Michael Conforto

Michael Conforto is not Miguel Cabrera but . . .

Michael Conforto has raked everywhere he has played, whether it was Oregon State University or the minor leagues.  He’s such an advanced prospect that Keith Law predicted before the season Conforto would be ready to be called up by August 2015.  When Keith Law has had a chance to back off a bit, he hasn’t; in fact, he has stated with the current state of the Mets, Conforto is their best option (yes, I linked to him answering my question on Twitter – it’s my blog).  While he acknowledged its a big jump, he did seem to believe Conforto could handle it.  Before dismissing this opinion, remember Keith Law is highly qualified to speak about baseball.

I bring this up because the Mets believe Michael Conforto  lacks minor league experience.  Right now, Conforto has played in 130 games and has had 574 plate appearances.  Specifically, he has played in 42 games with 182 plate appearance at Binghamton.  In Binghamton, the 22 year old Conforto has a triple slash line of .325/.407/.531.  No matter how you slice or dice it, these are great numbers.  These are Herculean when you keep in mind that he would be replacing the combined .169/.236/.344 of Nieuwenhuis and Mayberry.  Drastic times call for drastic actions.  Without a trade on the horizon, calling up Conforto would be the drastic move the Mets need to make.

It reminds me of 2003 when the Florida Marlins won the World Series.  Much like the Mets, the Marlins were mostly talented but not expected to really compete.  However, they fired their manager and replaced him with Jack McKeon.  While Trader Jack was the Marlins manager, one of the moves the Marlins made was to call up Miguel Cabrera.  The reason he was called-up?  The Marlins felt they “a little spark on the offensive side.”  At the time of his call-up, the 19 year old Miguel Cabrera had played in 69 AA games with a triple slash line of .365/.429/.609.  When he was called up, he was the clean-up hitter on the team.

Looking at the above-information, there are a few things you can conclude: (1) the Mets LF situation is dire; (2) Cabrera is better than Conforto; (3) the 2003 Marlins were better than the 2015 Mets; (4) you can call a young player up in a pressure filled situation; and (5) that young player can succeed.  Now, Keith Law never said Conforto was Miguel Cabrera, nor am I.  Seriously, who is?  Cabrera is an offensive machine.  He was so good he hit a HR off of Roger Clemens in the World Series.  The way the Mets offense is playing right now, the Mets won’t even get a chance to make the postseason.

I’m not asking him to be a “savior.”  I just want someone competent. At this point in the season, this shouldn’t even be an issued. Furthermore, the Mets have no one but themselves to blame. They built a roster with no depth. They failed to make a move earlier, even when we all knew it had to be made. Now, they have two choices: (1) roll the dice with Conforto or (2) average 2.83 runs per game and miss the playoffs. 

Lessons of Keith Hernandez’s Career

Keith Hernandez’s baseball career was one struggle after the next. First, it was his early hitting problems leading to a demotion. Then it was his clashes with Whitey Herzog leading to his trade to the Mets. Then it was the Pittsburgh drug trials where he was called to testify. However, despite all of this hardship, Keith Hernandez was the 1979 MVP, has won 11 Gold Gloves, and was part of two World Series Championship teams.

Now, I’m sure Keith Hernandez was devastated when he struggled in the majors and needed to be sent down. Keith does credit Ken Boyer with finally giving him the confidence he needed to succeed in the majors. However, Keith was a special major league talent. Overall, you could argue these early career struggles helped Keith deal with adversity. This was a good thing because he would face real adversity later in his career and he overcame it. So much so, in the eyes of many, Keith was a Hall of Fame caliber player.

I bring this up because one of the reasons the Mets state they do not want to put too much pressure on him and believe it would be devastating if he fails. As Keith Hernandez shows, if you’re a special player, you will have a successful career; no matter how much you struggle on your way there. In fact, you could argue the struggles help make you a better player (just look at Sandy Koufax’s early career). I’m not saying Conforto isn’t the answer. He may very well come up and struggle. With the Mets being where they are, they really can’t afford any more players to struggle offensively. You know what else they can’t afford? More of the same.

If Cuddyer can play, I’ll back off. Despite his struggles, Cuddyer is a major league caliber player, who is less than a season removed from being an effective major league hitter. However, if Cuddyer cannot be more than a PH/DH or he needs to be put on the DL, the Mets should call up Conforto. What’s the worst that could happen? What if he had a triple slash line of .169/.236/.344? Well guess what? That is the combined 2015 triple slash line of Kirk Nieuwenhuis and John Mayberry, Jr.. These are the players that will most likely platoon left field until Cuddyer is healthy or the Mets make a trade.

Therefore, if you are not willing or able to make a trade to improve left field, and Cuddyer isn’t responding to treatment, the Mets have little other choice than to call-up Conforto.

 

 

Realistic Immediate Moves

The Mets offense is officially offensive. As I tweeted last night, their runs per game is as follows:

April 4.35 runs per game

May 3.54 runs per game

June 2.96 runs per game

July 2.87 runs per game. 

