Inbox: Do Mets have valuable chip in Smith?

Beat reporter Anthony DiComo answers questions from fans

May 13th, 2019

Does Dominic Smith have any real trade value?
-- @ChaimSussman via Twitter

Two months ago, I would have said no. But what has done over a small sample -- a .323 average and .834 OPS in 38 plate appearances -- carries extra weight given his pedigree as a former first-round Draft pick and top prospect. Scouts have been waiting for years for this type of performance from Smith, so now that it’s happened, it seems more sustainable than a hot streak might for someone else.

So yes, Smith has trade value, which my colleague Mark Feinsand outlined quite nicely last week. In that piece, a talent evaluator called Smith “certainly a player other teams will target,” and Feinsand floated the Royals’ Ian Kennedy -- a veteran pitcher who’s thriving this season, but still owed nearly $30 million before the end of next year -- as the type of return the Mets could expect. Pitching is expensive, while corner-infield bats are relatively cheap, so I wouldn’t expect a haul for Smith. But a trade of him is a real possibility.

For his part, Smith is brushing aside the early rumors.

“Right now, I play for the New York Mets, and I’m very thankful and happy for that, and I feel like we have a special team,” he said late last week. “We’re going to turn things around and we’re going to make a push.”

Still, some part of Smith would have to welcome a trade, given how fully Pete Alonso is blocking him at first base, both now and in the future. For Smith, there’s not much to prove in the Minors. The best thing he can do for his trade value is to continue raking off the big league bench.

Is anyone concerned with how hittable Noah Syndergaard has been? It’s like his control is almost too good -- way too many comfortable at-bats against him. Seems with his stuff he should be more dominant.
-- @NYER423 via Twitter

I’ll refer again to one of my colleagues, Statcast guru Mike Petriello, who last month listed in his “don’t worry, it will be fine” category of struggling aces. Petriello’s reasoning was sound: Advanced metrics paint a better picture of Syndergaard than traditional statistics do. Combine that with what is still obviously elite velocity, and Syndergaard should indeed be OK.

Right? Maybe. The most troubling aspect of Syndergaard’s game are all the home runs hit against him. He’s allowing homers at the highest rate of his career, about two and a half times as frequently as he did last season. That often indicates a lack of command. Syndergaard has also made a commitment to throwing more four-seam fastballs, despite that pitch’s lack of movement compared to his two-seamer. The spin rate on Syndergaard’s four-seamer rates 301st out of 522 pitchers to throw the pitch this season -- in other words, decidedly average.

Read into those numbers how you will. The Mets believe, for good reason, that as long as Syndergaard is healthy, he will produce. But there’s a big difference between providing innings and providing elite innings, and it’s certainly possible Syndergaard settles in as a No. 2 or 3 pitcher without establishing himself as a bona fide ace.

Is the delay activating Jed Lowrie from the injured list about his struggles at the plate, or is there still injury concern?
-- @Metdolfan via Twitter

The Mets say it’s about getting physically right, particularly considering he didn’t have a Spring Training. Travis d’Arnaud and Todd Frazier both took extra time to recover from their injuries, and both struggled upon their returns, just as Michael Conforto did last year. It’s something the Mets have kept in mind.

Still, Lowrie’s rehab can only last so long. I expect the team to activate him at some point on their upcoming road trip.

Is there any chance of Devin Mesoraco being in a Mets uniform, let alone playing baseball, again? I understand the principle of the matter, but neither team nor player are benefiting from the situation as it stands at this point.
-- @ksj_esq via Twitter

You’re correct that neither party is benefiting from Mesoraco’s refusal to report to Triple-A Syracuse, but that’s the situation as it is. I imagine Mesoraco still hopes to play, given that he has not followed through on his threat to file retirement papers. But I think it’s pretty clear he’ll never play for the Mets again, meaning he won’t play for anyone until at least 2020.

Do you see the last two starts of J.D. Davis over Frazier as getting back to the meritocracy approach that Brodie Van Wagenen has been preaching?
-- @Metdolfan via Twitter

To a certain extent, yes, though benching a .143-hitting infielder in favor of a .276-hitting infielder is not particularly difficult to do. The greater test will come when …

When Lowrie returns, what do you expect the move to be? I know the easy move is Davis, but he has been very productive and is young. Frazier is owed money but has been an automatic out batting sub-.150.
-- @MetsAvenue via Twitter

I actually think it will be Adeiny Hechavarria, given that the Mets have already acquired his consent to outright him to the Minors. But we shall see. Van Wagenen has insisted that the Mets will proceed with the best 25 players they can this season. Optioning Davis would be a clear violation of that creed.

Jacob deGrom has pitched better with Tomas Nido behind the dish; what are the chances they work together exclusively?
-- @metsfan73 via Twitter

While the chances of Mickey Callaway admitting it’s a personal pairing are remote, the chances of it becoming a regular thing are strong. Not only has deGrom enjoyed more success with Nido, he also spent most of last year throwing exclusively to Mesoraco. The concept of a personal catcher is not foreign to him.

With each good start Zack Wheeler makes, how much does the pressure increase for the Mets to sign him to an extension?
-- @randysruns via Twitter

I’m not sure Wheeler pitching well adds pressure on the Mets to sign him. I would have been shocked if they did so before the season. I’d still be shocked now. There’s just too much incentive for Wheeler to go out and test the open market at this point, and too much risk for the Mets to lock him up.

While it still early in Pete Alonso’s MLB career, his track record through the Minor Leagues and now in the Majors has been consistently very good. At what point do you think the Mets should consider locking him up on a long-term deal similar to what the Braves recently completed with Ronald Acuna Jr.?
-- Don Weisman, Kailua, Hawaii

Now here’s an extension candidate that makes sense. If the Mets can buy out Alonso for something similar to the $100 million the Braves gave Acuna, that would potentially be a steal. It’s hard to say how likely that is, though, given Van Wagenen’s brief track record as general manager. The Mets’ old regime handed out contracts like that only twice in eight years, to middle-tier players Jon Niese and Juan Lagares. Neither deal worked out well for the team. For a potential superstar like Alonso? I think it’s worth considering.

Which current Mets Minor League player will have a significant impact on the 2019 season and why?
-- @rct49 via Twitter

Anthony Kay is the most intriguing answer, given how well he’s pitched -- a 1.47 ERA in seven starts at Double-A Binghamton. Walks are a concern for Kay, and it’s probably a bit premature to anoint him the Mets’ next rotation replacement. But if the Mets have a late-season need in the bullpen, the left-handed Kay may be a candidate to fill that void.