WASHINGTON (AP) — Dominic Smith described his move to the Washington Nationals via a one-year, $2 million contract as a “fresh start” and said the team that finished last in the NL East each of the past three seasons wants him to be its everyday first baseman.
“They want me to come in and play first base and just share my knowledge of the game,” Smith said during a video conference with reporters on Wednesday, when the Nationals announced the agreement.
In addition to the $2 million salary, his free-agent contract includes up to $2 million in possible incentives, according to a person with knowledge of the deal, who confirmed the parameters to the AP on condition of anonymity because no financial terms were disclosed.
During his time with the New York Mets, the affable Smith split time between first base, left field and designated hitter. He thinks sticking mainly to his natural position at first, where he was blocked by Mets slugger Pete Alonso, will allow him “to just really be comfortable,” he said.
“It will help me have a clear head at the plate,” the 27-year-old Smith said.
Smith hit well during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season with the Mets, putting up a career-high batting average of .316 and a .993 OPS, but has struggled since then.
The 2013 first-round draft pick batted a career-worst .194 with zero homers and 17 RBIs in 58 games last season while making $3.95 million. He was demoted to Triple-A Syracuse on May 31, when he was hitting .186 through 101 plate appearances, then returned to the majors after a three-week stint in the minors.
Smith went on the disabled list July 20 with a sprained right ankle. He was activated Aug. 11 and immediately optioned back to Syracuse, where he spent the remainder of the season. He didn't play in the majors after July 16, and the Mets chose not to offer him a 2023 contract.
As for what he plans to do this year to get back to hitting well, Smith said: “Just continuing to control the strike zone and not chase. I’m at my best when I’m just letting the pitchers come to me and not trying to do too much. ... Last year, I was trying to do a little bit too much.”
In six major league seasons, all with New York, he has a .246 batting average and a .733 OPS, with 46 homers and 179 RBIs.
Washington, which won the World Series in 2019 and was a major league-worst 55-107 in 2022, announced other roster moves Wednesday: Right-hander A.J. Alexy was designated for assignment, while infielder Michael Chavis and left-handers Anthony Banda and Francisco Pérez were signed to minor league contracts and invited to spring training.
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Howard Fendrich, The Associated Press