New York Mets: Michael Conforto, Backbone of the Outfield (and Lineup)

Even with the possibility of a universal designated hitter, the New York Mets still have several different outfielders they can plug in and out of the lineup. With constant change throughout, Michael Conforto has the be the one constant the Mets have in their outfield.

Conforto suffered a grade one oblique strain during spring training, and it was supposed to keep him out for part of April. The season delay plays in his favor since he can rehab the injury without the rush to get back on the field. After his shoulder injury in the 2017 season, he has played at least 150 games in the following two seasons.

Why Conforto is Important

It seems odd to think about him as a veteran, but he is at this point in his career. Despite only 27 years old, he is a former All-Star, heading into his sixth season and is one of the six remaining Mets from the 2015 World Series roster. He has also visited the lowest of lows personally and team-wise. Conforto had to recover from the troubling shoulder surgery and played in almost every game from a disappointing 2018 season.

He has also played at least 145 games in every outfield position but has made a home in right field after beginning his career in left field. His consistency as a left-handed power presence is also something the Mets need. Brandon Nimmo, Robinson Cano, and Jeff McNeil are all critical parts of the Mets lineup but do not carry the power presence of Conforto.

Over the last three seasons, Conforto is hitting .257/.363/.492 and is averaging 29 home runs and 81 RBIs over that period. Digging deeper into the stats, he also led the Mets in average batted-ball distance. Out of all players in the Mets lineup, he will play the most against same sided pitchers. The power numbers drop against left-handers, but the average is enough to keep him in the lineup.

The win/loss splits are also telling of Conforto’s importance. In 2019 victories, he put up an MVP slash line of .330/.443/.642 while in Mets losses, he dropped mightily to .181/.274/.341. No other Met on the roster has a split this dramatic, and J.D. Davis is the only one who comes close.

Conforto’s previous teams show he is on the brink of superstardom, and in the words of Reggie Jackson, he is “the straw that stirs the drink.”

New York Mets’ officials are encouraged by Michael Conforto’s progress

Just a couple of days before the action was halted last month by MLB, New York Mets‘ outfielder Michael Conforto suffered an untimely injury that, if the season had started on time on March 26, would have kept him out of the lineup at least for the first few days of 2020, with the potential for a more extended absence.

However, time was, and is, currently favoring those who are currently injured and looking to miss the least possible games. Conforto is in that group and by all accounts, he is showing marked improvement that can lead us to believe that he can be ready whenever the season starts.

The slugger suffered what the New York Mets named as a Grade 1 right oblique strain, which is the mildest of them all. However, since those types of ailments are very tricky and they have a rather high aggravation rate, the team decided to make sure its star outfielder was well-rested and recovered, so they shut him down.

Days later, MLB announced that the Mets or any other MLB team for that matter would be playing games because of the coronavirus pandemic. While that ended up being terrible news for us, fans, players, and workers in general, injured players such as Conforto were handed a greater amount of time to overcome their issues.

The Mets’ star is ready to go

The Mets’ right fielder is actually taking regular batting practice, and people inside the team remain very encouraged about the sluggers’ outcome for the 2020 season, if there is one after all this mess.

We are now at the six-week mark of Conforto’s oblique injury, which means that it is highly likely that he would have returned to Mets’ lineup already, or he would be extremely close to a return.

That’s why, if there are no setbacks in the road, the chances are that Conforto’s name will be there whenever manager Luis Rojas delivers his first lineup as the manager of the New York Mets.

Other injured players such as Yoenis Cespedes and Jed Lowrie need to show they can handle “the grind of full baseball workouts in their comeback attempts,” as stated by the New York Post.

New York Mets: What will the team do with Conforto and Thor?

New York Mets, Noah Syndergaard

While there is no baseball being played as we speak, the New York Mets have quite a few interesting cases at hand when it comes to player contracts. Some of the deals that run through the 2020 season are Marcus Stroman, Jed Lowrie, Rick Porcello, Michael Wacha and Yoenis Cespedes, among others. But what about those who are up after 2021?

Two of the highest-profile cases in that last scenario are Noah Syndergaard and Michael Conforto. They are two of the Mets’ most important players, but if we read any indications, the former would prefer to test free agency while the latter is more likely and open to a future with the organization.

