With teams cutting their pitching staffs down to 13 on Monday, the Mets announced that they’ve recalled first baseman/outfielder Dominic Smith from Triple-A Syracuse and placed righty Seth Lugo on the paternity list. Another arm will have to be sent out once Lugo returns from the paternity list later this week.
Smith was optioned to Triple-A earlier in the month after struggling through limited playing time and publicly acknowledging (when asked) that he’d prefer an opportunity to play every day — be it with the Mets or another club. He’s found more of a rhythm down in Syracuse, logging regular reps and hitting .266/.347/.438 with a pair of homers, five doubles, an 8.3% walk rate and a 16.7% strikeout rate in 72 plate appearances. Smith absolutely tore through International League pitching for the first two weeks after his demotion, though he’s fallen into a 3-for-24 skid over his past five games.
That’s a far cry from Smith’s 2019-20 form, when he was one of the NL’s best all-around hitters, posting a combined .299/.366/.571 slash with 21 homers in 396 trips to the plate. However, it’s also markedly better than the numbers he produced in 2021 while playing through a small tear in his shoulder (.244/.304/.363) or earlier this season in a heavily limited role (.186/.287/.256).
It’s possible this will be only a short-term move for Smith, as there’s still no clear path to regular playing time for him on the big league roster. Mark Canha, Brandon Nimmo and Starling Marte are one of the game’s most productive outfield trios, while Pete Alonso is enjoying some of the best production of his career at first base. J.D. Davis is hitting .339/.391/.452 over his past 20 games, mostly operating as the Mets’ designated hitter. One could argue in favor of Smith seeing regular DH work and Davis taking playing time from the struggling Eduardo Escobar at the hot corner, but Escobar was generally hitting fine before falling into a five-game hitless slump — and Davis’ defensive shortcomings are well-documented.
Ultimately, a trade of some sort seems like the most straightforward path to uncluttering the corner infield/designated hitter mix in Queens, with Smith or Davis standing as the most obvious possibilities to change hands. That said, there’s no pressure for the Mets to make an immediate move, and Smith could simply be optioned out again if the Mets want to add some more defensive versatility than he brings to the table. Both Smith and Davis have multiple minor league options remaining, meaning they can be freely optioned this year and next. It’s a relatively expensive pair of depth options to carry when there isn’t clear space for both on the 26-man roster — Smith is earning $3.95MM, Davis $2.76MM — but payroll issues of that nature are less concerning to the deep-pocketed Mets than to other clubs.