What Should the Nationals Do About Their Dominic Smith Problem?

Arizona Diamondbacks v Washington Nationals
Arizona Diamondbacks v Washington Nationals / Rob Carr/GettyImages

When the Nationals signed Dominic Smith this offseason, expectations weren't high. All they wanted was for him to be a competent starting first baseman, particularly defensively. If he showcased any value at the plate, and perhaps made himself into an appealing trade chip, that would be viewed as a bonus.

To anyone who chose to believe in him, Smith has been an abject failure.

The player to whom Washington gave Juan Soto's old number hasn't hit to anywhere near the standards at his position. His batting average (.263) and on-base percentage (.342) are sufficient, but he's continued to have a complete power outage.

Entering this season, Smith hadn't hit a major league home run since July 21, 2021. While he's gotten himself off the schneid, he only has two homers this year (one of which came Sunday), and just seven total extra-base hits in 62 games.

All told, his slugging percentage now sits a whisker above .300. At first base, a position where power is emphasized, that's unacceptable. He provides enough value defensively to keep a role on the team, but no one hitting that poorly should be playing at first base every day.

If that wasn't enough, center fielder Victor Robles is on a rehab assignment at Triple-A Rochester and should return to Washington very soon. Once he's back, someone presumably has to either slide to the bench or down to Triple-A.

So, what path should the Nationals take to replace Smith as the starter?

The easiest solution would be to move Joey Meneses to his spot. Typically the team's designated hitter, Meneses offers significantly more value in the batter's box - although even his slugging percentage, which has been hovering around .400, is a bit light for the position too.

If Meneses moved to first, it would allow the Nationals to get a bit more creative at designated hitter. Corey Dickerson seems like the most logical option, and it would also open up more opportunities for Stone Garrett to find himself in the lineup, especially considering the impact of Robles' impending return. They could also rotate players in the DH role, providing them with mini-off days.

Another option would be to promote veteran Matt Adams from Triple-A Rochester. He's not an amazing defender, but he'd certainly inject more slugging upside into the lineup. The biggest drawback to Adams would be that he's 34 years old and doesn't fit within their competitive timeline. Still, he appears to be a better option than Smith.

There are also less conventional options. Someone like Ildemaro Vargas, Jake Alu, or - dare I say it - Carter Kieboom could take over at third base and push Jeimer Candelario to first. To that end, Candelario is likely the Nationals' best trade chip. Could showcasing him at a second position increase his trade value?

If they wanted to, they could even stick to a more status quo solution. Michael Chavis filled in for Smith in Saturday's game against the Braves. Maybe he's worth giving a chance to, at least on a part-time basis.

At this point, all options should be on the table. Even after a better performance Sunday, it's clear that Smith's falls short of what the team needs. Who would your preference be?