Posted on June 11, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
On the heels of finally breaking their eight-game losing streak, the New York Mets have decided to part ways with veteran first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. The club announced after Sunday’s win over the Yankees that Gonzalez was being released. Dominic Smith will be called up and become New York’s primary first baseman.
The Mets began 2018 believing Smith would be their first baseman. However, when Gonzalez became available for the league minimum, the Mets took a chance on him. The 36-year old endured an injury-plagued 2017 season with the Dodgers. But if he had something left in the tank, the Mets thought he could give them a lift offensively and allow Smith to get more seasoning in the minors.
With Smith missing most of spring training due to injury, Gonzalez became New York’s everyday first baseman. After a sluggish April, Gonzalez appeared to turn a corner in May, hitting .289 with an OPS of .776. While his power is clearly diminished, he had a few timely hits for the Mets while also playing steady defense at first base.
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However, Gonzalez has gone ice cold in June. He has just three hits in his last 27 at-bats. Those struggles are emblematic of New York’s offensive woes during their recent eight-game skid. Even after Sunday’s win, the Mets have scored just 13 runs in their last nine games. Despite injuries playing a role in such ineptness at the plate, the Mets needed to shake things up, and Gonzalez was always going to be the most likely player to go.
The Mets will now turn to Smith, who hit .198 with nine home runs in 49 games last season. His numbers at triple-A this season are also far from ideal. Smith is hitting .260 with an OPS of .713, managing just two home runs this year in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. More concerning, his last home run came on April 11.
Nevertheless, the Mets will give Smith an opportunity to play. Many have penciled him in as the team’s first baseman of the future, so this could be his chance to cement that position. Even if he doesn’t provide much power right away, the Mets could benefit from a hitter who’s more focused on hitting for average than power. Wilmer Flores should also give the Mets some insurance at first base when he returns from the DL within the next week.
As for Gonzalez, one has to wonder if this is the end of the line for him. He’s an aging first baseman who’s hitting just .237 on the season with diminished power. On the other hand, he’s still reliable defensively and would be a good presence in any clubhouse. At first glance, the Rockies and Twins are among the only teams who could possibly entertain giving Gonzalez a chance. But it’s doubtful there will be many teams lining up to sign him, even at the league minimum.
Meanwhile, the Mets can only hope that swapping out Gonzalez for Smith will help get their offense going. The team’s pitching has been excellent of late, so an uptick in offense could get them back in contention. It wasn’t a mistake for the Mets to take a chance on Gonzalez. But staying with him much longer considering the state of their offense would have been. Unfortunately for the Mets, there’s no guarantee parting ways with Gonzalez will solve their offensive woes.