With the signings of Mark Canha and Starling Marte, we can rest assured the days of Dominic Smith being an everyday left fielder are over. That is good for the team who needs better defense and for Smith who needs to return to being a first baseman.
Of course, the problem with that is Pete Alonso. By WAR, he was the best player on the Mets last season. That is partially because of his bat. He had a 134 OPS+ while hitting 37 homers. He has established himself as the best power hitter in Citi Field history, and he just might be the best power hitter ever produced by the Mets organization.
However, Alonso was more than just that. Alonso had a reputation as a bad fielder in the minors. He made significant strides to become just a poor fielding first baseman. In his first two seasons, he was a dreadful -5 OAA each year, and he combined for a terrible -4 DRS. By all measures,. he was a bad fielder at the position, albeit one who could stick due to his bat and ability to scoop balls.
That’s not Alonso anymore. He did the work to become a good first baseman. He had a 2 OAA and 5 DRS. He rated as a top 10 first baseman by OAA and top five by DRS. Anyway you look at it, he was a good first baseman, and he was an excellent hitter. However, that is only part of the equation.
After the current collective bargaining agreement negotiations, there is the expectation there will be a universal DH. If and when that comes, the Mets have to decide who should be the DH. There are some arguments for Robinson Cano, but who actually knows if he can hit without the PEDs and laying dormant for a season.
Notably, in 2020, the answer to that question was Alonso. It was not the initial plan, but for a myriad of reasons, it worked out that way. One of the biggest reasons why was Dominic Smith was just a better fielder at the position, and he was hitting.
Aside from his rookie season, he has put together good numbers at first. That includes his 2 DRS this season and 0 OAA. That was in a much shorter sample size than Alonso and with Smith spending time preparing to be the left fielder. For Smith, that’s part of the problem. Instead of honing his craft, he has been spending his time preparing to play out of position.
As we saw in 2020, when he is playing his natural position, he’s great. In that season, he was arguably the Mets best player. He hit, and he fielded. He was clutch and he did it in a very challenging time. The Mets need that player back.
At the moment, there is a discussion the Mets still need that bat. As we saw in 2020, Smith can very well be that bat. He just needs to be put in the best position to succeed. In left field, he was wasting energy trying to be good at a position he shouldn’t be playing. He also broke down cheating him of his ability to succeed at the plate.
That’s not to say Alonso should never play first. He needs to be kept up to speed. Injuries happen, and Smith could falter. However, when push comes to shove, in the event there is a universal DH, Smith should be the first baseman with Alonso at DH. In the end, if Smith is Smith, this will take the Mets to a whole new level, and it will help to further cement the Mets are true World Series contenders.