Billy McKinney Auditioning To Replace Michael Conforto Permanently

One moment, you’re a player whose career is on the verge of ending before it really began. The next, you find yourself in the right situation, and you’re fulfilling your full potential.

That was the story with players like Jose Bautista and Justin Turner. However, it’s not a story we really see happen favorably to the New York Mets.

Enter Billy McKinney.

McKinney was the Oakland Athletics 2013 first round pick. While a prospect, he was involved in two high profile trade deadline moves. First, he was sent to the Chicago Cubs as part of the Jeff Samardzija trade. Then, he was part of the Aroldis Chapman trade.

Some of the shine came off McKinney’s prospects, and he dealt with a shoulder injury. With his being buried deep on the Yankees organizational outfield depth chart, he was included in the J.A. Happ trade.

McKinney struggles with the Blue Jays, and he was designated for assignment by the Blue Jays late last season. McKinney was claimed by the Milwaukee Brewers. He lasted all of 40 games before the underperforming outfielder was designated for assignment.

Make no mistake. This wasn’t necessarily the case of the Mets seeing something. Rather, with Michael Conforto down and Mets outfielders dropping like flies, the Mets had no other option than to obtain McKinney.

McKinney has been far better than the Mets ever could’ve imagined. Over 12 games, McKinney is hitting .275/.341/.700 with three doubles, a triple, four homers, and 11 RBI.

No, he’s not this good. No one is. However, we do see some positives from his Baseball Savant data. While he’s making a good amount of contact with increased exit velocities, it’s far too soon to adjudge if he can be the player many thought he could be when he was a top 100 prospect.

Right now, the only thing we can be assured of is he can field. Through it all, McKinney has shown himself to be quite a good fielder. If he can hit, his career is about to take off.

Fortunately for McKinney, he’s going to get the time to prove himself. Both Conforto and Brandon Nimmo are on the IL and aren’t returning soon. That allows McKinney to play everyday and to finally establish himself as a Major Leaguer.

On that note, it’s important to note he’s 26 and on the verge of the prime of his career. If he breaks out, that makes him a tremendous asset to a team as he’s under team control through 2024.

The Mets could use that. Aside from the fact this isn’t an organization deep in outfield talent, the Mets need to figure out their outfield past the 2021 season.

After this season, Conforto will be a free agent. In all honesty, he’s going to be extraordinarily difficult to sign. He’s represented by Scott Boras, and he’s basically the only All-Star caliber outfielder available in free agency. For that matter, he may be the only everyday outfielder available.

We can and should expect the Mets to do everything they can to keep Conforto. That said, we learned this past offseason with players like George Springer, the Mets have their limits, and they will walk away if they don’t believe a deal makes sense for them.

There are other factors like re-signing Marcus Stroman and Noah Syndergaard. The Mets also have to try to figure out third base while preparing themselves for the eventual Jacob deGrom opt out.

This is all a long winded way of saying re-signing Conforto is complicated, and the Mets need a viable alternative. It’s possible that could be McKinney. Still, it’s only been 12 games.

A week or month from now, we may be begging for Conforto and Nimmo as McKinney implodes. We may also be even more excited as McKinney continues his breakout. We just don’t know.

The only thing we do know is McKinney has a chance. If he continues playing well, he’ll continue to play. If that happens, he will continue to get his chance to replace Conforto on a more permanent basis.

Time will tell.