Mike Puma of the New York Post touched base with both players’ scenarios. “Both players can head to free agency after the 2021 season, but the fact Syndergaard underwent Tommy John surgery and likely won’t resume pitching until at least next June leaves him in limbo. The Mets could always offer him a one-year extension to minimize their risk on his elbow, but Syndergaard might want to bet on himself returning strong next year, showing he’s worthy of a free-agent deal in Zack Wheeler’s stratosphere.”

The Mets’ starter has hurdles to clear

The thing is, Syndergaard, who has been with the New York Mets during his whole career, will only have a few months next year to prove himself worthy of a big-money, multi-year deal. We know that a healthy Thor is easily worth a fortune, but who knows what will his performance look like after nearly a year and a half on the shelf?

In the case of Conforto, he is a valuable piece in the Mets’ puzzle. He has pop and he gets on base, which is the prototypical modern player. However, he won’t come cheap in an extension.

Regarding the matter, Puma said: “Conforto has repeatedly indicated he would like to remain with the Mets long term, but his agent Scott Boras is also known to push his clients to free agency. The time to extend Conforto would be soon — provided baseball resumes this season — but given the financial uncertainties facing the game, where do you even begin in trying to establish value for a player?”

In this specifical case, the issue would be establishing the Mets’ outfielder market value.

These two New York Mets’ players will benefit from the late start to the season

New York Mets, Yeonis Cespedes

Concerns about the quick dissemination of the COVID-19, or coronavirus disease, have caused Major League Baseball and dozens of other professional circuits and leagues to stop their operations for the time being. The virus has killed thousands of people since its appearance in December 2019, and even athletes have been infected. Even the New York Mets had a recent scare when Donovan Mitchell, the NBA star, tested positive because his father works for the team. Mitchell sr. tested negative, thankfully.

MLB had to start regular-season games in late March, but that won’t be the case anymore. The league announced last week that it would push back regular-season games two weeks “at least,” and that timetable is looking awfully insufficient right now.

However, for MLB players, including a couple of New York Mets’ members, the extra time will likely mean that they can start playing as soon as the games count, and not after as it was deemed likely a few days ago.

Two Mets’ outfielders will likely be ready from the go

Given that the most likely scenario is that Major League Games won’t be played before June, one Mets’ player that will almost surely be ready from the go is outfielder Michael Conforto.

On March 11, the Mets announced that Conforto’s oblique injury was a Grade 1 strain, which is a mild one. Even still, he wasn’t going to be ready for the first game of the season had the previously stated date been kept.

Conforto can comfortably be ready to play meaningful games in mid-to-late April, so it’s safe to say he will be ready when the contests start counting.

A more complex case is that of Yoenis Cespedes. He was running out of time to make the opening day roster when the coronavirus outbreak halted things. However, if the season starts in May or June, that gives him a few extra weeks to clear the remaining hurdles in his heel and ankle surgeries recovery.

New York Mets: Michael Conforto has a right oblique strain

New York Yankees, New York Mets

Unfortunate timing. That’s the best and most appropriate way to describe the latest injury in the New York Mets‘ roster. Michael Conforto looks set to open the season on the injured list after being diagnosed with a right oblique strain.

Oblique injuries are very tricky and should be managed with caution, especially by baseball players. They have a rather high re-aggravation rate, and the best thing is giving it plenty of time and letting it heal naturally.

Conforto underwent an MRI back in Florida after getting injured last weekend while making a catch in the outfield. The Mets’ doctors will re-evaluate the 27-year-old slugger next week, and they will have a better idea of how much time he will miss then.

The Mets’ outfield depth situation

Suddenly, the New York Mets’ outfield depth has been tested in the last couple of weeks. Yoenis Cespedes is still not all the way back following multiple heel surgeries and an ankle fracture (although he is moving in the right direction) and J.D. Davis recently overcame a jammed left shoulder that he also injured during spring training play.

Thankfully, Mets’ manager Luis Rojas has options to survive without Conforto for the start of the season. The team brought defensive whiz Jake Marisnick via trade in the offseason, and Brandon Nimmo and Dominic Smith can play there, as well. In case of an emergency, Jeff McNeil can also defend left field.

However, it can’t be denied that the Mets’ lineup will suffer from Conforto’s absence. He has been, over the last few years, arguably the most consistent slugger on the roster.

The Mets’ starting right fielder had one of his best years at the plate in 2019. He connected a career-high 33 home runs, and slashed .257/.363/.494, good for a 126 wRC+. Essentially, his offensive production was 26 percent above average. He also scored 90 runs and drove in 92.

