Michael Conforto

Buck Showalter Indirectly Makes Case For Michael Conforto Return

To the surprise of no one, Buck Showalter aced his introductory press conference. If you’re a New York Mets fan, you heard everything you wanted to hear.

Two of the things you heard him speak about were the ability to play in New York and the players needed to win here. Here are two relevant quotes:

  • “When you get it right, and there’s a lot of people living and dying what you do every day, so there is an accountability responsibility to it and it’s not for everybody. We’re going to try to find out who it’s for, who is in and who ain’t.”
  • “I think one of the mistakes people make is when they come into a situation and think everything there isn’t good and needs to be changed.”

When reading these two quotes, you can’t help but think about Michael Conforto.

Conforto is a free agent after spending seven years with the Mets. In his time, he’s at least been a top 20 position player in team history. If he stayed, he would rewrite much of the Mets record books.

With him, we’ve seen a player who can play in and handle New York. More than that, he has emerged as a true leader, and he’s been able to handle the most difficult of circumstances.

When things have been good, so has Conforto. We know he can play in the big games and deliver.

While he most likely wasn’t referring to Conforto in any way, shape, or form, Showalter’s words endorsed a Conforto return. Conforto is able to handle New York, and as Showalter said, the Mets shouldn’t be making the mistake of changing for changing sake.

Now, this is all well and good, but realistically speaking Conforto is as good as gone. That happened when the Mets signed Mark Canha and Starling Marte.

That said, if there’s an avenue to bring back Conforto, the Mets should do it. The Mets need players who can handle the gauntlet of New York, and he’s one of those players. In many ways, he’s a player Showalter proverbially wants.

Seiya Suzuki Well Worth A Gamble

Takahashi Kashiwada. Tsuyoshi Shinjo. Satoru Komiyama. Kazuo Matsui. Ryota Igarashi. With all due respect to Masato Yoshii, the New York Mets forays into Japan have typically ended very poorly.

While the process and luck has been bad, it’s meaningless when looking to any players out of Japan. Enter Seiya Suzuki.

The 27 year old Suzuki has been a great hitter in Japan with an OPS over 1.000 in three out of the last four seasons. In terms of age and production, it’s where Hideki Matsui was before coming to the New York Yankees.

Matsui thrived in New York. He was a two Time All-Star and a World Series MVP. Again, this means nothing as compared to Suzuki. All it does is just show a Japanese star in his prime can thrive in New York.

There seems to be a consensus Suzuki will sign for an AAV between $7 – $10 million per year. MLB Trade Rumors predicted Suzuki would sign for five years $55 million.

Some believe he’s a five tool player, and he’s the best player in Japan. Some wonder if he can translate his skills to Major League pitching. No one knows, but at that price, it’s worth the gamble for the Mets.

Remember, they don’t just need one outfielder; they need two. Right now, Brandon Nimmo is their only real Major League everyday outfielder on the roster.

As we see, the Mets options are flawed and limited. They need to re-sign Michael Conforto, and they still need another outfielder. No one on the free agent market has Suzuki’s upside.

When you need two outfielders in a thin free agent class, you need to take some calculated risks. If you’re the Mets, and you’re really going to go for it, $10 million to Suzuki is a worthwhile gamble.

Past history with Japanese players should mean nothing. All that matters is the Mets have a desperate need for an outfielder, they have money, and Suzuki could be great for them.

Do Mets Fans Want Good Players?

Noah Syndergaard shocked New York Mets fans when he accepted a one year deal from the Los Angeles Angels for one year for $21 million. That was worth more than the $18.4 million qualifying offer from the Mets.

Up until this point, Syndergaard had made it clear he wanted to stay with the Mets. That was until free agency began. After that, the Mets cut off all communication, and while the Mets were quick to point out they didn’t get an opportunity to match, they also weren’t going to match.

The response from Mets fans hasn’t been bewilderment over how the team let a rehabbing ace leave. It wasn’t irritation over Sandy Alderson cutting off communication with Syndergaard like he once did with Daniel Murphy, Another Mets star who desperately wanted to stay.

The response was questioning Syndergaard’s loyalty and integrity. The belief now is he never wanted to stay. It’s on Twitter, sports radio, and of course, SNY.

