What does Mets interest in Carlos Santana mean for Dominic Smith?

New York's sudden desire to bring in a first baseman sends a clear message.
The Mets' interest in Carlos Santana could threaten Dominic Smith's place on the big-league club. (Photo: Getty Images)

Over the past few years, the overwhelming consensus among the New York Mets and their fans was that shortstop Amed Rosario and first baseman Dominic Smith — the club's top-two rated prospects — were going to create a young cornerstone for the team to build off of in the future. 

 

Not even eight weeks into their professional careers though, it looks like that partnership is already in jeopardy. 

 

On Tuesday, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reported that New York is interested in signing free-agent first baseman Carlos Santana, a 31-year-old power-hitting switch hitter that spent the first eight years of his MLB career with the Cleveland Indians, new Mets manager Mickey Calloway's former team.

 

Santana has averaged 25 home runs, 85 RBI and a .365 on-base percentage per 162 games, but it's still puzzling at first glance to see the Mets interested considering Smith was supposed to have the first base bag on lockdown for at least the next decade seeing as he is only 22 years old. 

 

But the Mets' interest in Santana makes it clear that they are not overly impressed with Smith. In his six weeks in the majors after being called up for his debut in August, he batted just .198 with a .262 on-base percentage with nine home runs and 26 RBI while striking out 49 times in 167 at-bats. 

While Santana is nine years Smith's elder, there's no denying that his bat would provide a solid boost to the Mets lineup. New York's .320 team on-base percentage was below the league average with just Michael Conforto and Asdrubal Cabrera sporting marks above .350. 

Should the Mets acquire Santana, it could mean either Smith is stashed in triple-A or he is floated out on the trade market. Though this all seems a bit too premature to simply cast Smith off and make way for an older player that is on the backend of his career. 

If Santana signs elsewhere — and there is plenty of interest around the league — spring training becomes a monumental audition for Smith as he will try to prove to management that he can meet the hype that was built around him as he moved through the minors. 

At the moment, the Mets have not been linked to any other available first baseman. So Santana might be their only target.

But Smith also has to show that he can hit left-handed pitching. In 31 at-bats, he batted .129 with 13 strikeouts, which leaves the possibility of him platooning with Wilmer Flores, who eats lefties up.

 

 
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