New York Mets: Lugo, Lockett Impress in Tie Against Marlins

The New York Mets had a change of pace in their Monday meeting with the Miami Marlins. Walker Lockett made a start for the Mets, and Seth Lugo saw game action for the first time in the Spring. Unfortunately, they may have lost Michael Conforto the same day they regain Lugo.

Conforto did not injure himself in Monday’s game. The injury occurred a couple of days ago while making a diving catch a couple of games ago. Conforto tried to battle through it but is flying to New York to get the injury examined more in-depth.

Pitching Shines

Walker Lockett started the game with three impressive innings. He allowed three hits and struck out two as he tries to prove he can be a valuable member of the Mets starting pitching depth. Also joining him was Corey Oswalt, who only allowed one run over four innings with five strikeouts.

Seth Lugo picked up right where he left off in 2019. He struck out one in a very easy 1-2-3 inning. Lugo will not need too many innings to get himself right for Opening Day. Tyler Bashlor was the other Mets reliever to throw. He bounced back from his poor outing to pitch a scoreless ninth inning.

Quiet Offense

Spring Training’s worst scoring offense showed up once again to only muster five hits and one run on the day. Two of the hits were triples from Jake Marisnick and Amed Rosario, who are slowly working their ways out of slumps. Eduardo Nunez provided the lone run on a ground out after Marisnick’s triple. Nunez also had a hit on the day to move his average to .320 as he tries to earn himself a roster spot.

Rick Porcello makes a start on Tuesday as the Mets face the Houston Astros in West Palm Beach at 1:05 p.m.

Add Michael Conforto to the New York Mets’ list of injury worries

The New York Mets received some bad news in the last few hours. Their star right fielder Michael Conforto was sent to New York to undergo further testing after tweaking his side while making a catch over the weekend.

With the injury occurring under three weeks of the start of the regular season, it isn’t a certainty that Conforto opens the season on the Mets’ active roster.

The slugger traveled to New York to meet with the Mets medical director Dr. David Altchek, to see what he thinks about his injury. Being to his side, it directly affects batting and other baseball-related activities.

The New York Mets’ outfielder underwent an MRI in Florida, but the situation requires for him to be evaluated further to know more about his prognosis.

The possibility exists that he is dealing with a strained oblique, which would almost certainly require an injured list stint to open the season. The Mets will obviously treat the situation with caution, being to one of the most important members of the roster and the lineup.

The Mets have some options to fill in

If Conforto is indeed out for the first few days of the season, it would mean more playing time for the likes of Jake Marisnick, Dominic Smith and, if he is healthy, Yoenis Cespedes.

J.D. Davis could also be a direct beneficiary of the Conforto situation. Initially thought to handle third base and left field duties, the slugger could also become an option in right field as the Mets try to fill a huge void in the lineup.

Conforto had one of his finest seasons at the plate in 2019. He hit a career-high 33 home runs, and slashed .257/.363/.494, good for a 126 wRC+. He scored 90 runs and drove in 92 as the Mets pushed for the playoffs in a very good second half.

New York Mets: Nimmo, Rosario Heat Up in 3-2 Loss to Astros

The New York Mets took on the Houston Astros in West Palm Beach for their 13th game of the Spring. It was a tightly contested pitchers duel throughout as Michael Wacha took the mound in his third Spring outing.

Things started great for the Mets as Brandon Nimmo led off the game with a triple of Lance McCullers. It was one of his two hits on the day, which moved his average to an even .400. Pete Alonso drove him in with a groundout to immediately give the Mets a 1-0 lead.

Amed Rosario provided an encore in the second inning with his first triple of the Spring, which also led off the inning. He now has hits in back to back games after his hitless start. Eduardo Nunez played the role of Alonso to drive in Rosario in the following at-bat. Those would be the only two runs the Mets mustered all game.

Wacha’s Outing

Michael Wacha spent his outing tiptoeing out of trouble throughout. After retiring the first two in the first inning, he back to back singles before escaping the inning. In the second, Wacha worked around a Carlos Correa double to keep the Astros off the board.

The trouble was too much to escape in the third inning. A George Springer single and stolen base followed by a Josh Reddick walk to set up runners on first and second with no one out. Wacha retired the following two hitters and seemed poised to get out of a third straight jam. Unfortunately, Michael Brantley got to him for an RBI single, which would be all Wacha allowed.

