Any way you slice it, it was a disastrous weekend for the New York Mets in St. Petersburg, Florida.
On top of a three-game sweep at the hands of the Rays, outfielder Michael Conforto and infielder Jeff McNeil left Sunday’s game with apparent hamstring injuries.
While McNeil’s loss is big, the Mets depth in the infield has stayed relatively healthy, and there is not as much of a need there right now. Sure, we’re going to see a lot of Jonathan Villar and Jose Peraza in the coming week, but the current list of healthy options to fill in Conforto’s spot in the outfield is not clear at all.
Albert Almora is currently on the IL, and there is really no timetable as to when he will return. Brandon Nimmo has been nursing an injury and had a setback this weekend in Syracuse.
This has left the Mets in a perplexing spot; they need some outfielders, and they need them FAST.
It’s so bad that team owner Steve Cohen tweeted out Sunday night that the Mets are in a ‘tough stretch.’ This makes me believe that Conforto’s injury is going to be a long one.
We are banged up here . It’s going to be a tough stretch here . We will get through this . Keep the faith
— Steven Cohen (@StevenACohen2) May 17, 2021
With that, I will look at some of the Mets’ options for a long-term answer in the right field. Some may be ridiculous, but we want to examine all the options for the Mets moving forward.
We will look at both the internal and external candidates.
That’s right, Jonathan Villar. Yes. I know Villar is currently playing third base for the injured J.D. Davis. While the prognosis is still grim on Davis coming back within the next couple of days, Villar could move to the outfield in a pinch if the Mets need him to.
Villar has limited outfield experience, having played 15 games in the outfield early in his career. It’s unlikely, but the option is there for the Mets to use Villar. He has the speed and the versatility that could help the Mets and allow them to call up an infielder (Brandon Drury comes to mind) who is more major league ready than going with an outfielder who is not.
Another option to replace Conforto is Jake Hager. Hager is currently on the 26-man roster and subbed for Conforto on Sunday when he had to leave the game. He made his Major League debut over the weekend in Tampa Bay, but he is more of an infielder than an outfielder. He has only played eight career games in the outfield during his ten-year minor-league career. Defensively, he could be a liability, and long-term, he may not be the best option out there.
However, his bat is probably the most solid of all the remaining internal candidates. That could be key for his standing in this situation.
Another option to play right field is outfielder Khalil Lee. Lee was acquired in a trade over the off-season with the Kansas City Royals. It was part of a three-team trade with the Royals, the Boston Red Sox, and the New York Mets. The Mets sent minor-league pitcher Josh Winckowski to the Red Sox in the deal.
Lee was on the roster earlier in the week but never got in a game. He was sent back down on Thursday, which may prevent him from being called up for another ten days. Lee is 22 years old and was a 3rd round draft choice of the Royals in the 2016 MLB draft. While Lee’s defense may be ready for major league action, his bat may not be. He’s just a .256 career hitter in the minor leagues.
He does have some speed, having stolen 53 bases in AA Northwest Arkansas in 2018. He could be a unique option, but one the Mets may have some hesitation about in the long term due to his inexperience and lack of offense.
Another option the Mets could go is calling up outfielder Mason Williams from Syracuse. Williams was once a top prospect in the Yankees organization, but he never really materialized. He is now 29 years old and has seen some big-league action playing 97 games in the bigs over the last six years with the Yankees, Reds, and Orioles. In 252 plate appearances, he has a .272 career batting average with 3 home runs and 14 RBIs. His career OPS is .679.
Williams has played all over the outfield in his career and is not on the 40-man roster. That would require the Mets to make a roster move, and while Williams gives the Mets some outfield flexibility, a move on the 40-man roster may not be in the cards for someone the organization may not have long-term plans for.
It’s a similar situation for Johneshwy Fargas. Fargas is a 26-year-old player who the San Francisco Giants drafted in the 11th round in the 2013 draft. He spent his first six seasons in the minors in the Giants system, playing 127 games for the AA Richmond Flying Squirrels in 2019.
