Dominic Smith didn’t have the kind of year he needed to in 2021. In the final weeks of the season, he was essentially benched by the New York Mets.
Smith is one of the most obvious trade candidates on the roster. An unnatural left fielder with first base blocked, even the potential of a DH in the National League could send him packing out of New York. Pete Alonso isn’t going to become a full-time DH and the extra bat could provide the club with a place to put Robinson Cano regularly.
Trading Smith is practically a must for the Mets this winter. However, there is a ghostly question haunting us:
What if the Mets trade Dominic Smith and he becomes a star somewhere else?
You can’t play safe like this all of the time. Holding onto a player too long, assuring yourself he will develop late, can backfire greatly. You need to use your intuition and own educated guesses as to what will happen with a player moving forward.
Smith has shown the Mets both the good and the downright dreadful since his major league debut. If they don’t see him as a fit for the 2022 roster in any capacity, it’s important to find a team that does.
It’s quite remarkable that Smith is still only 26-years-old. He has been around with the team in some capacity since 2017 and yet this past year was his first to include more than 200 plate appearances.
The tools have always been there for Smith. Down in the minors, he was a .300 hitter with good defensive skills. He put this on display in the shortened 2020 campaign then added in some good pop. His 10 home runs and 21 doubles in only 199 trips to the plate helped give him a .616 slugging percentage on the year. Compared to his lifetime slugging percentage of only .441, it was a major outlier from everything else we have seen.
As a professional, Smith has never hit more than 16 home runs in any given season. This happened back in 2017 down in Triple-A when he did so in 500 trips to the plate. A little low for a first baseman, it was acceptable because of the exceptional .330/.386/.519 slash line.
The type of hitter Smith will eventually grow into seems to fluctuate. Early on, I never thought he would have 25 home run potential. He reminded me too much of James Loney or Doug Mientkiewicz in their prime where home runs are secondary to putting the ball in play and picking up a hit. On a roster with lots of power, this can work. It’s why the Mets stuck with Smith and didn’t sell him off to the first bidder.
Now with 2020 and 2021 in the rearview, Smith has gone back into the great unknown. Is he capable of repeating his 2020 season or was it just a hot two months?
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Smith’s trade value took one on the chin this past season. Shopping him over the winter could prove to be a little more difficult. One year closer to free agency and with growing doubts, the Mets have to ask themselves carefully whether or not they’re getting a fair return while a little voice in the back of their head continues to express itself and make them wonder if there’s a chance he becomes the next guy to get better after leaving the organization.