Over three innings, he allowed five hits, one run, a walk, and struck out two batters. It was not a dominant outing by any means, but he battled throughout.

Following Wacha, all minor leaguers took the mound. Yelfy Ramirez took the loss by allowing a walk-off home run to Chas McCormick to lead off the bottom of the ninth. The big concern comes from the 2-3-4 combo of Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto, and Wilson Ramos. They all went 0-for-11 with four strikeouts and only produced the Alonso RBI ground out.

Steven Matz takes the mound at Port St. Lucie on Saturday when he faces the Washington Nationals. It will be interesting to see how he follows up on the performances from Wacha and Rick Porcello.

New York Mets: Michael Conforto gives his opinion about a potential contract extension

New York Yankees, New York Mets

Michael Conforto is a strong candidate for a contract extension. The New York Mets want to lock him up for the future, and the interest may be mutual. However, as the outfielder said to SNY, any deal would have to make sense for him.

Conforto is slated to hit free agency after the 2021 season, which means he has two years of arbitration left. In a conversation with John Harper of SNY, he said that “at this point I’m just looking at being excited about this season.”

“It would be nice to have the future set but it’s gotta make sense for me to do that. Maybe the conversation gets a little different next year but right now I’m just locked in on 2020.

“Those are big decisions and it can become a distraction. If I go out there and play the way I’m capable of, everything will take care of itself. Scott (Boras, his agent) has my best interests in mind but at the end of the day it’s my decision.”

It is a common occurrence that Boras’ clients want to test free agency. That has been a pattern historically, but it doesn’t mean that Conforto, in this case, necessarily has to follow that path.

And, there are a few examples of Boras clients that have agreed to sign contract extensions. Among them are Jose Altuve, Stephen Strasburg, Carlos Gonzalez, and Chris Davis.

The Mets could have the resources to swing a deal

The Mets don’t have a small payroll, but to be fair, there is a lot of money coming off the books after the 2020 season. They may have the resources to explore a deal that would cover Conforto’s last arbitration season and multiple years of his free agency.

Conforto, at 27 years old, is in the prime of his career, all of which has come with the New York Mets up to this point. Last season, he slashed .257/.363/.494 with 33 homers and 29 doubles in 151 games.

For his career, he has hit .253/.353/.481 with 109 homers. He is slated to make $8 million in 2020 and there is another arbitration raise coming for him in 2021. Unless, of course, the Mets can strike a long-term deal with him.

deGrom and Wacha Shine in Split Squad Outings

The New York Mets starting pitching has been nothing short of elite through the first ten games of Spring Training. While the bats are still shaking the rust off, the pitching has exceeded expectations so far. In their split-squad games on Sunday, they beat the Nationals 3-1 and lost to the Marlins, 7-2.

Jacob deGrom picked up where he left off in 2019. The back to back Cy Young winner threw three scoreless innings, only allowing one hit and striking out two batters. He a majority of the Nationals everyday players and made it look easy to cruise through the lineup once.

Michael Wacha also pitched well against the Marlins. Over his three scoreless innings of work, he allowed a walk, two hits and struck out one. Wacha still firmly believes he is a starting pitcher, and his two Spring starts show he should be a starter.

Diaz Settles In

If you did not hear about Edwin Diaz’s outing, there were not any problems. He threw a scoreless fourth inning with the only blemish being a Ryan Zimmerman double. Justin Wilson followed by striking out the side in the fifth inning. He has retired all six batters he has faced, and four of them are on strikeouts.

Jeff McNeil continued to stay hot with two hits in the same amount of at-bats. His average is now .500 for the Spring. Michael Conforto homered for the first time and now has hits in three consecutive games after starting 1-for-8. Robinson Cano also added a two-run double to open up the Mets scoring in the first.

Who’s Hot, Who’s Not

Pete Alonso lined a single to center field for his only hit in three at-bats. The concerns were only small for 2019’s home run champ, and the single took the stress off the Polar Bear. Eduardo Nunez has started the Spring hot, his two hits Sunday moved him to 5-for-15. Nunez was a non-roster invite but could easily steal a spot away from Luis Guillorme.

Amed Rosario continued his struggles at the plate. He went hitless in three at-bats and is hitless in all five of his games so far. Only two of the at-bats ended in strikeouts, which is a good sign for the young shortstop. As he settles in more, the hits should follow.

The Mets get a day off on Monday before welcoming in the Marlins to Port St. Lucie. Noah Syndergaard will make his second start of the Spring.