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Michael Conforto Rumors
The Mets shut out the Rockies last night by a 4-0 score, while the Nationals got shut out themselves, dropping a 5-0 result to Zack Greinke and the Dodgers. Thanks to that pair of blankings, the Mets now hold a 2.5-game lead over Washington for first place in the NL East. Here’s the latest from Citi Field…
- Matt Harvey‘s eight shutout innings fueled Tuesday’s victory, though now that the ace righty has 148 IP for the season, his innings limit is beginning to loom large. The Mets have frequently stated that Harvey will be capped at around 185-190 innings this season, his first since undergoing Tommy John surgery in October 2013. “I will tell you this: We are going to do everything in our power to keep from shutting this guy down — any of those guys down,” Mets manager Terry Collins said, told reporters, including MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo. “He’s on pace to get to his [limit] fast….If we get into September to where we’ve got to have the game Matt Harvey pitches, he’s going to pitch it. But that’s why we’ve got to make sure he’s OK to do that.” The Mets will revisit a six-man rotation once Steven Matz returns from the DL in September.
- Michael Cuddyer has gone from key offseason acquisition to only a part-time player, Newsday’s David Lennon writes, as the Mets are committed to giving Michael Conforto regular at-bats. Cuddyer’s season-long struggles at the plate and his recent DL stint have opened the door for Conforto to take playing time, at least against right-handed pitching.
- The Mets optioned catcher Kevin Plawecki to Triple-A, calling up Anthony Recker in a corresponding move. Now that Travis d’Arnaud is fully healthy, Plawecki is going back to the minors to receive everyday playing time until the rosters expand on September 1. As ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin calculates, Plawecki should amass 147 days of Major League service time for 2015 (his rookie season). Assuming Plawecki is back on the roster in 2016 and beyond, he could receive an extra year of arbitration eligibility as a Super Two player in two seasons’ time, given how two years and 147 days is beyond any of the last seven Super Two cutoffs.
- Jose Reyes tells Tim Rohan of the New York Times that he would like to eventually return to the Mets to wind up his career. “I’d love to — not now, because I have two more years on my deal. But I’d love to finish my career here in New York. I have some great memories here,” Reyes said. The Rockies shortstop makes his offseason home in Long Island.
The Mets were pushing to deal for Brewers outfielder Gerardo Parra up until last night, Marc Carig of Newsday reports on Twitter, building upon a prior report from Andy Martino of the New York Daily News (via Twitter). When the deal could not be made, per the reports, the club instead went ahead and promoted Michael Conforto to take the roster spot of the DL’ed Michael Cuddyer. (Note that a team source denies the report to ESPN.com’s Adam Rubin, on Twitter.)
It’s not clear whether the two teams are still in talks, though Mets GM Sandy Alderson made clear earlier today that adding Conforto does not necessarily change the team’s shopping plans (via Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com). “This is not indicative of how aggressive or less aggressive we’re going to be,” Alderson said. “This is somewhat independent.”
Certainly, the equation has not changed much in the interim, so continued talks would seem to make sense. Parra has put up a somewhat uncharacteristically excellent .317/.355/.510 slash this year, creating broad interest in his services. That may not be sustainable, but he’s always been a solid hitter with a top-notch defensive reputation. For the Mets, presumably, Parra would step into the everyday lineup now and serve as an active fourth outfielder once Cuddyer returns.
One other name worth at least watching as the Mets look to get help to a sagging offense is Josh Reddick of the Athletics. Martino says that the club inquired, but was not given the impression that Oakland was too keen to deal him. Reddick fits roughly the same profile as Parra: both have top-regarded gloves, good left-handed bats, and playing at peak form this season. But Reddick has a higher offensive ceiling, is cheaper (in terms of 2015 salary), and comes with another season of control.
It remains to be seen how much flexibility New York truly has in structuring a deal. While insurance money relating to David Wright‘s extended absence won’t free baseball ops resources, Alderson said that the team can take on some salary. (Via Mike Vorkunov of NJ.com, Twitter links.)
