stage. The position is still rather new for him so to witness improvement this quickly is a bonus. They’re now able to watch him develop further as a hitter, which ultimately helps them in the future.
How it helps them is the question. Does Smith continue to play left field for the Mets or do they use him as trade bait to improve elsewhere?
On the list of things the Mets need, relief pitchers are at the top. Though the bullpen has pitched well of late, can we really trust them for a 162-game season? They are going to need at least two more reliable arms for 2020. A way to acquire at least one is to swap Smith for the bullpen arm.
Additionally, the Mets could look to move Smith for a true outfielder. We hear about their plan to move Rosario to center field, but what about a true man for the position who can also hit?
Least likely of all, the Mets could always move Smith with the hope of improving their starting rotation. Assuming neither Zack Wheeler nor Jason Vargas is back next year, the team will need two rotation spots to fill. Unless a team has six starting pitchers on its staff, this may be the greatest challenge.
Smith’s value to the Mets took a hit on Friday against the San Francisco Giants when his error in left field cost them the game in the tenth. He may never become the outfielder they need.
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Smith is far more valuable to the Mets now than if they were to swap him for a singular player at any position. This changes in 2020 depending on how the roster shapes out. Until they have a better hitter who can play left field, it’s time to ride with Big Dom.