Before the weekend New York Mets trade rumors about Dominic Smith going to the San Diego Padres curled up and died, there was some reasoning behind why the team was so eager to trade him.
Aside from the need for starting pitching, there was news that some within the organization believe Travis Jankowski was a better fit for the roster than Smith.
It makes a lot of sense. The Mets have been careful about actually referring to Smith as an outfielder. Left field just happens to be the one spot other than first base he can play. Given the fact that he saw very minimal playing time down the stretch last year as well, we can conclude there probably are people within the organization who view Jankowski more favorably as a backup outfielder.
Travis Jankowski is a better backup outfielder for the Mets but Dominic Smith is the better player
The Mets have been piecing together an ill-fitting roster for a number of years. Jed Lowrie never made much sense. J.D. Davis has been plugged in at a variety of positions without much success defensively. Even grander, why was there ever the need for Robinson Cano after the year Jeff McNeil had in 2018?
The past regime made mistakes. The current one has tried to correct some of them.
The problem with Jankowski is that he is nowhere near as good of an offensive player as Smith. Last season he played a part-time role with the Philadelphia Phillies where he hit .252/.364/.351. A stolen base threat with a good glove, he’s the average fifth outfielder you can find buried on a lot of team’s rosters. He is not really comparable to Smith other than the fact that each could have the same role on the Mets.
When it comes to the best fit on the roster, sometimes there’s a tight squeeze. Think of your favorite t-shirt you insist shrunk in the wash. That’s Smith right now. You can still lose weight (Smith’s upside) and while it pulls a little too close to the skin and leaves only a little bit to the imagination (Smith’s defense and lack of consistency), you can get your body into it without tearing the whole think (Smith playing 1B, LF, and DH).
Right now, the Mets can stash Jankowski in the minor leagues. Certainly a useful piece for them in the role of late-inning defensive replacement or pinch-runner, there’s a use for him.
However, given the choice between the little things Jankowski does well and what Smith can accomplish, nine out of ten Mets fans would choose the latter. The front office, at least for now, seems to prefer it, too.