Mets fans have been clamoring for a Conforto promotion for quite some time as they’ve watched the big league offense struggle tremendously to score runs in support of an excellent young pitching staff. Conforto, the 10th overall pick in the 2014 draft, has been moved through the minor leagues at a very cautious rate — perhaps unnecessarily cautious in the eyes of many. He started out in short-season Class-A despite being one of the top college hitters in the 2014 draft, and he’s only reached Double-A as a result of the slow-paced track on which he has been placed.
Conforto has, however, hit at every level and should provide a boost to the Mets’ lineup. He’s currently batting .312/.396/.503 with five homers, 12 doubles and three triples in 197 plate appearances at Double-A Binghmaton. Baseball America rated him as the game’s No. 14 prospect in the game on their midseason update, while ESPN’s Keith Law ranked Conforto 12th, writing that he has a chance to be the type of hitter who posts .400 OBPs and hits 20-plus homers in the Majors.
The 53 runs scored by the Mets this month is tied for 29th in all of Major League Baseball, and outfield production has been a problem for the team all season. The Mets have seen their offensive output hindered by injuries to David Wright, Travis d’Arnaud and Daniel Murphy, as those three hitters — three of the team’s most potent bats — have spent large amounts of time on the disabled list. Murphy has been limited to 73 games, while d’Arnaud and Wright have barely played at all. Lucas Duda, expected to be one of the team’s most productive bats, has seen his offense tank since early June.
The result has been a collective .233/.298/.357 batting line for the Mets on the season. That translates to a wRC+ of 85, which ranks 28th in all of baseball. Conforto, then, doesn’t need to hit like a superstar in order to bolster the lineup; producing even like an average or above-average regular, as teammate Curtis Granderson has done, would be a notable boost to the team’s postseason chances.
The Mets remain on the hunt for offensive upgrades via the trade market, with recent reports indicating that adding an outfield bat that is controlled beyond the 2015 season is a priority for the team. A fast start for Conforto could shift that focus elsewhere, but for the time being, the promotion was the quickest fix available.
If Conforto’s in the Majors to stay, he’ll accrue 74 days of big league service time this year, leaving him well short of Super Two designation. That would place him on pace to be eligible for arbitration following the 2018 season and eligible for free agency upon completion of the 2021 campaign.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Here’s the latest out of baseball’s eastern divisions:
- New York remains in contact with the Athletics on the versatile Ben Zobrist, Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News reports. The fit is obvious, and the teams have long said to be in contact, but Ackert says that things have progressed to the point that Oakland has made a specific prospect ask. Nevertheless, no deal is imminent, per the report.
- The Mets are loath to part with outfielder Michael Conforto or shortstop Amed Rosario to add a bat, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com hears (Twitter link), echoing a recent report. But the team is still certainly after a hitter, as Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com tweets that Michael Cuddyer‘s injury situation has led to a “seismic shift” in the ballclub’s deadline approach. We had heard earlier in the summer that the team was interested in offense even before Cuddyer’s knee troubles worsened, but at the time the focus seemed more on the infield.
- Lefty Josh Smoker has opened eyes in the Mets organization, Mike Puma of the New York Post notes on Twitter. The 26-year-old was a first-round pick of the Nationals, but never gained much traction. Now, he’s said to be bringing big heat at Double-A and could be a candidate to see time in the New York pen.
- The Blue Jays are primarily focused on adding a starter and are not presently discussing reliever Jonathan Papelbon with the Phillies, Heyman adds on Twitter. It could be that Toronto is allowing the development of its rotation plans drive the bus on whether (and how) it acts on the relief market.
- The Red Sox have already made some moves focused on giving MLB time to younger players, notes Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald, who argues that Boston ought to do more of the same the rest of the way. One forward-looking deadline move, says Lauber, would be to resume pursuit of Cole Hamels, who per the report would not be inclined to trigger his no-trade clause just because an acquiring team is not in contention.
- Rays lefty Drew Smyly is making good on reports indicating that he’d try to throw again, as Josh Vitale of the Charlotte Sun reports (Twitter links). After emerging from a 40-pitch live BP feeling well, Smyly says he’s hopeful of beginning a rehab stint soon. It remains to be seen how long he’ll take to work back to the big leagues, particularly with Tampa Bay likely to exercise quite a bit of caution with an important asset.
