It feels like Dom Smith has been a “change-of-scenery” candidate for almost as long as he’s been a big league New York Met.
The 27-year-old first baseman/outfielder/DH was seemingly off to the races at the plate in partial seasons in 2019 and 2020, putting together a .299/.366/.571/150 wRC+ over a combined 139 games. But then Smith fell on very hard times, as initial struggles turned into reduced playing time, turned into additional struggles, and so forth. The power completely evaporated for the lefty batter, and he’s hit just .233/.298/.345/82 wRC+ – not remotely close to what you’d need out of a bat-mostly guy.
So, with Smith eligible again for arbitration after this season and looking squarely like a non-tender candidate, I am not at all surprised to see reported that the Mets are trying to move him (as they were before the season in the failed Chris Paddack deal).
And, with the current Chicago Cubs a home for all reclamation projects, it is likewise not a surprise to learn there have been talks. From Robert Murray:
As the New York Mets explore offensive upgrades, they have engaged with the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs and others about first baseman Dom Smith, according to major-league sources.
Before you react, know first that this is not a situation where the Mets could realistically be looking to trade Dom Smith *FOR* an offensive upgrade. That’s silly. Instead, they would likely be looking to move Smith out to clear out space – positional, at bats, financial – so they can separately acquire a big bat.
The Cubs would absolutely inquire on something like this, because they would be content – I suspect – to bring in Smith for the final two months of the season, see if the bat rebounds in a new organization, and then have the option of tendering him a contract in December if they so choose. Smith is currently making $3.95 million, so you’d be looking at something like a $5 to $6 million decision, depending on his performance from here. He’s controllable through 2024.
The acquisition cost, I expect, would be minimal. I’m not saying it would be absolutely zero, but it might be pretty close. The struggles are very real, and it seems clear at this point that he’s not rebounding with the Mets.
If Smith does not rebound after being acquired by a new team, well, the only thing lost was a little money that wasn’t otherwise being spent, and the opportunity cost of seeing someone else get those at bats. Given Smith’s age (27) and past success, I’d be OK with him being in the mix to “deserve” those second-half at bats for evaluation purposes.
In other words, I’m viewing this report as something closer to a “waiver claim” situation than a “trade for someone compelling” situation. Smith would represent another reclamation opportunity for the Cubs. Viewed through that conservative lens, I’m into it. I’m not banging the table or anything, but it would be fine by me.
One obvious note here at the end: I’m aware that the Mets do seem like a very, very good fit for a Willson Contreras trade. So, yes, it is possible that Dom Smith could be included in such a deal. I’m sure it would be convenient for the Mets. But the “return” for Contreras would have to be substantial on the prospect side, in addition to Smith. Because, again, acquiring Smith is really more about just being the team that gets to take a low-risk, low-likelihood shot on him bouncing back. You aren’t giving up Willson Contreras – or even a portion of Willson Contreras – for that.