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Mets release first baseman Adrian Gonzalez

NY also plans to DFA Lobaton, call up Smith, Kelly
MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

NEW YORK -- Never meant to be more than a first-base placeholder for the Mets, Adrian Gonzalez, by the end of his tenure, had become a symbol of things gone wrong in Flushing. As Gonzalez slipped ever deeper into a slump, the calls for Dominic Smith or Peter Alonso, two promising young first-base options, grew increasingly louder.

Those calls reached a crescendo following the Mets' 2-0 win over the Yankees on Sunday, which put a positive spin on a 1-8 homestand. The Mets granted Gonzalez his unconditional release and recalled Smith from Triple-A Las Vegas. The team also announced that it plans to designate backup catcher Jose Lobaton for assignment, and call up utilityman Ty Kelly.

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NEW YORK -- Never meant to be more than a first-base placeholder for the Mets, Adrian Gonzalez, by the end of his tenure, had become a symbol of things gone wrong in Flushing. As Gonzalez slipped ever deeper into a slump, the calls for Dominic Smith or Peter Alonso, two promising young first-base options, grew increasingly louder.

Those calls reached a crescendo following the Mets' 2-0 win over the Yankees on Sunday, which put a positive spin on a 1-8 homestand. The Mets granted Gonzalez his unconditional release and recalled Smith from Triple-A Las Vegas. The team also announced that it plans to designate backup catcher Jose Lobaton for assignment, and call up utilityman Ty Kelly.

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The announcement came minutes before midnight, shortly after media clubhouse availability -- and access to Gonzalez -- ended. General manager Sandy Alderson did not respond to a text message seeking comment.

The reasoning behind the Mets' decision, however, is not difficult to deduce. Striking out in all three of his plate appearances Sunday, Gonzalez batted .172 with a .475 OPS over his final 17 games with the Mets. That dragged his average down to .237, with six home runs and a .672 OPS in 54 games.

The Mets signed Gonzalez, 36, to a league-minimum deal this winter because they believed the five-time All-Star would provide them with first-base insurance, buying them time to let Smith develop. That move appeared prescient when Smith missed almost all of Spring Training due to a strained right quad, destroying any potential for a camp battle at the position.

But Gonzalez's season-long struggles deepened in late May, creating pressure for the Mets to make a move. Although Smith was batting just .260 with a .713 OPS in 56 games at hitter-happy Las Vegas, the Mets still view him as their potential first baseman of the future. If Smith is not the long-term answer at the position, Alonso might be, but indications are the Mets aim to move their fourth-ranked prospect deliberately through the Minor League system.

If nothing else, the moves represent a shakeup for a Mets team that ranks last in the Majors in runs per game since the start of May.

"It wasn't a now-or-never situation here today," manager Mickey Callaway said after the Mets' victory Sunday, "but this is going to be real big for us going forward."

Gonzalez's release could mark the end of his 15-year career, which wound through Texas, San Diego, Boston, Los Angeles and New York. The seven-year, $154 million contract to which the Red Sox signed Gonzalez in 2011 expires after this season. While battling back problems, Gonzalez has hit just nine home runs in 125 games since the start of last season.

Kelly, 29, has spent parts of the past two seasons with the Mets, batting .211 in 109 big league games for them and the Phillies.

This is the Mets' second DFA of Lobaton, their third-string catcher. He re-signed with the organization following the first such move.

When a player's contract is designated for assignment -- often abbreviated "DFA" -- that player is immediately removed from his club's 40-man roster. Within seven days of the transaction (had been 10 days under the 2012-16 Collective Bargaining Agreement), the player can either be traded or placed on irrevocable outright waivers.

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.

New York Mets, Adrian Gonzalez