Michael Conforto has been awful this year. Yes, he made a game saving throw against the Braves and has had a handful of big hits. But his batting average has hovered around .200 for too long and he hasn’t been able to crack a .700 OPS.
Conforto’s struggles have been a microcosm of what the Mets problems have been all year, getting on base and scoring runs. Yes, they have needed starting pitching, but their staff, in general, has handled themselves solidly this year. The Mets defense, for the first time in years, has been a plus and the team has gotten clutch games out of all kinds of random players who weren’t even supposed to ride the bench this year.
But now those struggles have knocked them out of first place, as of August 6th, and they are one loss and one Braves win away from third place. If the team doesn’t right the ship soon, what started as a year where everyone’s hopes were very high, could crash and burn in an August and September of mediocrity.
Conforto could be a huge part of that. His steady bat has been missed this year and if he were to find himself over the next month, he could help the team find its legs again and fight it out with the Braves and Phillies for the N.L. East title.
A strong finish to the year would substantially help Conforto get paid. He’s a free agent this year and everyone thought he was not only a lock for the Mets, but was a lock to get a significant long term deal.
Yet the outfield is a conundrum in and of itself. The Mets might need a third baseman, but with the return of Robinson Cano next year, having two prospects at that position sitting in Double-A this year and with the recent acquisition of Javier Baez, the Mets might just fix that hole with Jeff McNeil, while dangling J.D. Davis in trade discussions. The underwhelming combo of James McCann and Tomas Nido seem to be keeping the catching position warm for Francisco Alvarez in a few years and the rest of the infield is locked in place behind Pete Alonso and Francisco Lindor.
But the outfield has lots of questions. Brandon Nimmo has improved drastically as a defender this year in centerfield, but is it growth or an anomaly? Dominic Smith has been at least league average as a defender in left field, but is that really a long term place for him, especially considering how very average he has been with the bat this year.
Considering the lack of run production, it appears as if the Mets need to add a bat somewhere this winter. Is that going to be Conforto? It’s hard to see that now, especially with Baez stating that he would sign with the Mets to play second base because of Lindor, McNeil’s versatility, Cano’s return and Nimmo’s growth as a defensive player. They could even sign the long rumored, but never traded for Kris Bryant, who has been a better player throughout his career than Conforto, has more positional versatility and is the same age. Considering the need for pitching, they could also take a slightly lesser route by signing someone like Eduardo Escobar and focus on bringing in more arms for the starting rotation..
In the end, Conforto is the one that will help the Mets make a determination. If he can find himself again and lead the Mets to a division title or further, Conforto will be New York royalty and should be able to pick his price. If he meanders his way to the end of the season, he will not be thrilled with the offers he receives and might be best taking the Mets qualifying offer (like Marcus Stroman did this year) and prove himself next year. Let’s all hope that the conundrum that has been Conforto this year, will find answers so that this promising Mets season doesn’t dissipate into disappointment.