The New York Mets don’t have to trade Dominic Smith for junk to clear his roster spot as long as they have gifted defenders like Luis Guillorme and Jake Marisnick around to pick up the slack.
Smith has been a trade candidate for months. Even during the summer of 2019, he had a target on his back to get moved.
As soon as it was clear first base belonged to Pete Alonso, Smith no longer had a place on this team. While it makes plenty of sense to move him before the year begins, it’s not urgent if teams aren’t willing to give anything of value in return.
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These two gifted defenders are important to the Mets because each can play a variety of positions and do it well.
Guillorme has seen playing time with the Mets multiple times in recent seasons. The infielder of this duo, he’s the clear backup to Amed Rosario at shortstop and probably the best defender at third base whenever Jeff McNeil needs a day off.
There’s also a chance we see him play some second base although McNeil can also handle that spot—his natural position.
While Guillorme is backing up the infielders, Marisnick should do the same for the outfielders. He’s arguably the best fielding center fielder on the team and possibly within the entire organization right now. I expect him to start a little more regularly than Guillorme this year with plenty of opportunities against lefty starters.
How does this relate to Smith? Well, with them around, the Mets can afford to have what essentially becomes a full-time pinch-hitter on the roster.
Even though there’s just one more seat on the team plane with the addition of the 26th man, it can make a huge difference. There could be times this year where we see the Mets use it to carry an extra reliever. Others, it may go to a bat.
The team would run into some trouble when both are healthy if they’re unable to do much more than pinch-hit. To have them plus Smith on the roster makes them an incredibly limited team when it comes to defensive changes, double-switches, and other late in-game moves.
On an average night for the Mets, we would probably see Cespedes, Lowrie, and Smith as the favorites to get the first pinch-hitting opportunities. There’s no need to send Guillorme or Marisnick to the plate as long as those three are performing. Unless the team needs a sacrifice bunt, why would you send them to the plate?
In addition to Guillorme and Marisnick as nearly defense-exclusive players for the 2020 team, we need to tip our caps in advance to McNeil. If he can get a start somewhere other than third base at least once a week, he’ll fill in nicely for whichever player needs a day off. The trouble will be filling in at the hot corner with some combination of Guillorme, Lowrie, and possibly even J.D. Davis.
We often think of a major league bench as needing guys who can do a variety of things. It’s a good strategy to have, however, the Mets may have backed themselves into a corner where they need to implement their reserves a little differently.
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Because the talent could end up greater than most, limiting players to their strengths could be the most beneficial thing they do. This means Smith isn’t a burden on the roster and the two guys who have fielded baseballs well in the past get to shine at what they do best.