Like many players, free agent Marcus Stroman especially, Syndergaard is very online. He was part of the conversation, and at times, he drove it. We also know he can be sensitive. This is the same Syndergaard who will be a free agent after the 2022 season.

We all should be expecting Syndergaard to have the Zack Wheeler type turnaround at the end of 2022 and heading into 2023. Certainly, money will dictate, like it did here, but seeing the treatment on his way out the door, why would Syndergaard want to return to this fanbase?

This is the same fanbase who had an issue mercilessly booing players this season. Incredibly, that initially happened when the Mets were in first place.

Homegrown player Michael Conforto was booed as he tried to return from COVID. Francisco Lindor was booed as he struggled to adapt to New York and all the things Chili Davis did wrong as a hitting coach.

When Javier Baez was acquired, things went from bad to worse. Baez crossed the line booing back with the thumbs down, and he dragged Lindor into it. That caused the fans to get worse until Báez was great again.

At that point, Báez was cheered and was loved. Keep in mind, Báez is a free agent. He initially talked about wanting to stay to play with his best friend, and we know Alderson has always loved him as a player.

Will Báez return? Who knows? Not everyone is Mike Piazza and wants to deal with the booing and fight to overcome it. No, some players don’t want to have to deal with the negativity which comes with the boos, Twitter nonsense, and sports radio and SNY trying to come up with the biggest nonsense.

Believe it or not, players want to get paid and play. They want to win. They want to be loved and respected by the fans.

They don’t want to deal with fans who turn their back on players because they leave, get hurt/sick, or struggle. They don’t want to deal with fans dumb enough to buy the outright lies Alderson continues to feed them (remember payroll will increase when attendance does?)

As fans, you are permitted to do whatever you want, and you can continue to parrot whatever ownership tells you. However, at some point, you have to question when is your collective behavior going to be counterproductive and keep some players away.

After all, if Syndergaard does break out, why would we want to return in 2022 after the way he was treated? What would he say to other players who are thinking of playing for the Mets? Therein lies the problem.

Mets Dangerously Close To Needing A Rebuild

When Noah Syndergaard left the New York Mets to sign with the Los Angeles Angels, one of the talking points was the Mets are going to benefit from the draft pick acquired. The way things are going that may need to be their focus.

Syndergaard leaving is another big hit to the Mets already thin pitching depth. That’s problematic given all the question marks that rotation had even when Syndergaard was expected to be a Met in 2022. If this rotation falters, this is a team who is going to be given no choice but to rebuild.

Jacob deGrom and Carlos Carrasco are coming off injury plagued years, and they are 33 and 34 respectively. With deGrom having an opt out after the 2022 season, they can both be free agents. Taijuan Walker can also be a free agent after the season. Walker had a great first half in 2021, but he faltered in the second half and would ultimately finish the season with a 90 ERA+.

As stands right now, the last two spots in the rotation would go to David Peterson and Tylor Megill. Peterson followed a poor 2020 from a peripheral stat perspective with poor 2021 stats and a season ending injury. He showed flashes, but ultimately, he looked like he was not ready. Megill burst onto the scene, but he tired quickly and fell apart at the end of the season, which is quite understandable.

Given the dearth of Triple-A pitching depth, the Mets need to sign two starters to allow Peterson and Megill to further develop and try to limit their innings a bit. Given where the prices are now, Marcus Stroman is going to need around a $25 million AAV to re-sign. Realistically speaking, it’s going to cost at least $40 million to fix the starting pitching.

Keep in mind, starting pitching is far from the Mets only problem. With Michael Conforto a free agent, and the Mets never getting a left fielder over the last three years, they need to fill-in two-thirds of their outfield. Left field could potentially be filled by Jeff McNeil, but the team needs to both hope they fill in two infield spots while also hoping McNeil rebounds from a nightmare 2021.

That is also before you consider Brandon Nimmo is going to be after the 2022 season. In reality, the Mets will have to figure out how to fill out an entire outfield over the course of two seasons. While McNeil may be the proverbial cheap choice, he is now an arbitration eligible player and will be more expensive. Thanks to Brodie Van Wagenen, the same goes for Pete Alonso.

