First base is becoming a problem for the Mets

Posted: March 19, 2018 in Future Mets, Hot Stove, News, Opinion, Spring Training
Tags: , , , , , , ,

By Steven Inman

Kennys Vargas

Kennys Vargas could be had on the cheap for the Mets

The New York Mets have been looking for a long-term option at first base since the Carlos Delgado era ended nearly a decade ago. Since then, the Mets have employed the likes of Ike Davis, Lucas Duda, James Loney plus a few others with only Duda having strung together much success. Even while Duda had a few strong power seasons with the Amazins, Sandy Alderson and his staff considered him a stopgap option the last few years. Over the past 6 seasons, Mets 1B have hit .242/.329/.438, which is in the bottom third of baseball over that time frame. The Mets have struggled offensively the last few years and health has a lot to do with that but strong lineups often have a big slugger at first base. The Mets haven’t had a consistent All-Star caliber hitter at first since Delgado. This year should be more of the same, so let’s examine who the Mets can look towards at this key position.

Internal Candidates

Adrian Gonzalez – Gonzalez has not had a good spring after having a dismal 2017 season, where he hit just 3 home runs in 71 games. With that said it seems pretty clear that he is the Mets choice to start the season as the 1st baseman. He still carries a quality glove and has a tremendous track record of All-Star production before 2017. He’s only costing the Mets the league minimum so it wasn’t a huge risk to bring the 5-time All-Star to camp. The main risk with Gonzalez comes from his influence in the clubhouse. I say that because he intentionally missed the World Series with the Dodgers to go on vacation with his family in Europe. The Dodgers couldn’t have been thrilled with that who then convinced him to waive his no trade clause a few months ago to go to Atlanta where he would be cut. If Adrian hits this season he will remain the Mets first baseman.

Dominic Smith – The Mets 2013 first round pick seemingly has squandered his opportunity to be an everyday player in New York for the foreseeable future. Dom pretty much needs to get healthy and for Gonzalez to struggle to get another opportunity. He had just a .658 OPS in 183 PA’s last season with the big club. Smith also really struggled defensively and has missed most of Spring Training with a quad injury. The perception was Dominic Smith had a shot at the Opening Day roster with a strong camp. He was benched early on in camp for being late one day, scouts have questioned his conditioning and he hasn’t been comfortable enough to run with the quad, let alone get back in a game. Dominic Smith’s Met career is in jeopardy just when it was getting started.

Peter Alonso – For the last few years, there has been a pretty even split in the Mets front office on who is the first baseman of the future, Dominic Smith or Peter Alonso. Alonso, 23, has hit in every minor league stop he has been in and is probably the most likely candidate on this list now to be the Mets long-term first baseman. Alonso’s signature trait, his power, could be a game changer in New York. The University of Florida product hit 18 homers in just 93 games in the minors last season. Alonso is a big kid who has a big strike zone so K’s could be an issue as he moves up. He might not be in the Mets plans for a majority of this season (he only has played in 11 games above High-A) but this is a bat to keep an eye on. Dominic Smith needs to get on a field and produce quickly as Alonso is right on his heels now.

External Candidates

Adam Lind – Lind, 34, has played with four different clubs (TOR, MIL, SEA, WSH) over the last four seasons. You would think with his production in that span (.280/.345/.466 in 1,621 PA’s) he would stop bouncing around but the 12-year vet was forced to sign a minor league deal with the Yankees in a very slow free agency. After it looked like he wouldn’t make the team with the addition of Neil Walker, Lind was granted his release. Lind has always mashed right-handed pitching to the tune of .288/.348/.504. He wouldn’t cost much more than the league minimum and pairing him with the lefty mashing Wilmer Flores (.862 OPS against LHP in 2017), could give the Mets one of the best platoon situations in all of baseball.

Kennys Vargas – The former Twin who has drawn David Ortiz comparisons by many was designated for assignment last week by Minnesota. They have a few more days to find a trade for him before he can become a free agent. The 27-year old has shown flashes of massive power but was never able to stick as a full time 1B or DH in Minnesota. The addition of Logan Morrison, who slugged 38 homers in Tampa last season, made Vargas expendable in Minnesota. Vargas hit 21 homers over the last two seasons, in just 441 PA’s. His strikeouts are probably a huge concern for interested teams but Vargas could be worth a flier. He also has just two full seasons of MLB service, so should he be able to stick on a roster, he will be cheap and under control for a long time.

It seems as if the Mets are committed to giving Adrian Gonzalez the first crack to solve this position. My choice would be a Lind/Flores tag team at first. They would be smart to check in on Lind as soon as possible and Lind would likely be interested in coming to Queens with the amount of playing time likely available.

Who do you think should be the Mets first baseman in 2018 and beyond?

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