The Mets announced several roster moves after tonight’s win over the Yankees, including the news that first baseman Adrian Gonzalez has been released. On Tuesday, prior to the team’s next game, catcher Jose Lobaton will be designated for assignment. The two open roster spots will be filled by Dominic Smith and Ty Kelly, as the Mets will recall Smith and select Kelly’s contract.
Gonzalez found himself a free agent this winter after the Braves acquired him as part of a payroll-shifting trade with the Dodgers and then almost immediately released the veteran first baseman. With the Braves covering virtually all of Gonzalez’s 2018 salary, the Mets inked him to a minimum-salary contract to see if they could find a bargain if Gonzalez regained any of his old form.
After a hot start in his first few games, however, Gonzalez settled into being a below-average bat and has most recently been caught in a deep slump, with just a .550 OPS over his last 43 plate appearances coming into tonight’s game. He’ll conclude his Mets tenure with a .237/.299/.373 slash line and six homers over 187 PA, with the bulk of his at-bats coming against right-handed pitching.
“A-Gon” began to show some signs of decline in 2016 (though still posting a 111 wRC+) and then cratered in 2017, as a severe back injury limited him to just 71 games and he hit only .242/.287/.355 over 252 PA. Gonzalez has looked generally healthy during his time with the Mets, though at age 36 and showing little sign of his old hitting prowess, one has to wonder if this could mark the end of Gonzalez’s otherwise outstanding 15-year career in the big leagues.
Ranked as one of baseball’s top-100 prospects coming into last season, Smith’s star dimmed after a mediocre start to his MLB career, as he hit just .198/.262/.395 and struck out a whopping 49 times over 183 PA last season. Mets GM Sandy Alderson was rather bluntly critical about Smith’s first stint in the big leagues, and the team’s acquisitions of Gonzalez and Jay Bruce in the offseason indicated that the team felt Smith needed more seasoning before being given another crack at regular first base duty.
The first base picture at Citi Field is still rather unclear, as both Smith and Bruce are left-handed bats and thus not an ideal platoon mix. The right-handed hitting Jose Bautista is also on the roster, and utilityman Wilmer Flores is on the DL. Brandon Nimmo’s emergence as an everyday player has helped the Mets withstand the loss of the injured Yoenis Cespedes, though it could lead to a bit of a roster logjam at the first base and corner outfield spots once Flores and Cespedes return (though the latter may not be back for a while yet).
Further complicating matters is the fact that Asdrubal Cabrera left tonight’s game with a hamstring issue, which could explain why utilityman Kelly is headed for another stint with the Mets. Rookie Luis Guillorme and struggling veteran Jose Reyes also provide infield depth on the roster, and if Cabrera does require some DL time, it could give Reyes some more opportunity to turn around his disastrous season.
Lobaton signed a minors deal over the winter to provide catching depth that quite immediately became necessary as Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki were both sidelined with injuries. With Plawecki back and Devin Mesoraco establishing himself as a regular, Lobaton became the odd man out. This is the second time in under a month that Lobaton will enter DFA limbo, so he could very well clear waivers again and return to Triple-A.