NEW YORK -- Dominic Smith’s uneven tenure with the Mets has come to an end.
The Mets on Friday non-tendered Smith, their first-round pick in the 2013 MLB Draft who struggled for most of a decade to find his footing in Flushing. Smith is now a free agent, able to sign with any team. It’s highly unlikely he will return to New York given the presence of Pete Alonso as the starting first baseman and Daniel Vogelbach as a left-handed designated hitter.
The Mets also non-tendered pitcher Sean Reid-Foley, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Smith, 27, climbed slowly through the Mets’ system after the team drafted him, posting solid numbers in the Minor Leagues but developing home-run power relatively late as a prospect. It was not until 2019 that Smith broke out in the Majors, hitting 11 home runs with an .880 OPS in 89 games and hitting a walk-off homer on the final day of the season. By that point, Alonso had established himself as the Mets’ first baseman of the future, pushing Smith -- always a solid defensive first baseman -- to an unfamiliar position in left field.
A year later, when the National League adopted the DH as a temporary pandemic rule, Smith finished 13th for the NL MVP Award after a performance that saw him hit 10 homers with a .993 OPS in 50 games. But he was unable to repeat it the following season, hitting just 11 homers with a .667 OPS in 145 games.
This season, with the DH back in the NL, Smith was in a position to thrive. But the Mets gave him only sporadic playing time behind Robinson Canó early in the season, then after the team designated Canó for assignment, Smith again struggled at the plate. He eventually sprained his right ankle and spent the rest of the season at Triple-A Syracuse.
“I went through a ton of things off the field this year that people don’t even know about,” Smith said in August. “I was never at a point where I wanted to quit … and it wasn’t even like it had to do with baseball stuff. It was just stuff not going my way in life. I just felt like things couldn’t get worse, and then they seemingly did, and it kept snowballing worse and worse. You’re trying to control everything, and you just seem like you can’t control anything.”
Now, Smith is in control of his future. Still just 27 years old, he can look for a starting job as a first baseman or DH with another team.
Friday was the deadline for clubs to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players such as Smith, who made $3.95 million last season and would have been due for a raise through the arbitration process. Rather than pay that amount for a player who might not even make their Opening Day roster, the Mets chose to cut ties with Smith and save multiple millions in the process. Vogelbach, by contrast, is under contract for only $1.5 million in 2023.
Outside of Smith and Reid-Foley, the Mets tendered contracts to every player not covered under a guaranteed deal. It’s a group that includes Alonso, Jeff McNeil, Luis Guillorme, Tomás Nido, Drew Smith and Joey Lucchesi, all of whom are arbitration-eligible and will be expected to play significant roles for the club next season.
Reid-Foley is expected to miss much if not all of 2023 recovering from Tommy John surgery. He appeared in only seven games this season, producing a 5.40 ERA.