MLB hot stove: 10 teams that could take advantage of Mets' desire to unload salary and trade for Dominic Smith

Five weeks into the 2019-20 offseason, the New York Mets have been among the least active teams in baseball. They declined their $9.5 million club option on Juan Lagares, claimed former top prospect Stephen Gonsalves off waivers from the Twins, and that's about it. The Mets did name Carlos Beltran their new manager, so that's something. Otherwise it's been quiet in Queens.

As always, money is a question with the Mets. They're projected for a $174.4 million payroll next season according to Cot's Baseball Contracts, far above their $150.6 million Opening Day payroll this year. Either the Mets are going to run the highest payroll in franchise history by nearly $20 million next season, or they will shed payroll at some point this winter. Bet on the latter.

In fact, the Mets are considering packaging infielder Jed Lowrie and/or righty Jeurys Familia with promising young first baseman Dominic Smith in a trade to clear payroll, reports The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal. Lowrie will make $9 million in 2020 and Familia will make $22 million from 2020-21. Smith is blocked at first base by Rookie of the Year Pete Alonso and is an obvious trade chip.

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Dominic Smith NYM • 1B • 22
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HR11
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Attaching a young player to an undesirable contract in a trade is hardly unprecedented. Two years ago the Yankees gave the Padres righty Bryan Mitchell to take on the $13 million owed to Chase Headley. The Braves acquired Touki Toussaint from the Diamondbacks by taking on Bronson Arroyo and the $10 million remaining on his contract. It's a smart move for rebuilding teams.

Which clubs could help on the Mets by taking on Lowrie and/or Familia and in turn help themselves by acquiring Smith, a 24-year-old who authored a 134 OPS+ this past season and is under team control through 2024? These 10 clubs stand out:

Possible Dom Smith Suitors

The Angels are expected to have an active offseason and they kicked things off by hiring manager Joe Maddon. They need pitching, both starters and relievers, and they could add Familia to their bullpen and Smith to the lineup as their long-term first baseman, and they probably wouldn't have to give up much to do it. Familia is a decent change of scenery candidate and wouldn't stop the Angels from signing, say, Gerrit Cole. They're an obvious candidate to take on Familia to get Smith.

The kids dominate the infield in Toronto. The Blue Jays have Vladimir Guerrero Jr. at third base, Bo Bichette at shortstop, Cavan Biggio at second base, and no one in particular at first base. Smith is not the son of a ballplayer, but he's a really good young hitter, and would fill the position nicely. Toronto could take on Familia as a bullpen piece and try to rebuild his trade value the same way they did with Daniel Hudson and Ken Giles. Vlad-Bichette-Biggio-Smith would be the best young infield in the game and one of the most fun to watch, hands down.

Money may be tight in Milwaukee this offseason, but, with Mike Moustakas now in Cincinnati and Travis Shaw non-tendered, Lowrie could be a stopgap option at third base. It'll cost them $9.5 million, but is that really a dealbreaker? It would be worth it to get Smith considering a) the Brewers could use another bat in the lineup, and b) they do not currently have a first baseman of the future in the organization. Ryan Braun is penciled in at first base right now. I can understand not wanting to take on two years of Familia. One year of Lowrie to get Smith though? Even the small-market Brewers can swing that.

The Mariners just gave top first base prospect Evan White a historic six-year contract extension, so acquiring Smith may not make much sense on the surface. Here's the thing though: White can also play the outfield. He hasn't as a professional, but he did it plenty as an amateur, and his athleticism suggests he might even he able to play center field. If not, his arm is good enough for right field. Smith at first and White in the outfield is better than White at first and, uh, Shed Long in the outfield. Seattle's projected 2020 payroll is roughly $50 million (!) below its 2019 Opening Day payroll. The money's there.

Normally I would not mention the Marlins in a post about taking on money. Then they acquired Jesus Aguilar and Jonathan Villar on Wednesday, adding nearly $13 million to their projected 2020 payroll. Would they take on another $9.5 million or so in Lowrie to get Smith? Eh, that might be a big ask given their financial situation, but it is worth exploring. The Marlins should look into anything that involves adding high-end young talent to the organization.

Like the Marlins, the Orioles should try to get involved in anything that involves adding top young talent. Taking on Lowrie or Familia to get Smith is something every rebuilding team should consider. The fact the O's were prepared to release Villar, arguably their best player in 2019, rather than pay his projected $10 million or so salary next year leads me to believe they won't be interested in adding Lowrie or Familia. Then again, getting Smith in the trade could change the equation.

The Rangers are moving into a new ballpark next season and they're expected to have a busy offseason. They've already added Kyle Gibson on a three-year deal. Texas is said to be growing impatient with incumbent first baseman Ronald Guzman and it's unclear whether Nick Solak has the arm to man third base full-time. Lowrie could be a bridge at the hot corner until prospects Josh Jung and Sherten Apostel are ready, with Smith taking over at first base long-term.

The Royals have had a revolving door at first base since Eric Hosmer left and their projected 2020 payroll is approximately $20 million below this year's Opening Day payroll. Smith would address a massive organizational deficiency and taking on Lowrie or Familia to get him should be on the table. The Royals have had quite a bit of success putting reclamation project pitchers in the bullpen in recent years (Wade Davis, Ian Kennedy, Mike Minor, etc.), so maybe they could work their magic with Familia too, and turn him into a tradeable asset and net another prospect(s) down the road.

The Tigers are so devoid of young position player talent right now that it's almost scary. Jeimer Candelario, Dawel Lugo, and Christin Stewart all struggled this past season, and there's no obvious long-term first baseman on the roster or in the farm system. Smith addresses an organizational need and Detroit's projected 2020 payroll is nearly $30 million below this year's Opening Day payroll. They can afford to eat $10 million or so in Lowrie or Familia to get a potential impact bat.

We already know the White Sox are going to be active this offseason. They gave Yasmani Grandal a four-year contract and figure to add multiple pitchers in the coming week. The ChiSox could take on either Lowrie (second base stopgap until top prospect Nick Madrigal arrives) or Familia (bullpen help) to get Smith, who would share first base and DH duty with Jose Abreu. One reason the ChiSox may not do this: Andrew Vaughn. Vaughn is a tippy-top prospect who could take over first base duty as soon as late next season. The White Sox may not want to create a first base/DH logjam.
CBS Sports Writer

Mike Axisa joined CBS Sports in 2013. He has been a member of the BBWAA since 2015 and has previously written about both fantasy baseball and real life baseball for MLBTradeRumors.com, FanGraphs.com, RotoAuthority.com,... Full Bio

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