The Mets have a bit of a bench problem. Currently, they’re on track to roster all three of Dom Smith, Robinson Canó, and J.D. Davis, a group of highly redundant players. Davis at least hits right-handed, but Canó and Smith represent a particularly conundrum. Yes, Smith can stand in the outfield and Canó “might” be able to still play second base, but both of their primary roles would be as non-elite hitting, left-handed DH / bench bats with extremely limited defensive utility. Even with the universal DH making bench flexibility less of an important sticking point than it used to be, that’s a sub-optimal roster construction.
No one is likely to take on the roughly $40 million owed to Canó over the next two seasons, meaning the best option would be to explore trades for Smith—though if you believe the Mets should just cut Canó if he doesn’t look good in camp, I wouldn’t argue. Smith was of course not very good in 2021, hitting a paltry .244/.304/.363 in 493 plate appearances and playing disastrous outfield defense. He’s entering arbitration now, as well, making him less appealing to rebuilding clubs who might otherwise be interested in rolling the dice on a former top prospect.
On the other hand, Smith did hit very well down the stretch in 2019 and was excellent during the COVID-shortened 2020 season. Perhaps a different front office would be interested in the potential of a 26-year-old who has had some stretches of success but is coming off a bad season. Even in this case, though, Smith’s value isn’t going to be spectacular. The Mets should be looking to add some relief depth arms—preferably left-handed—while clearing the roster spot to be filled with a more flexible utility player or real fourth outfielder.
So who could be the takers? I won’t presume to know which front offices like this sort of gamble or Smith specifically, but we can come up with at least a couple potential options. The Rangers have very limited position player depth and could use more pop off the bench. Brett Martin would be a nice get, a lefty with unremarkable peripherals but a good ERA and some useful splits against lefties. A.J. Alexy would be another name to consider, though he’s a righty and also penciled into the Rangers’ rotation. Other names like Avery Weems, John King, Sal Mendez, or Tyler Thomas have various levels of appeal.
Cincinatti and Oakland are two other options to consider, although these are two teams I could see being very opposed to acquiring a player already in arbitration. The Reds still have Joey Votto, but they have gutted their roster and might want to back-fill some semi-productive bats. Reiver Sanmartin would be an exciting get, and Phillip Diehl would be a fun, under-the-radar snag after he seemingly broke out in Triple-A following a waiver claim last year. The story for the A’s is similar, but they have a more obvious need at 1B. Kirby Snead, an older lefty relief prospect who was just acquired in the Matt Chapman trade, would make a lot of sense as an immediate contributor. Any range of secondary pieces could round out an offer here.
The final option I’ll discuss would be the Guardians, who are in the in-between spot they seem to perennially occupy. Bobby Bradley hasn’t hit in the majors yet and Cleveland is sorely lacking in upper-minors bats that don’t play shortstop. It’s not the cleanest fit, but I’ve saved this option until last because the Guardians have an extremely appealing trade target in Nick Mikolajchak. A relief-only prospect, Mikolajchak has the makings of a potentially elite option back there, and he should be ready this season. Cleveland has a lot of depth in this area and this sort of prospect is notoriously fickle, so maybe there’s a chance to pull off a potential coup.
Whomever ends up as the potential trade partner, the goal is the same; swap Dominic Smith out, ideally for some left-handed pitching depth in the upper minors, to simultaneously improve the pitching staff and open up space for a more flexible bench piece. I suppose that means this isn’t a “last move” since you’d need to go find the new bench option, but it’s certainly the harder part of that maneuver. We’ll see if the Mets could pull this or something similar off, or if the bench will remain in its current state heading into the season.