Mets exploring options for first-base depth

Smith's struggles after callup have Alderson looking at trade, free-agent candidates

Mets exploring options for first-base depth

NEW YORK -- Part of the Mets' rationale for calling up top prospects Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith in August was to give themselves an extended chance to evaluate the youngsters heading into 2018. The Mets wanted to know before Spring Training whether those two would be part of their short-term plans.

Rosario did enough in two months to prove himself, and as a result is locked in as the Mets' Opening Day shortstop. But Smith, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said this week at the General Managers Meetings in Orlando, Fla., "didn't win [the job] in September."

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As a result, the Mets are seeking first-base depth this offseason. They have reportedly checked in on Carlos Santana, a top-of-the-market option, but will also look at free agents capable of playing both first and the outfield such as Jay Bruce, Logan Morrison and Adam Lind. In addition, the Mets also plan to explore the trade market as they continue to meet with teams at the GM and Winter Meetings.

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"We do have some depth in certain areas at the Major League level," assistant general manager John Ricco said. "That's part of this exercise is trying to figure out what the price points are."

Consider it just another offseason agenda item for the Mets, who also must acquire a second baseman and at least one reliever.

Smith, the Mets' second-ranked prospect at the time of his mid-August promotion according to MLBPipeline.com, hit .198 with a .262 on-base percentage in 49 games. He continued to demonstrate an uptick in power, with nine home runs in 183 plate appearances. But Smith could not even match the numbers of Rosario, who posted a .248 average and .665 OPS in 46 games.

Rosario at least distinguished himself as a defensive rock at shortstop, while Smith -- widely recognized as a strong defender throughout his Minor League career -- struggled on a near-daily basis at first base.

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Smith also grew heavier over the course of the summer, after losing nearly 30 pounds last offseason. That led Alderson to offer Smith a public warning earlier this week in Orlando.

"Dominic's going to have to be careful about his conditioning, certainly in the next few years, if not throughout his career," Alderson said. "He was in excellent shape coming into Spring Training. … As happens with any long season, fitness dissipates and he's put on some weight."

If the Mets do acquire a first baseman, Smith would likely open the year back at Triple-A Las Vegas, where he hit .330 with 16 homers in 114 games last season.

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.