You have the burly right-handed hitter who probably had the job to lose. And you have the lefty whose reputation has dimmed with injury and lack of production.
Are we talking about the Mets first-base job or Yankees?
The answer: Exactly.
Anyone else noticed the Mets and Yankees are having the same first-base battle?
The burly righties Peter Alonso and Luke Voit showed up with the job to lose — and haven’t. Instead, they have fortified their standings with strong springs. The fading lefties Dominic Smith and Greg Bird were charged with reviving their statuses and trying to win jobs. They also have had terrific, resuscitating exhibition seasons.
When camps opened it was dubious that all four could make their respective teams, but injuries to Todd Frazier and Jed Lowrie (both likely to begin the season on the Injured List) and Aaron Hicks (certain to be on the IL) have provided scenarios for all to make the Opening Day rosters, though that is more likely with the Mets than the Yankees.
Both New York clubs would be better structured if the lefty won the job, making the rosters more flexible. J.D. Davis and eventually Frazier would serve as the righty complement to Alonso. DJ LeMahieu would do so for Bird — and in the Yankees’ case they are just short on lefty hitters, especially with Didi Gregorius out months and Hicks sidelined at least to begin the year.
But both New York general managers have established a blueprint that leads to the burly righty.
Brian Cashman termed Voit as the front-runner based on how he went from small trade to big deal late last season. And Voit, with a 1.061 OPS through Monday, has only fortified that he was no fluke. Bird (1.089 OPS) for now looks more like insurance and a potential trade chip.Brodie Van Wagenen, meanwhile, pledged the best 25 players will break camp. And Alonso with eight extra-base hits (four homers) and a 1.058 OPS in 49 at-bats has outplayed a fitter Smith (.869 OPS). But service time — despite Van Wagenen’s assurances that it will not — must be a factor. It would feel terrible today if Alonso did not make the team, but worse if he becomes a star and for the matter of artificially keeping him down for two weeks to begin this season, the Mets lost out an extra year of service time.
Smith’s strong play, though, gives the Mets a hedge. Alonso could open as the first baseman and if he takes off, so be it. A young player thriving tends to boost an entire franchise because there is youthful energy and the fans tend to love a homegrown success and multiple employees of an organization feel responsible for the acquisition and development of the player.