Mets free agency: First base options

Dom Smith was a disaster at the major league level in 2017. He hit .198/.262/.395 in 183 PA, striking out 26.8% of the time en route to a 73 wRC+. Smith’s reputation as a strong defender didn’t carry over to the majors, either, as he often looked lost in the field. He struggled to recognize spin and struggled to handle velocity up in the zone. Essentially, every problem evaluators worried about in the minors came up in his two months on the major league roster.

It’s unfair to write Smith off entirely, of course. His average exit velocity (89.7 MPH) was solid, and though his rate of barrels was below average because he beats too many balls into the ground, there’s an obvious path to improvement if he can change his launch angle. That’s easier said than done, however, and the Mets’ window is now. Playing a below-average offensive first baseman who contributes nothing on the bases or in the field is not a winning strategy, and with generally falling prices for defensively-limited sluggers, the Mets could find themselves an upgrade at an affordable price.

The Best Options

The top of the first base market is nothing if not polarizing. On the one hand you have Eric Hosmer, perhaps the most consistently overrated player in baseball. Coming off his best ever season at age 28—a 4.1 fWAR year buoyed by a .351 BABIP—Hosmer and agent Scott Boras will be looking for a long contract worth more than $20 million per year, something that really doesn’t make sense for a player who has averaged less than two fWAR per season over the last four years. Boras reportedly will try to sell teams on Hosmer’s “intangibles,” and I think this tweet from Dan Szymborski sums up the correct response to that pitch:

On the other hand, you have Carlos Santana, an older, less flashy option who has nonetheless nearly doubled Hosmer’s production since 2014….

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