Aug 18

Conforto Sits Tonight; Lineup Against Marlins

Every star has them, even blooming ones and Michael Conforto is no exception. After hitting three homers last weekend in Philadelphia, Conforto went 2-for-15 with five strikeouts in the four games against the Yankees.

“I definitely was excited for it. I don’t know if that played a part in [my struggles],’’ Conforto told reporters after Thursday night’s 7-5 loss to the Yankees.

“I took some tough at-bats. They pitched me well, they did some things to keep me off balance. But I wouldn’t chalk it up to anything more than that. It was a tough series for me at the plate, but I don’t think I was pressing or anything like that.’’

Such a slump merits a night off, and Conforto is out of the lineup for tonight’s game against Miami. Here’s the lineup:

Juan Lagares – CF

Asdrubal Cabrera – 2B

Yoenis Cespedes – LF

Wilmer Flores – 1B

Travis d’Arnaud – C

Amed Rosario – SS

Matt Reynolds – 3B

Brandon Nimmo – RF

Chris Flexen – RHP

Jul 14

Top Ten Mets’ Questions In Second Half

The Mets are home tonight for the start of a ten-game homestand that will determine the course of what is becoming a lost season.

While there’s little hope other than mathematics that they will be able to make a playoff push, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t significant questions that must be answered that could determine the direction of this franchise for years:

ALDERSON: Facing a lot of questions. (AP)

ALDERSON: Facing a lot of questions. (AP)

  1. Will they be buyers or sellers at the deadline?

A: The Mets can’t advertise that they are giving up on the year before their longest homestand of the season. Their two most valuable commodities are closer Addison Reed and outfielder Jay Bruce, both of whom will be free agents this winter. This would make them rentals to any team dealing with the Mets.

Other assets who would command less are Curtis Granderson, Jerry Blevins, Lucas Duda, Asdrubal Cabrera and Jose Reyes.

2. Will we see Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith?

A: That was one of the prevailing first-half questions. GM Sandy Alderson insists they aren’t ready, when in reality he was just waiting out the market. Rosario would mean the end of Reyes and Cabrera – assuming they aren’t dealt – and Smith would likely determine Duda’s future.

3. Will Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey pitch again this season?

A: Harvey has already begun throwing and Syndergaard is two weeks from starting, but neither have a definitive timetable to return. Syndergaard has a partially torn lat muscle and the Mets want to know what they have moving forward. Syndergaard likewise wants to know where he is physically, which would dictate his offseason conditioning and throwing program. Hopefully, this winter he won’t hit the weights too much.

As for Harvey, it could very well be his real value to the Mets is as trade bait. I have written numerous times Harvey is just biding his time before he’s a free agent after the 2018 season. He hinted as much in 2015 when his agent Scott Boras brought up Harvey’s innings ceiling. The Mets can explore trading Harvey now or they can hope he comes back strong in the second half and the first half in 2018 before shopping him next year. Either way, his time with the Mets is numbered.

4. Will Yoenis Cespedes stay healthy and become the hitter the Mets are paying all that money to?

A: He’s strong, but muscle bound, which makes him susceptible to muscle pulls. Watching Cespedes run, whether on the bases or in the outfield, and you have to think it is a matter of time before he’s hobbling again.

5. Will manager Terry Collins finally give the Mets’ All-Star, Michael Conforto enough playing time?

A: Assuming Bruce and Granderson aren’t traded, then Collins must either bench the latter or devise a playing rotation for the four.

6. Will Collins do the same for Wilmer Flores and T.J. Rivera?

A: Neither Flores nor Rivera are the physical prototypes Alderson craves, but they produce despite not having a designated position. Both can play anywhere in the infield save shortstop.

7. Speaking of infielders, what will happen with Neil Walker?

A: It wasn’t a bad gamble to give Walker a $17.2 million qualifying offer. After all, it was for only one year and the Mets believed they were competitors. Walker wants a multi-year deal, which the Mets would be foolish to give him, especially with the money owed Cespedes and David Wright.

8. Will we see Wright?

A: The Mets don’t have a timetable for Wright’s return following his back surgery. Thinking positively, if Wright could come back and play well, it could make the Mets’ offseason plans a bit smoother. If he doesn’t come back, will he retire?

9. What is Collins’ future with the Mets?

A: The major league’s oldest manager is in his last year with the Mets. He could retire, but after this season, the Mets could decide not to bring him back. There remains the question of whether he would want to return.

10. What is Alderson’s future with the Mets?

A:  He’ll be 70 this winter and you have to wonder how much longer he wants to do this, especially if the Mets opt to rebuild. The young, vaunted pitching staff has not made one uninterrupted cycle through the rotation together and there’s no guarantee it ever will. There is a multitude of other issues with the Mets and maybe Alderson doesn’t want to go the building process again.

Jun 24

Mets Should Honor Cabrera’s Demand And Move On

So much for Asdrubal Cabrera being the ultimate team player. That boat pretty much sailed when he told Mets manager Terry Collins that he wanted to be traded because he was unhappy about being moved to second.

Actually, the boat might have started leaving the harbor when he told Collins he didn’t want to play third.

