The last time we saw Dominic Smith, he was in a Mets uniform. Nobody was surprised when he was DFA’d in November which stirred up the speculation that he would be signed by the Washington Nationals. A source told us that general manager Mike Rizzo was in touch with Smith’s agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, at Roc Nation, several weeks ago. Of course it made sense for both sides to see what else was available out there so this took time to come together, and per Jon Heyman of the NY Post, Smith signed a one-year deal worth $2 million with the Nats with an additional $2 million incentives package.
This move for Smith starts to solidify a lineup that almost certainly assures that Jeimer Candelario will start at third base, and that would move Joey Meneses back into the outfield in left field. Of course, if Rizzo signs a left fielder like David Peralta or Jurickson Profar, then Meneses would be the primary DH.
As of now, Matt Adams would seem to have a clear path to DH as we pencil in players. Adams is a non-roster invitee to Spring Training, and he will get some stiff competition from Michael Chavis who is also an NRI. Of course if Jake Alu and Carter Kieboom start their seasons in Triple-A, then Adams and Chavis could both make the Opening Day roster.
When a team is rebuilding, all of the roster spots take on a different meaning. This is not a roster that screams postseason, rather one that creates some real upside if players like Candelario and Smith have bounceback seasons.
Smith was once a rising star at just 24 years old, he was an MVP candidate three short years ago then he fell off a baseball cliff, and ended up being demoted back to the Mets’ Triple-A team last year batting just .194. He is another example of a lefty batter struggling in pull-side batting against the shift, and could benefit on the curtailment of defensive shifts starting this season.
With Pete Alonso as the Mets’ first baseman, Smith was being shuffled between the outfield, first base, DH, and pinch-hitting. The only good thing with Smith was that his first baseman’s defense was good. He was horrible in left field and one of the lowest rated fielders in the outfield with a -10 OAA in 2021 in just 190 defensive chances. Smith was a +2 OAA at limited action at first base last year which was encouraging.
The good news on Smith is that he is signed for 2023 with an extra year of team control in 2024, and if all goes well, he would be in his final year of arbitration for the 2024 season. In 2021 and 2022, Smith played in a combined 139 games for the Mets and batted .299/.366/ .571 with a .937 OPS and a 150 OPS+. He was an MVP candidate in 2020. Of course none of that matters if he repeats his 2022 campaign.
Here is what a Nats lineup and roster could look like today:
Starting pitchers (5): Cade Cavalli, Patrick Corbin, MacKenzie Gore, Josiah Gray, Trevor Williams
Relief pitchers (8): Sean Doolittle (NRI), Carl Edwards Jr., Kyle Finnegan, Hunter Harvey, Andres Machado, Erasmo Ramirez, Mason Thompson, Thad Ward
Catchers (2): Keibert Ruiz, Riley Adams
Infielders (7): CJ Abrams, Jeimer Candelario, Luis García, Dominic Smith, Ildemaro Vargas, Matt Adams (NRI), and Michael Chavis (NRI) -or- Jake Alu
Outfielders (4): Joey Meneses, Victor Robles, Lane Thomas, Alex Call
For depth, the Nats have Stone Garrett in the outfield, and Israel Pineda at catcher. The team also signed Jeter Downs after he was claimed off of waivers. If it seems like Rizzo is collecting former top prospects on low cost deals — he is. Smith was a former first rounder (11th pick in 2013) and now part of a quartet of those former first-rounders with Downs, Chavis and Derek Hill. Add them to Harvey, Gore and Abrams as three more first rounders that Rizzo acquired last season. This is now a roster and farm system loaded with first round picks.
Again, Rizzo is not necessarily finished with his roster, and any new signings could change this roster projection.