The Mets announced their first baseman/outfielder Tuesday Dominik Schmidt was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse. Right Adonis Medina was recalled by Triple-A to take his spot on the active roster. Sports Business Journal’s Andrew Cohen broke the news ahead of the team announcement (Twitter link).
The demotion to Triple-A is the latest step in a pronounced downturn for Smith, who was one of the better players in the National League in 2019-20 when he cut .299/.366/.571 through 396 trips to the plate. At this point, the former No. 11 overall and longtime top prospect seemed to have finally solidified himself as a big league regular who could serve as a focal point in the Mets roster for years to come.
The National League didn’t have the luxury of a designated batsman at the time, which made things more complicated from a playing time perspective since the Mets did too Peter Alonso on the list. Smith glanced down left field as the Mets hoped to keep both sluggers in the lineup, but in 1,240 innings stretching back to 2019, he’s left a dismal mark on all defensive metrics eyes (-7 defensive runs Saved, -8 Ultimate Zone). rating, -15 outs above average).
Had Smith’s at-bat remained as productive as they did in 2019-20, the Mets might have lived with that poor glove work and given him a whole string of innings last year. However, Smith’s downturn on the record began in 2021 when he slumped just .244/.304/.363 in 493 record appearances. Smith told reporters this spring that he played through a small tear in his labrum last year (link via Pat Ragazzo from SI.com) and that he was unable to recover in 2022 while playing alongside other defensively challenged racquets received only scant playing time JD Davis. Smith has just 101 plate appearances this year and has posted a grisly .186/.287/.256 slash.
The Mets reportedly received trade interests in both Smith and Davis over the winter, but even after causing what appeared to be an infield/outfield logjam, they chose to hold on to both players. between Alonso, Brandon Nimmo, Jeff McNeil and offseason signers Eduardo Escobar, Markus Canha and StarMarte, it wasn’t clear how Smith and/or Davis would fit into the infield/outfield rotation. So far, Smith’s 101 record appearances doesn’t really speak to his limited use, and Davis has had even fewer record appearances (90). These plate appearance numbers were also unaffected by injuries, as neither player spent time on the IL in 2022.
Perhaps the Mets weren’t keen on selling Smith low after he was such a prolific hitter in 2019-20, but his stocks have only fallen since the offseason. He will be able to get regular at-bats in Triple-A as he hopes to work out his problems on the plate and the hope, of course, is that more frequent repeats on the plate will help him unlock his potential. Even if Smith rakes in Syracuse, he’ll still be looking at the same overcrowded roster that initially led to such a rare season.
Smith has been repeatedly asked if he’d prefer a trade to another team, and to his credit, he’s generally averted these opportunities to speak up and stir the pot. When asked about the issue just two weeks ago, Smith reiterated his desire to play every day while continuing to speak positively about the Mets (link via Newsday’s Anthony Rieber). “I like where this team is going,” Smith said at the time. “I feel like I can influence this team in a number of ways and that’s it [in the lineup] Every day, in my opinion.” However, Smith conceded that opportunity may not come with the Mets.
It’s a fine line for a player to walk, but it would have been easy for Smith to clamor for a trade, either through interviews with the Mets beat or by more directly requesting a trade from the front office. To this point, neither has happened, although it’s possible he’s being sent to Triple-A for the first time since 2018 (barring a two-game rehab stint in ’19) and could finally get him to do so. On the other hand, given his struggles since that great feat in 2019-20, other teams might be wary of aggressively pursuing a deal. A rival club, for example, is unlikely to adopt Smith and incorporate him directly into their daily line-up, but it stands to reason that a newly developing club might be more willing to do so.
Finally, Smith is controllable during the 2024 season so he could be a perennial play should a team attempt to acquire him. Being sent to Triple-A doesn’t affect that schedule as he entered the 2022 season with three years and 146 days of MLB service, meaning it took him just 26 days of service to add more than four years of service reach. He’s already done that, so even on the off chance that he stayed in Triple-A for the rest of the season, he’d still have the service time it would take to qualify for free agency after 2024.
Smith’s option to triple-A should at least seemingly open up more playing time for the aforementioned Davis, who has top-notch exit speed and hard hitting rates, although the results aren’t in at this point. It could also mean some extra playing time for Rookie Nick Plummer, who certainly turned some heads with a 4-on-8 two-homer show in the Mets’ two games on May 29-30. With Canha, Marte, and Nimmo all healthy, Plummer is viewed more as a reserve option for now, but he will have the occasional outfield and DH at-bats available to him.