Fargas is a speedy outfielder who has 240 stolen bases in his minor league career. He has played primarily as a center fielder and played all three outfield positions in his career. His bat is a question, though, as he is just a .255 career hitter in his minor leagues.
One option left off the list is outfielder Mallex Smith whom the Mets signed him to a minor league deal in the off-season. He has yet to play a minor league game this year and doesn’t appear to be ready for action just yet. Smith has some major league time with the Braves, Rays, and Mariners over the last five years. It is unclear when he will return, and he could be an option later in the year, but he is not an option right now.
That’s about it for the internal options, now let’s look at some other options the Mets could go.
If Conforto is out for a long time, the Mets may have to get creative.
The current internal options all have their flaws, and if the Mets want to compete for the National League East title, external options may have to be considered.
I could still see the Mets making a trade for some other players, but here are some of the external options for the Mets to explore.
Blackmon is currently on the Colorado Rockies and would have to be acquired via a trade. He has spent his entire career with the team and is a solid major league player. Initially, it may seem that the Mets may have to move some significant pieces to get him via trade, something they may not have due to their depleted farm system.
However, the Rockies are out of it. They currently sit last in the NL West with a record of 15-25 and are 9 games back of the division lead. They traded their top player Nolan Arenado during the off-season and may just be looking to shed some payroll. Blackmon is 34 years old and will be 35 in July. He is owed a lot of money over the next couple of years. He is due to make $21 million in 2021. He has a $21 million player option in 2022 and a $10 million player option for 2023. Yet, he is a career .302 hitter and has a career .860 OPS.
If the Rockies are willing to shed salary, the Mets could be a player if owner Steve Cohen is willing to go over the luxury tax. The Mets may not see the need to bring in a player like Blackmon, but with Conforto’s long-term future still up in the air and his injury history, Blackmon may be an intriguing option to consider.
If the price for Blackmon is too steep for the team and they are not happy with their internal options, there are a few free agents that are still out there that the Mets could take a flier on to help them recover from the Conforto injury.
Yes, I remember the last six seasons, and I know Cespedes is a guy who has a history of injury issues, but he’s available and brings an instant power bat to the lineup. Whether or not he can play in the outfield over an extended period of time needs to be answered, but Sandy Alderson brought him into this team in 2015 and signed him to the four-year contract extension that followed. Since then, a lot has happened, but is a Cespedes reunion out of the question if the Mets get desperate enough?
Another interesting free agent option is Yasiel Puig. Puig brings baggage of his own, and we know the positives and negatives that come with him. A nice player, power bat, but he tends to wear out his welcome in the clubhouse. He also was recently accused of sexual assault, something that he has denied.
He recently signed a contract to play in Mexico, but his agent said he was trying to sign back on with a major league team during the offseason. Nothing materialized, but with the rash of injuries, the Mets have Puig could be someone the Mets want to entertain.
Another option for the Mets is Matt Kemp. Kemp played in the majors in 2020 with the Colorado Rockies, where he hit .239 with six homers and 21 RBIs. He was strictly as a DH last year but played the outfield for Reds in 2019.
There’s no question the superstar Kemp was in his prime is long gone, but if the Mets believe there is anything left in the tank, they could take a flier on him as well.
Keep in Mind
None of these options are anything that the fan base would be or should be (except Blackmon) excited about, but the Mets need to find a solution. Hamstrings are tricky, and I would not be surprised not to see Conforto until the beginning of July. That’s a lot of baseball games not to have a solid solution in right field.
The Mets need to have as many options as possible. They will eventually get Albert Almora back, but who knows when we will see him after the neck injury he suffered after crashing into a wall last week.
In the end, the Mets need to add some pieces to the outfield and fast.
Don’t be surprised to see one or more of the players listed above dawn a Mets uniform real soon.
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