While the Mets are figuring out how to pay two more starters, having to pay arbitration salaries to Alonso and McNeil, they will also have Robinson Cano‘s salary on the books. Unless Cano has a Jenrry Mejia situation, he is going to get $24 million in 2022 and 2023 ($3.75 will be paid by the Seattle Mariners).

Maybe Cano can take over second or third. Maybe he is a utility player. If the DH comes to the NL, he could be the DH. It’s also possible he’s just an overpaid pinch hitter or a player who will need to be released. In any event, that’s a lot of dead payroll weight when the team is potentially looking to re-sign Javier Baez to play alongside his friend Francisco Lindor. On Baez, he’s projected by MLB Trade Rumors to receive a $20 million AAV.

Before the Mets look to rebuild their bullpen with Jeurys Familia and Aaron Loup being free agents, or build depth with Jonathan Villar being a free agent, they will add at least $84 million to the payroll to add two starters, re-sign Baez, and do whatever they are going to do with Cano. Again, that is before building a bullpen and depth, and it is also before arbitration.

From a competitive balance tax threshold, the Mets payroll is $128.45 million before arbitration. Adding $84 million puts it at $212.45 million. According the MLB Trade Rumors model, the arbitration salaries could increase the payroll by an additional $49.4 million. That puts the Mets payroll at $261.85 million before they fill in their vacancies at second, third, left field, right field, the bench, and the bullpen.

That’s also before they figure out potential extensions for players like Edwin Diaz, Seth Lugo, and Nimmo. It’s also before they try to figure out a way to get deGrom to decline his opt out. The question is do the Mets really want to have a payroll around $300 million for the 2022 season? Based on what we saw in 2021, the answer is a clear no. However, we heard some rumors as to why the Mets didn’t go past the threshold.

Sure, with some creativity and shrewd moves, the Mets may not need to get to the $300 million threshold to compete in the NL East. Then again, this team is going to hire Billy Eppler as the GM. Taking a look at the complete picture, the Mets realistically have two options: (1) spend like no one has before; or (2) rebuild. Losing Syndergaard tilted it a little more towards rebuild, but it is still early in the offseason.

Noah Syndergaard Leaving Further Shows Mets Are In Disarray

Going back to 2015, Noah Syndergaard arguably had the best career ahead of him out of any of the Mets proverbial five aces. He had just unparalleled stuff, and he had the swagger to back it up. More than that, he was a big game pitcher.

We saw Syndergaard come out of the bullpen in Game 5 of the NLDS to shut down the Los Angeles Dodgers for an inning. He followed that with a win in Game two of the NLCS, and he would be the only Mets pitcher to win a game in the World Series. You could see greatness in Syndergaard in those moments, and greatness would ensue.

In 2016, Syndergaard would fulfill every bit of his promise. He was a true ace, and he emerged as an All-Star and top 10 in Cy Young voting. To date, he is probably the only pitcher to go toe-to-toe with Madison Bumgarner in the postseason. In that game, Syndergaard actually outpitched Bumgarner over his seven innings, but unfortunately, there were two more innings in that game.

After that, we excepted Syndergaard to do what Jacob deGrom essentially did. The problem was Syndergaard faced injuries and the Mets medical staff as run by Jeff Wilpon. There was the torn lat, and then two years later, he required Tommy John surgery. That Tommy John rehab was interred with by a minor injury and COVID19.

This wasn’t new to the Mets. This is akin to what happened to Zack Wheeler. They saw it happen. It took Wheeler two years to get back on the mound. Then, it took him another half of a season just to get up to speed again. After that Wheeler was terrific, and then, he was out the door to Philadelphia as the Mets showed little to no interest in re-signing him.

The final indignity with Wheeler was Brodie Van Wagenen taking shots at him. Wheeler responded by being one of the best pitchers in baseball. In fact, he is a finalist for the 2021 Cy Young. While some sycophants may want to tell you otherwise, this was apparent at the time Wheeler hit free agency.

This is the same exact situation the Mets found themselves with Syndergaard. Actually not quite because they were going to get the opportunity to keep Syndergaard BEFORE he rebounded post Tommy John. Moreover, Syndergaard loved New York, and he wanted to stay. You couldn’t have scripted a perfect situation for the Mets.

