Michael Conforto is returning to the Mets and with him comes a dilemma for manager Terry Collins on how to handle his outfield. Collins said he couldn’t foresee Conforto and Brandon Nimmo playing in the same outfield. That choice was resolved with Nimmo being sent down.
Conforto, who played 16 games for Triple-A Las Vegas, but only four in right field. That could present a problem, because earlier in the day Collins said Yoenis Cespedes would play left field, which was Conforto’s position.
Cespedes, who misplayed a fly ball while playing center field that lead to his strained right quad, stated a preference to play left the remainder of the season, where he should have been playing all along.
Had the Mets played him in left, they could have given Conforto reps in right and center field during spring training.
When Conforto was optioned, Collins said he would return when he regained his stroke – which he did batting .344 (21-for-61) with three homers and 15 RBI – and when that happened he would play.
Where and how often are to be determined.
Since Juan Lagares has played well, presumably he’ll get most of the time in center. That would lead to speculation Conforto and Curtis Granderson – both left-handed hitters – would share right field.
However, Granderson, who homered in Sunday’ 5-0 victory over Philadelphia, has also been hot lately. What becomes of him? Granderson has one more year on his contract. If the Mets go from buyers to sellers in the next two weeks, could they shop Granderson?
Presuming Cespedes opts out after this season, the Mets’ long-range outfield figures to be Conforto, Nimmo and Lagares. However, Nimmo said he hopes to primarily play center at Las Vegas, which immediately creates speculation the Mets could be thinking about dealing Lagares at the deadline.
“I know I have a lot to work on, and I can still do that in Triple-A,” Nimmo told reporters in Philly. “I think right now they feel like Conforto can really help out the team. I think that he can, too. I hope that he’s healthy and good to go and can help this team and spur them on to a nice winning streak.”
Should Lagares be traded and Cespedes opts out, the Mets could have a significant void next season. If they keep Lagares, the Mets could be privately hoping Cespedes opts out.
Conforto’s return raises questions about the composition of the Mets’ outfield in the second half and beyond.
The Mets’ other storylines from Sunday are:
DE GROM’S BRILLIANCE: It has been an up-and-down season for Jacob deGrom, but he’s never been better than Sunday when he threw a one-hit shutout. Pitching on ten days rest after eschewing an All-Star appearance, deGrom produced the best start of his career, a one-hit, 5-0 gem.
“Every time you go out there you want to go as long as you can,” deGrom told SNY. “It was definitely fun. Hopefully, I’ll have many more.”
Everything worked for deGrom, especially his change-up, which he said was the product of improved mechanics that prevented him from flying open with his delivery. Perhaps most of all, deGrom attributed today to the rest from skipping the All-Star Game.
“Just getting a break after throwing every five days,” deGrom said. “You start to feel things and I was definitely worn out. It was needed.”
In the first half, deGrom had a stretch of 10 starts without a victory and an offense that gave him three runs in June. However, he is 3-0 with a 0.93 ERA in his last three starts, walking five against 27 strikeouts over 29 innings.
POWER RESURFACES: Much was made of the Mets’ power in the first half, and they got homers from Granderson and Asdrubal Cabrera.
Granderson has one of the strangest stat lines with just 28 RBI to go along with his 16 homers. Collins said he likes Granderson batting second, which presumably is where he’ll stay. But, he’s said that before.
For Cabrera, it was his 13th homer, a two-run drive in the eighth that gave deGrom a comfortable cushion to close out the game.