The Dodgers recently traded veteran first baseman Adrian Gonzalez to the Braves, who subsequently released him. That was not surprising, as Gonzalez agreed to waive his no-trade clause only if the Braves cut him loose. That, in turn, would allow Gonzalez to shop around for another team. Speaking of which, here's this scoop from Buster Olney:
Sources: Mets have reached out on free agent Adrian Gonzalez, who was released earlier today by the Braves.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 20, 2017
Gonzalez is owed $21.5 million for the upcoming season, but because he was released the team that signs him will only be responsible for the league minimum (the Braves will pick up the rest). So that's in his favor, and that's no doubt appealing to the Mets, who under the Wilpon family continue to spend far less than they should.
On the performance side, it's a dicey proposition. Gonzalez is going into his age-36 season, and he's coming off a 2017 campaign in which he batted .242/.287/.355 with just three home runs in 71 games. Part of that is probably the decline that's standard to a corner defender in his mid-30s, and part of it is because of Gonzalez's back problems. On that latter front, Dodgers president Andrew Friedman said back in early November that he expected Gonzalez to be healthy by Spring Training. As well, Gonzalez was durable and productive in recent seasons coming into last year. On a preliminary basis, the SportsLine (@SportsLine on Twitter) Projection Model tabs Gonzalez for a .712 OPS next season. That's obviously not adequate for a first baseman, but there's a chance he overshoots that forecast, especially is he's indeed healthy.
The Mets last season got good production at first base from Lucas Duda, but he was traded to the Rays midseason. That seemingly cleared a path for Dominic Smith, but the prospect last season didn't produce across 49 games at the highest level. Also, via the New York Times, here's what GM Sandy Alderson said of Smith at the GM's meetings in November:
In November, at the general managers' meetings, Alderson was asked if Smith needed to win the first baseman's job in Spring Training.
"He didn't win it in September, let's put it that way," Alderson said.
Smith, the Mets' first-round pick in 2013, has battled weight issues. He is probably a bit shorter than his listed height of six feet, and he weighed nearly 260 pounds at the end of the 2016 season. He reported to Spring Training last season 24 pounds lighter after eating healthier over the off-season, but he regained it during the season.
"Dominic is going to have to be careful about his physical conditioning certainly over the next few years, if not throughout his career," Alderson said last month.
Alderson later softened those remarks a bit, but it's apparent Smith will get some competition from someone during camp. So Gonzalez, maybe? It's not a platoon fit, since both are left-handed, and it's not certain Gonzalez would be open to such an arrangement (he's said before that getting as much playing time as possible is a priority in 2018). Smith has three options remaining, so if they determine starting off in the minors is best for his long-term development, then Gonzalez makes more sense. What they don't want to do is compromise the future of Smith, who was a consensus top-100 overall prospect coming up through the system, in deference to a fading star like Gonzalez.