They had the opportunity to learn from the Wheeler mistake. They were going to be able to keep an ace at a discount. They were going to be able to prove the organization was not in complete disarray as it looked with the president of baseball operations and GM search. Put another way, they could show the world this wasn’t just a more financially solvent version of the Wilpon run Mets.

Instead, Syndergaard is bolting for the Los Angeles Angels for a one year $21 million deal. No, Syndergaard didn’t get a multi-year deal. He ONLY received $2.6 million more from the Angels. The Mets lost Syndergaard over $2.6 million. This is so inexplicably and embarrassingly Wilponian.

While the Angels were talking with Syndergaard, the Mets were botching their GM search and choosing the worst possible candidate in Billy Eppler. Like he did with Jose Reyes and Daniel Murphy, Alderson decided it wasn’t worth keeping a homegrown Mets player and build around him and let him flourish because he could get a compensatory second round pick.

This all makes you question how soon before Michael Conforto and Marcus Stroman are gone and replaced with lesser players? After all, that’s been Alderson’s MO with the Mets. Steve Cohen was supposed to change that, but as we’ve seen so far, it’s the same old with Alderson.

Really, everything sucks right now with the Mets, and you have no idea where it goes from here.

Sandy Alderson Needlessly Taking Shots At Michael Conforto

Because it’s what Scott Boras does, he held court at the GM Meetings. During that time, he drummed up hype for Michael Conforto calling him the “King of Queens” and the “Ace of many GM’s hearts.”

Of course, because it’s Boras, and the New York Mets are the New York Mets, Boras took a shot at the Mets. This time, instead of criticizing how they won’t spend (Steve Cohen is not the Wilpons), he mocked them for being the only team without a GM at the GM Meetings.

Alderson couldn’t let this slight stand. So, he made sure to take it out on Conforto, a player who literally teared up on the field at the prospect of playing his last game in a Mets uniform.

Conforto was an All-Star. He hit two homers in a World Series game. He emerged as a leader. He’s been one of the best homegrown position players in Mets history, and he’s scattered across the top 10 in the record books.

Put the Boras hype aside. This was a very good player for your franchise. He’s been a good citizen the franchise continuously put in harm’s way without so much as a complaint from him (at least not publicly). This is a player who deserves respect, and frankly, this is the exact player you should want to keep.

But no, Alderson thinks calling Conforto a terrific player deserving of a big contract is just Boras being a blowhard. That’s an awfully nice way to treat Conforto.

But this is the standard course for Alderson. He eventually grows to have no use for Mets homegrown players, especially when he can get draft pick compensation – just ask Daniel Murphy and Jose Reyes for starters.

But hey, he always fails to adequately replace the players he unceremoniously dumps. Good thing he’s standing in the way of a president of baseball operations or GM who’d look to keep the good players the franchise produces and not needlessly insult them on their way out.

Mets Need To Keep Michael Conforto

When Michael Conforto declined the qualifying offer, the presumption has been that ended his New York Mets career. If so, that’s a mistake.

Over his seven year career, Conforto has a 124 OPS+. He’s also put up 5 OAA in RF and a 9 OAA in left. On any given season, you can and should expect that 120+ OPS+ with a 1+ OAA.

That’s a good MLB player. Yes, we get Mets fans wanted more and got frustrated. Nonsense narratives emerged that he’s not good or clutch because of it. Many just sang a new player for its own sake.

People say that despite getting burned again and again with that juvenile mindset. It’s really better to be somewhat frustrated with a good player who can handle New York than a simply worse player.

We also know Conforto is capable of greatness. We saw it in the World Series. We saw it before his injury in 2016. We saw it in 2017. After that injury, we saw it begin to re-emerge at the end of 2019 and all of 2020.

He’s coming off a year where he got off to a slow start due to COVID and injuries. It took a while, but Conforto was Conforto again to close out the season.

In the second half, Conforto hit .252/.347/.445. Over his last 53 games, he hit .275/.372/.461. We know that Conforto and know he can be that for a full season. We know he can and probably will grow from there with a much better hitting coach.

Assuredly, Mets fans want the flashier makes. They don’t quite make sense for the Mets.

Nick Castellanos can’t play the outfield (-42 career OAA in RF), and he had startling home/road splits. Like Castellanos, Kris Bryant is a better hitter, but he has similar defensive issues. Over the last three years, Bryant has a -7 OAA at third and -4 OAA in the outfield.