The Mets are currently squared off with the Nationals in a key mid-season match-up. Despite entering the series just two games back in the division, New York faces a lot of scrutiny due to its scuffling offense.
Here’s the latest:
- Michael Cuddyer‘s knee problems are an increasing concern for the Mets, as Marc Carig of Newsday reports. If one final effort at managing the pain proves unsuccessful, Cuddyer will likely hit the DL. An extended absence from the club’s major offseason acquisition would only increase the team’s already pressing need for offense.
- Of course, any missed time from Cuddyer will also increase calls for the team to promote well-regarded outfield prospect Michael Conforto. But as Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports, that move remains unlikely. There is at least some consideration being given to a call-up, but the club does not believe that the second-year professional is the answer it is looking for right now. As Mike Puma of the New York Post explains on Twitter, the lack of viable alternatives at the Triple-A level means it is necessary to entertain the thought if Cuddyer has to go on the DL.
- All said, it seems as if GM Sandy Alderson is looking more for complimentary pieces than “one transformational bat,” according to Carig (Twitter links). That is reflected, to some extent, in the identity of the young players that internal and external executives see as being viable trade pieces. Per Carig, New York has little stomach for moving its most prized pre-MLB position talent (Conforto and shortstop Amed Rosario), but might be willing to deal well-regarded youngsters (and top-ten MLB.com organizational prospects) Brandon Nimmo, Gavin Cecchini, Jhoan Urena, and Matt Reynolds (among others).
- There are any number of outfielders that could be available to the Mets, but Joel Sherman of the New York Post says that one name to consider is Ryan Raburn of the Indians. Per Sherman, Cleveland is interested in picking up younger bats if it moves Raburn and/or fellow part-time Indians outfielder David Murphy. While the Mets prefer the idea of adding a Ben Zobrist-type super-utility player or a left-handed-hitting player capable of manning center — Sherman mentions Gerardo Parra — Raburn may be a more practicable target given his manageable salary and likely reasonable prospect cost.
The Mets’ inaction this season has been “inexplicable,” ESPN’s Buster Olney writes. The Mets have failed to address an injury-ravaged lineup, thus leaving Lucas Duda and an excellent rotation hanging out to dry. As a result, the Mets have scored only 25 runs total since June 16. As Olney points out, of course, there isn’t much happening on the trade market right now, with several weeks to go before the deadline and not many teams yet willing to pull the plugs on their seasons. But Olney suggests the Mets could at least find a depth-type player who might help, much as the Blue Jays did with Chris Colabello. They could also find help by being willing to take on a chunk of a bad contract. The team’s problem isn’t manager Terry Collins, Olney writes — it’s complacency. Here’s more from the Mets.
- The Mets have decided not to promote top prospect Michael Conforto despite their need for offense, MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo writes. “At this point, he’s still in Binghamton and I would expect him to be over the near-term,” says GM Sandy Alderson. The Mets might be right not to see Conforto as a short-term fix for their sagging offense — he’s hitting .333/.414/.521 with Double-A Binghamton, but in only 133 plate appearances, and those represent his only experience in the high minors.
- Injured star David Wright (spinal stenosis) is hopeful he’ll be able to return to action this season, Adam Rubin of ESPN New York writes. “We’re getting down to the second half of the season now, and I feel like I’ve got one shot to get this thing right,” Wright says. Standing upright no longer causes him discomfort, although he has not yet begun running, and he will probably need several weeks to get back into baseball activities before he can return.
The Nationals have yet to play to expectations and are dealing with several injury and performance issues, as Jonah Keri of Grantland explains (in addition to breaking down several other clubs, particularly the A’s, Rays, and Pirates). In terms of potential deadline moves, the area that Keri highlights as needing improvement is first base. As he explains, Ryan Zimmerman has not performed at the plate and is now in the midst of a DL stint of indeterminate length as he deals with plantar fasciitis. Keri suggests that the Nats could go after a rental such as Adam Lind, reserving longer-term questions for the future. From my perspective, adding a left-handed power bat makes a good deal of sense: such a player could boost the team’s production now while ultimately serving as a bench bat and/or platoon mate for Zimmerman, depending upon how things progress, while also supplying some injury insurance.
