After tonight’s game we have given Adrián González his unconditional release. On Tuesday, we will designate catcher Jose Lobaton for assignment, will recall Dominic Smith from Las Vegas and will select the contract of Ty Kelly from Las Vegas. #Mets
— New York Mets (@Mets)
Though they already had a veteran-heavy roster in 2017, the Mets have seemingly gotten even older this season. Per Baseball-Reference, their position players average 29.1 years of age (their pitching staff averages a slightly lower 28.4 years), and going into Sunday night’s game, nine of their 25 active players were at least 32 years old. By releasing the 36-year-old Gonzalez and promoting the 22-year-old Smith, the struggling Mets add some much-needed youth to the roster — and considering they’re 2-8 over their last 10 and 11-25 since May 1, perhaps the move will send a message in the clubhouse. In addition, the 33-year-old Lobaton is being moved off the major-league roster again, and per SNY’s Andy Martino, the Mets have asked Jose Reyes (who turns 35 on Monday) to retire, so it appears that GM Sandy Alderson is putting his struggling veterans on notice.
Gonzalez was in his first season with the Mets, having signed as a free agent after being traded from Los Angeles to Atlanta as part of a salary dump and then immediately being released by the Braves. He got off to a solid start this season, hitting .261 with six homers from Opening Day through the end of May. But he struggled in June, posting a .111/.143/.148 slash line through the first eight games of the month. Though Gonzalez’s 3-for-28 slump wasn’t exactly disastrous, the fact that the Mets had Smith — regarded as one of the top first base prospects in baseball prior to his initial call-up last year — waiting in reserve certainly made the decision easier.
Smith wasn’t exactly tearing the cover off the ball at Triple-A Las Vegas (an environment that is set up for hitters to thrive, by the way), as he had posted a .260/.343/.370 slash line with two homers in 56 games. He struck out in his only at-bat during a brief call-up to the majors last month. There has to be some concern about Smith, who lost 30 pounds at the Mets’ request over the offseason, having been zapped of his power due to his physical transformation. But with the team seemingly stuck in neutral, they might as well get a look at the former top prospect and see if he can live up to his potential at the big-league level.
Gonzalez will immediately have the opportunity to catch on with another club, though it seems somewhat unlikely that he’ll receive a big-league offer, seeing as the major leagues are flush with talented first basemen and Gonzalez has struggled over the past two years. One thing that could keep the four-time Gold Glover in the big leagues, however, is his defense at first base. Advanced metrics rank him as one of the better defensive first basemen in the majors this season — he ranks eighth among qualifying first basemen in UZR/150 (2.8), 10th in defensive runs saved (-1), and third in FanGraphs defensive rating (-2.5). For a team like the Cardinals that could use a late-inning defensive replacement with starter Jose Martinez being a liability at the position, Gonzalez could be an interesting bench option to consider.