For a team whose success last year was mostly predicated on pitching and defense, Castellanos and Bryant present a step backwards.

Starling Marte is an interesting option as he’s still a terrific fielder and base runner. The pause on him is his exit velocities haven’t been great, his launch angle is declining, and much of his offensive success this year was BABIP driven.

Marte has the profile of a player who will regress. That’s very problematic for a player turning 34 next year and looking for a big contract. Worse yet, past Marte, there really isn’t another everyday option on the free agent market, at least not one who can replicate or improve on Conforto.

All told, we know what Conforto can be, and he’s coming off a bad year. The Mets will likely get a discount (albeit not a home town one) from what they’d get if Conforto was coming off a big year, which he’ll likely have in 2022.

The Mets and their fans can be frustrated Conforto didn’t prove to be more than he was all they want. However, truth be told, Conforto is still the best fit for this team, and the Mets should take all reasonable measures to keep him.

Zack Scott Needed To Be Fired

With his impending trial for his DUI arrest and the uncertain state of the New York Mets front office, the team fired acting general manager Zack Scott. Really, they had no other choice.

In terms of baseball, a DUI is not a Cardinal sin (pun intended). Hall of Famer Tony La Russa never truly faced MLB consequences for his actions. He kept every job he had, including his current one with the Chicago White Sox.

He was also La Russa. As he’ll tell you, he’s a “Hall of Famer baseball person.” When you have his track record, teams don’t have the courage to make him face consequences for his actions. Either that, or they don’t care.

Scott is not La Russa. He was the Mets GM by default. The original GM was fired, and he stepped into the role. As the interim, Scott needed to prove to the Mets he was up to the task.

Yes, there were undoubtedly some good moves. However, he did build a team, or helped take part in building a team, who completely fell apart. Ultimately, Scott didn’t prove he was the solution for the job.

He’s also not truly available for the job now. Putting aside the administrative leave, he has to prepare for trial. During that time, key organizational decisions need to be made.

Michael Conforto and Noah Syndergaard are free agents who may have complicated qualifying offer decisions. Key contributors like Aaron Loup and Marcus Stroman are free agents. The Mets can’t sit on the sidelines waiting for Scott to make pivotal decisions which will shape 2022 and the decade to follow.

Between his decisions as a GM and as a driver, he clearly gave the Mets some pause in having him continue in the role. Taking everything into account, the Mets decided it was best to start anew and hire a president of baseball operations.

Whoever that new POBO will be, they need to create the Mets organization in their own image. It’s one of the reasons Luis Rojas‘ option was not picked up, and it’s a reason why the Mets need to clear the GM spot.

Ultimately, this is about the POBO. The Mets need to find the right person, and they need that person to build the organization. The Mets can’t have Scott standing in the way of that, especially when he’s unavailable to do his job at a very critical time.

In the end, Scott gave the Mets very little reason to remove the interim tag. Instead, he really just gave them reasons to remove him from the organization.

Mets May Need To Proceed As If There Will Be No New POBO

The other day the New York Mets made the smart decision to retain Jeremy Hefner as their pitching coach. It was a move necessary because Hefner was going to be a free agent at the end of the month, and the team needed to act quickly to make sure they retained a coach respected by the Mets pitching staff.

The problem with this decision is it seemed a little out of order. Typically speaking, you do not hire or retain a pitching coach without hiring a manager. To wit, you don’t hire a manager without having general manager and president of baseball operations in place. And yet, that’s exactly where the Mets find themselves.

The Mets seem to be at a bad spot in their search. Their pie in the sky choices in Billy Beane, Theo Epstein, and David Stearns will not be joining the organization. Unfortunately, they’re striking out at the second level and extremely qualified choices like Matt Arnold, Peter Bendix, and Scott Harris. This is far from an exhaustive list. Really, what seems exhaustive is how many times the Mets have been unable to fill this role for well over a year now.

We’re now at the point of the sensational. For example, Deesha Thosar of the New York Daily News published an article indicated Mets owner Steve Cohen is relying upon his employees at Point72 as well as former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to lead the search for the new president of baseball operations. Honestly, this doesn’t pass the sniff test considering Cohen’s background, but by the same token, we can expect to see more of the same until the position is filled.

