Entering the season, the New York Mets were planning a first base “competition” between Dominic Smith and Adrian Gonzalez. The competition went nowhere as Smith was late for the first game of the spring and got hurt, giving the job to Gonzalez by default. The 36 year old Gonzalez, who was a shell of himself last year and missed most of the season due to a back injury, got off to a quick start and was a key player during the Mets’ 11 game winning streak. The worm has turned quickly for Gonzalez, and that should lead to questions about how much playing time he should be getting.
Since April 13th, Gonzalez has been mired in a 4 for 32 slump, collecting only one home run and four RBI’s over that span. Gonzalez’s batting average has sunk all the way to .203, and the majority of those hits have been singles since he has only three extra base hits, two singles and a double. With the Mets getting virtually nothing offensively from their catchers, they need more production out of first base than Gonzalez is giving them. If he can’t turn it around relatively quickly, the Mets may need to consider giving more at bats to other players who are producing.
Gonzalez is already splitting time at first base with Wilmer Flores, who had a strong year in 2017 and has looked better at the plate than Gonzalez for most of the season. The Mets also have the option of shifting Jay Bruce over to first base to create more playing time for Brandon Nimmo and Juan Lagares. Nimmo’s lack of playing time has been a travesty since he has been productive every time the Mets have put him in the lineup, while Lagares is off to one of his best offensive starts in years. Playing Bruce at first opens up playing time for one of them, and that’s an idea that could make sense once or twice a week.
The fact is that all three players are being underserved so the Mets can continue handing starters’ work to a 36 year old first baseman with little power anymore. If the Mets are planning on sticking with Jose Lobaton and Tomas Nido behind the plate until Kevin Plawecki returns, they can’t afford to take a single every couple of days from Gonzalez. Flores should definitely be getting closer to a 50/50 split of the playing time, not just platoon at bats against left handed pitching, or Bruce needs to pick up a first baseman’s glove in order to create more at bats for Nimmo. If the Mets are truly being run like a meritocracy this season, Gonzalez’s play is beginning to show that it is unworthy of a starting job.