The New York Mets could find themselves in a bit of a problem if the universal designated hitter isn’t implemented for the 2021 season. The rule was in play in the atypical 2020 campaign, and it was a success. But as of now, the league doesn’t seem too inclined to use it again unless it is part of a bargaining opportunity.
The Mets really took advantage of the DH in 2020. It allowed them to include Dominic Smith’s bat in the lineup on a regular basis while also playing Jeff McNeil, JD Davis, Brandon Nimmo, and Pete Alonso.
However, what will the Mets do if they can’t, as a National League team, use the DH spot this season? By trade, the most affected player would be Smith, at least at first glance. McNeil can play second, third, and left field, Nimmo can man center field, Davis can alternate between left field and the hot corner, and Andres Gimenez can play all over the infield except first base.
Smith is a first baseman who was tried in the outfield corners in recent years as a way to include his bat in the lineup more often. The issue, for the Mets, is that Pete Alonso is the first baseman and there are several outfielders, like McNeil, Nimmo, Davis, and Michael Conforto, the regular right fielder.
The Mets need to find a spot for Smith’s bat
So where would Smith play? His bat did the talking for the Mets in 2020, with a .316/.377/.616 slash line, 10 home runs, and 42 RBI. He was among the league leaders in wRC+, with 165, and extra base hits.
MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo can foresee a potential competition between Alonso and Smith for first base reps. “If the National League proceeds without a designated hitter in 2021, the Mets won’t have an obvious place to deploy Dominic Smith, their most valuable offensive player in ’20. Left field remains an option, though far less of one if the Mets acquire Springer. That leaves first base, where Smith outperformed Pete Alonso on both sides of the ball last season. Will that performance be enough for the Mets to call first base an open competition between Smith and Alonso, who is just two years removed from his breakout, 53-homer NL Rookie of the Year Award campaign? Or will Smith go back to the bench, where he thrived as a slugging, left-handed pinch hitter in 2019? Is a third option, such as a trade of Smith — a popular clubhouse figure — in play?” he explained.
As of now, the Mets could play McNeil at second, Davis at third, Smith in left field, Nimmo in center, and Alonso at first. The defense, however, would be very shaky, and that would leave one between Amed Rosario and Gimenez without a spot.
It’s an issue that Mets’ manager Luis Rojas will have to deal with, and soon.