That said, there is a bigger issue here. There are certain actions which need to be undertaken in short order, and it appears those decisions will need to be made before the new POBO is hired. Michael Conforto and Noah Syndergaard are free agents, and the team not only has to decide if they want to extend the qualifying offer, but they also need to see if they want to re-sign them. Marcus Stroman cannot be offered the qualifying offer, but the team does need to figure out if they want to keep him (they should).

This is a team who needs to fill vacancies at third base, and they need to complete their rotation. With Jeurys Familia and Aaron Loup being free agents, they need to build the bullpen. The team needs another outfielder, and they need to see if they are going to keep Javier Baez. There really is just too much to do for the Mets to wait for a new POBO.

Yes, you want a POBO making these decisions, but you can’t sit around and not make key organizational decisions until that person is hired. There is no sense not permitting the 2022 Mets to be as good as they can possibly be because they didn’t hire a POBO.

There is far too much at stake this offseason. Sitting around and doing nothing means the Mets will remain third best in the division, and in all likelihood, it puts them in a position where they are forced to rebuild. The problem is what’s here is a solid enough core to win a World Series. The Mets cannot sit on their hands and wait. Like it or not, Sandy Alderson has to take reins and operate as the POBO until one is hired.

No, it’s not what Mets fans necessarily wanted to hear, but it’s the truth of the matter. The sad, frustrating, and irritating truth.

Lack of Aaron Loup Extension Inexcusable

You’d be hard pressed to argue Aaron Loup wasn’t the best reliever in baseball in 2021. Over 65 appearances, he was 6-0 with a 0.95 ERA, 0.935 WHIP, 2.5 BB/9, and a 9.1 K/9. Looking at advanced stats, he had a 422 ERA+, 2.45 FIP, and a 2.8 WAR.

His ERA was the best among all relievers, and that was backed up by his FIP being the eighth best. Perhaps more importantly, Loup backed up an impressive 2020 campaign which saw him finally learn how to handle right-handed batters effectively.

In 2020, Loup had what was then a career best year. Part of that was limiting right-handed batters to a .192/.246/.423 batting line. There was reason for skepticism with right-handed batters hitting .264/.332/.424 off of him in his career up to that point. Well, in 2021, Loup proved the improvement was real limiting right-handed batters to a .211/.290/.257 batting line.

This is a huge development. This means Loup is no longer just a LOOGY. No, Loup is an effective late inning reliever. That puts his value off the charts in an era where pitchers face a three batter minimum. Unless you get the opportunity to bring in a left-handed reliever with two outs, you need a reliever who can at least hold their own against right-handed batters. That’s easier said that done, and it’s all the more complicated when you’re trying to get innings from a pitching staff over a 162 game season.

The Mets were quite lucky getting Loup for just $3 million in 2021. Obviously, even with Loup turning 34 at the end of the year, he is going to get a raise and a multi-year deal. Obviously, he has more than earned it. It should also be obvious the Mets who are still short in the bullpen need him, and it may also behoove Loup to stick with Jeremy Hefner, who helped him continue his progress as a two way reliever. On that front, Loup has said he wants to return to the Mets.

In many ways, that just puts the ball in the Mets court. The season has been over for over a week, and Loup’s comments were well over a month ago. Still, there has been no reports of any news on a Loup deal. The longer this goes on, the more there is the risk Loup actually hits free agency at the end of the month and has a team blow him out of the water with a deal the Mets would not be willing to match.

Yes, there are a lot of pressing matters with the Mets. They are searching for a new president of baseball operations. They need to make determinations on making qualifying offers for Michael Conforto and Noah Syndergaard. They are apparently trying to keep Luis Rojas in the organization. There is that and so much more.

However, as we have seen with Rojas and much of the coaching staff being dismissed, there are some things which absolutely need to be done now. Considering the state of the bullpen, his performance, and his desire to return, re-signing Loup is one of those things. Keeping him in the fold makes the job of the new president of baseball operations, whoever that will be, much easier when that hiring is official. It is long past time this deal gets done to allow the Mets to focus on other issues.

Mets need to re-sign Aaron Loup now.