This is unsustainable and had led to a -16 run differential. Things need to be fixed quickly to reverse these trends or the Mets run the risk of letting the season get away. For the purposes of this post, I’ll take the front office at face value and assume a trade can’t be competed just yet. Also, I’m not going to waste my breath here about bringing Conforto up to the majors (that’s for another time). The front office has made it clear he’s not getting called up. However, that does not mean something can’t be done now. 

First: Transfer Wright to the 60 day disabled list. He’s been gone for 60 days already. Not putting him on the 60 day DL is roster mismanagement. Once Wright is put on the 60 day DL, the Mets can call up someone not in the 40 man roster. 

Second: Call up Matt Reynolds (he’s not on the 40 man roster) and install him as the everyday SS. Let’s face it – since the day the Mets refused to resign Reyes, Tejada had been given several chances to become the everyday SS and failed. In this latest attempt, he had a triple slash line of .255/.322/.360 and a UZR of 0.8, i.e. he is bad at the plate and average in the field. CORRECTION: after posting this I learned Matt Reynolds is on the 7 day DL

Reynolds had a triple slash line of .270/.327/.410. I wasn’t able to find his UZR information, but scouts seem optimistic on his defense. If Reynolds minor league stats carry over, the Mets improve the SS position and the bench. If they don’t translate (the PCL is a hitter’s league after all), he had a cup of coffee. It’s not like his production would be so bad as to justify carrying Eric Campbell on the roster (side note: I’m sorry because Campbell works hard and really tries to help the team).  I know Reynolds isn’t on the 40 man roster, but so what?  Are you really afraid of losing 

Third: Outright Alex Torres and recall Logan Verrett. This would leave the Mets with only one lefty in the pen, Sean Gilmartin, who is not a LOOGY. However, Torres isn’t effective against lefties. Lately, he hadn’t been effective at all. In a small sample size, Verrett has been largely effective for the Mets. 

Fourth: Recall Dilson Herrera, bench Wilmer Flores, and release John Mayberry, Jr. In his last 10 games, Herrera is hitting .359 with a .390 OBP. He’s hot. Flores has been bad defensively and at the plate. However, he does have some pop in his bat and could be an effective PH. To make room for Herrera, Mayberry should be released. He just hasn’t hit. He’s taking up a valuable roster spot right now. 

Fifth: Call up Travis Taijeron and send down Danny Muno. I know I joked yesterday about Taijeron and the Mets need for more minor leaguers. However, this post is seeking drastic measures to help this team, which is best done by eliminating most of the bench. This season Taijeron’s triple slash is an eye opening .271/.395/.523. Why hasn’t he been called up?  Well he is not a highly thought of prospect having been drafted in the 11th round in 2011. Why send down Muno?  He’s bad at baseball. Travis Taijeron is not in the 40 man roster, but I am comfortable exposing Wilfredo Tovar to waivers. 

With all the machinations, the Mets have mostly retooled their bench (except Nieuwenhuis and Recker) and they find out what they have in Reynolds and Taijeron. Also, it creates a spot for with Nimmo or Conforto in AAA and possibly Gavin Cecchini as well. Maybe I’m wrong, but at least this is something. 

Bargain Basement Shopping

According to Marc Carig of Newsday, it seems like the Mets will not go for the available top shelf outfielders, but rather seek out Will Venable or Gerardo Parra. Similar to Carlos Gomez and Justin Upton, their contracts expire at the end of the year.

However, unlike Upton and Gomez, Venable and Parra will most likely not receive a qualifying offer. This is very important because of the prospect price. Besides being better players, Upton and Gomez have a higher price tag because if the Padres and Brewers respectively offer them a qualifying offer, then the team that signs them forfeits their first round draft pick (second round for 10 worst teams in baseball). Therefore, if you want Upton or Gomez, you need to offer first round talent for a trade to even make sense. First round talent is equivalent to Matz, Conforto, Thor, and pretty much every player you don’t want the Mets to trade.

So that leaves us to decide whether Venable or Parra is the  better player. For my money, I’d rather have Parra. First and foremost, he’s got a great glove. I know the Mets need offense, but with Lagares’ problems on offense and his injury, the Mets could use Parra to play left or center. I know Venable plays center for the Padres, but that is more akin to the Mets playing Cedeno and Burnitz in center in 2003, i.e. poor roster construction rather than capability.

On top of the offense, Parra rates as a better bat. Parra has a triple slash line of .311/.345/.502 to Venable’s .258/.328/.408. I know Miller Park is a hitter’s park and Petco is a pitcher’s park, but Parra leads in OPS+ (130 to 108). For comparison, the Mets best offensive weapon this season, let alone outfielder is Granderson with .247/.344/.429 (OPS+ of 115).

So if the Mets make a move, Parra would be the prudent move. However, even if the Mets get him for a reasonable price, that still leaves holes at SS, LOOGY, and the bench. That’s why I again reiterate, there are too many moves that need to be made now. It is better to sit pat and maybe wait to see what is there in August.