CABRERA: Time to move on. (AP)

CABRERA: Time to move on. (AP)

Cabrera is a major league player who has previously played second base and if his manager wants him to play second base he should play it, and if he had a problem with the request he should address it in private and not on TV.

He has to be smarter.

Moaning about moving to a new position is one thing, but attempting to blackmail the Mets that he’d move if they pick up his extension is another.

Very tacky, and if the Mets were smart they’d acquiesce to Cabrera’s emotional demands and move on. His range is shot, he’s been hampered by injuries, and he’s not hitting … it is time to move on.

Collins’ request wasn’t outrageous, but it was misplaced. Late June isn’t time to experiment. Cabrera shouldn’t be at second, if anything, to get his bat in the line-up everyday Wilmer Flores should get that chance. If not Flores, then T.Y. Rivera, instead.

Cabrera had a nice run with the Mets, but it’s time for a chance at shortstop. And, Jose Reyes isn’t the answer, either.

Jun 17

Looking At Assets Mets Could Trade

The Mets didn’t go to the playoffs in each of the last two years by accident. They have some good players, several of whom could be welcomed by a contender.

After today’s 7-4 loss to the Nationals, the Mets are 11.5 games behind Washington, so regardless of the calendar, we might as well look at them as sellers at the deadline.

GSELLMAN: Could be valuable trade asset. (AP)

GSELLMAN: Could be valuable trade asset. (AP)

If they are so inclined, the Mets could have a fire sale for the ages.

When I look at today’s roster, I’m seeing four untouchables: Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz.

Everybody else can be had. Here’s who could be available:

PITCHERS

Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman have value and are currently in the rotation in large part because of injuries. They saved the Mets late last season and could have value to a contender.

Matt Harvey is currently on the disabled list but should be off before the deadline. His value is currently low, but a forward-looking team might take a nibble. However, trade talks for Harvey could grow in earnest if he stays healthy and fast forward to next summer.

A team simply looking for arms might shop in the Mets’ bullpen. The one who could draw considerable interest if they make him available is Addison Reed. Closers are valuable and Reed has proven himself under pressure. Let’s hope if they trade him it is to an American League team.

CATCHERS

For a team looking for a catcher, Rene Rivera or Travis d’Arnaud could draw interest.  The Mets can afford to trade either because they have Kevin Plawecki at Triple-A Las Vegas. For that matter, Plawecki could make for a backup.

INFIELDERS

Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera should be off the disabled list long before the trade deadline. If they are healthy they could help another team the way they did the Mets.

Both could be free agents after the season so they would be nothing more than a rental.

The Mets tried to trade him once, so would it be surprising if they tried to deal Wilmer Flores again? And, he’s a lot better than he was in 2015 so the return could worthwhile.

Jose Reyes has a manageable contract, but he’s not playing well. Would a change of scenery help? It’s worth a shot.

Lucas Duda, who is currently healthy, has the potential to bring back something in a trade. With Dominic Smith on the rise, the Mets might as well test the market for him.

OUTFIELDERS

Isn’t it ironic that GM Sandy Alderson desperately tried to trade Jay Bruce in the offseason, and he’s currently the most productive Met? Actually, they would be foolish to trade him because of Cespedes’ fragility, but he can bring back the most in a trade.

Curtis Granderson has been hot since May 1, but his overall miserable numbers are attributable to his slow April. But, Granderson brings a presence any contender would find valuable.

Should the Mets go the fire sale route it would mean finding a spot for Conforto and leaving him there. It means bringing up Smith and Amed Rosario. If they keep him, it means finding a spot for Flores.

It would mean starting over.

Jun 01

No Longer Reyes’ Time

It seems safe to say the story of Jose Reyes‘ return to the Mets has run its course. It would have been fun to see him play side-to-side with David Wright, but the latter’s injuries precluded that goodwill notion. But, that’s only a secondary story.

REYES: Nothing to shout about any more. (AP)

REYES: Nothing to shout about any more. (AP)

The real story would have been whether Reyes could remotely become a shell of his former self, which he hasn’t been.

If Reyes can’t play shortstop, which he does only when Asdrubal Cabrera gets a day off like today, then what’s the use? He’s adequate at third base at best (Wilmer Flores is better). If Reyes can’t lead off, get on base and make things happen with his legs, then he’s not being used properly.

Perhaps that will happen when Yoenis Cespedes returns from the disabled list, because it might mean dropping Michael Conforto to third, which is a greater run-producing slot. But, as of now, Conforto is a far better leadoff presence than Reyes.

Currently, Reyes is out of position defensively and in the batting order, and isn’t hitting at all. Reyes remains determined to hit the ball in the air, where he should concentrate on hitting the ball on the ground or with line drives.

Frankly, he’s wasting his God-given physical abilities because he’s not smart enough to change. His plate discipline has never been good and it hasn’t improved with age.

The Mets acquired Reyes because they thought he would spark their offense. He hasn’t done so, and if this team doesn’t turn it around soon, they would be better off trying to trade him – he has a reasonable contract – and bringing up Amed Rosario for the second half of the season.

It is time to move on.