The Mets intended to trade away Jay Bruce over the offseason in order to clear up the team payroll and the crowded outfield. With the Mets deciding not to trade Jay Bruce, it appears that Michael Conforto is the odd man out in the outfield. The Mets wanted to use Conforto as their everyday rightfielder in hopes that putting him in the lineup on a regular basis would help him with his confidence and allow him to recover from the sophomore slump he suffered last season. As it stands now, Conforto may be reduced to a bench role.
The Mets need to make sure they don’t mishandle the 23-year-old outfielder. Sending him to the minors doesn’t seem to be a realistic solution at this point, considering he hit .422 in 33 games for the Triple-A Las Vegas 51s in 2016. The best solution of getting regular playing time for Conforto may be to move him or Jay Bruce to first base. First baseman Lucas Duda is coming off an injury-plagued 2016 season, and there is some uncertainty to just how healthy and effective he may be in 2017. Having Bruce or Conforto available to play first base in case Duda is unable to play or struggling allows for Conforto to get extra playing time while also keeping the bat of Bruce in the lineup.
The Mets can also have Conforto take reps in center field during spring training. This would allow for an alternative offensive threat from that position if Curtis Granderson is hurt or struggling. He played 6 games at the position last season without making any errors, though he didn’t seem 100% comfortable at the position. Having a whole spring training to learn and practice more at this position may let him look and feel more comfortable.
If Conforto is on the bench, it may also be likely that he gets a lot of opportunities pinch-hitting. Just because he isn’t starting a game doesn’t mean he won’t see a lot of action. He adds depth to an already impressive Mets bench, providing power and likely getting many opportunities to get big hits and drive in runs. If Conforto starts to look impressive off the bench, the Mets may just start putting him in the starting lineup over other players who may not be hitting as well as him. Conforto and the rest of the Mets hitters need to remember Terry Collins’ mantra that the players that are hitting get to be in the strating lineup.