Binghamton, November 15. Recent media reports have the Mets showing interest in Carlos Santana, the slick fielding, power-hitting first baseman for the Indians. At a cursory glance, this makes sense—the Mets need another bat in the lineup to offset the power lost with the trades of Jay Bruce, Curtis Granderson, Lucas Duda, and Neil Walker. Also, Santana has won three gold gloves in his career at first base and last year only made 5 errors, finishing the season with a .996 fielding percentage. And finally, As Mets fans know too well, Smith was a disappointment during his six week audition last season, when he hit only .198 in 167 at-bats.
Smith hit .302 with 14 HRs and 91 RBIs for the Binghamton Mets in 2016. He followed that up by hitting .330 with 16 HRs and 76 RBis in 457 at-bats in Triple-A in 2017.
Let’s look a little closer, however.
Santana turns 32 on April 8th and is coming off a season in which he hit 23 home runs and knocked in 79 runs in 571 at-bats while hitting .259. Santana’s homer rate was one every 24.8 at-bats. Dominic Smith hit 9 homers and had 26 runs batted in during the last six weeks of the 2017 season. Smith’s homer rate was one in 18.5 at-bats. He committed two errors, finishing with a .994 fielding percentage. If you pro-rate Smith’s output over a full season and plug in the 571 at bats that Santana had, you come up with 30 homers and 89 RBIs. Granted, Santana hit 61 points higher than Smith and is a trusted veteran. But is closing the prospect door on Smith and paying a large free-agent contract to Santana a judicious approach for the Mets?
Remember, Aaron Judge hit .179 with four homers and 10 RBIs 84 at-bats for the Yankees in 2016 in late season action. Judge followed that up with a 52 homer season with 114 RBIs and a .284 batting average this year. That’s not to say Smith has a chance to duplicate Judge’s numbers. The comparison is made here only to emphasize that it is far too early to give up on Smith by pursuing Santana. And if the Mets are looking for insurance in case Smith is not the answer, they should be looking at someone who has proven they can play a quality first base as well as cover ground in the outfield, to give the team insurance in the outfield as well. Of the 154 games Santana played last year, 140 were at 1B; 7 were at DH, and only 7 were in right field. [In my opinion, a much better fit for the Mets, AFTER the first solve the bullpen problem, is someone who is primarily an outfielder and who, in a pinch, can play some first. (e.g., Jay Bruce, Adam Lind). Remember too that Wilmer Flores can play 1B and he his homer rate last year was one every 18.6 at-bats.]
Aaron Judge struggled in September of 2016, but won the American League Rookie of the Year Award in 2017. In 250 at-bats for Trenton in 2015, Judge hit .284, with 12 HRs and 44 RBIs.
Here’s hoping the Mets were simply sending a message to Smith by letting it leak they had discussions about Santana. They have let it be known that Smith’s attraction to fast food does not sit well with their wishes. Smith clearly needs to have an excellent spring training to stick with the Mets in April 2018. Here’s also hoping that Smith will report to spring training about 20 pounds lighter from what he finished the 2017 season.
Binghamton’s Welcome Home Dinner in 2015: Left to Right: First Baseman Dominic Smith, Outfielder Jared King, catcher Xorge Carillo