Here’s more from the NL East:
- Even as the Mets continue to try to practice responsible roster-building, the club risks legitimate criticism if it can’t find a way to improve its chances while the Nationals look vulnerable, Joel Sherman of the New York Post suggests. There are plenty of possibilities for bold action, of course, but Sherman says not to expect a change of manager. The promotion of young lefty Steven Matz is not the panacea some might think, says Sherman, but could make a difference. (From my perspective, that still seems the single most likely move to inject talent onto the big league roster.) As for trades, Sherman writes that the club may need to get creative, but should be prepared to turn in some of its resources (payroll & prospects) to make something happen.
- Of course, some have suggested that the Mets really ought to be taking a look at 2014 first-round draft pick Michael Conforto to help boost the team’s sagging offense. But the club is “not considering” that move at this time, Mike Puma of the New York Post tweets. That’s probably not too surprising, really. Conforto is still only 22 and has less than a full season of professional plate appearances on his resume. He has been raking at Double-A, but has not even seen 100 turns at bat at that level and was producing solid but hardly overwhelming numbers at High-A.
- If the Phillies are serious about building an organization that can succeed in the long run, then they should open their upper management search up broadly before making a decision, writes David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News. President Pat Gillick was never expected to stay at the helm of the organization for very long, and it seems that one key function of his office is to find a more permanent replacement. One name that has come up, of course, is former Orioles, Cubs, and Twins executive Andy MacPhail. Murphy says that MacPhail may or may not be the best person to take over, but the club ought to make that determination through a process that includes “a thorough examination of other top candidates throughout the sport.”
- Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg says he is aware of Chase Utley‘s vesting clause terms but won’t allow it to dictate his lineups, as Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News reports. The struggling veteran has lost time to Cesar Hernandez recently. Utley will be guaranteed $15MM next year if he reaches 500 plate appearances this season. He’s just one PA shy of the halfway mark, easily putting him on pace. But as things stand — Utley is slashing .179/.257/.275, and his hard contact and line drive rates have plummeted — the organization would be amply justified to curb his playing time.
- The Braves are not likely to sell off any significant pieces at the deadline, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman writes in response to a fan question, though they could ship out a few one-year veterans if they fall well out of the picture. Atlanta could still be a limited buyer, Bowman suggests, with the team potentially looking to bolster its bullpen.
The Mets have officially announced the signing of first-round pick Michael Conforto (Twitter link). The Scott Boras client had previously been reported to have agreed to terms at a $2.97MM bonus (per MLB.com’s Jim Callis), but reports over the past few weeks indicated that the two sides were hung up on a few non-financial details.
All of that is worked out now, and Conforto can get a start on his professional career. An outfielder out of Oregon State, he was widely considered to be one of the best bats in the draft. Conforto ranked as the No. 8 prospect in this draft by ESPN’s Keith Law and Baseball America while Jonathan Mayo and Callis of MLB.com ranked him 17th.
Conforto batted a whopping .345/.504/.547 with seven homers, 16 doubles and a pair of triples in 59 games for Oregon State in 2014 — his junior season. Law praised Conforto’s power to his pull side, also noting that he works counts well and is able to hit the ball to the opposite field. Law expressed concerns about Conforto’s defense, however, questioning his range and his throwing arm in left field. BA offered a bit of a different take, writing that he improved his previously fringy defense and is now adequate, and their scouting report projected him as a 20-25 homer hitter down the road. MLB.com shared some of the defensive concerns and worried that he might swing and miss too much, however that scouting report also projected him to hit 25-plus homers with regularity at his peak.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Mets have yet to determine whether they’re buyers or sellers at this year’s trade deadline, GM Sandy Alderson tells Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The next 10 to 12 days will be vital in making that assessment, Alderson said, but he made it clear that regardless of the way they go, the team isn’t likely to deal left-hander Jon Niese. Given the fact that the Mets can control Niese, who has a 2.88 ERA in 103 innings, through 2018, that stance isn’t entirely surprising. Niese is guaranteed $16.5MM through the 2016 season, and his contract contains a $10MM club option for 2017 and an $11MM club option for 2018. That would be tremendously difficult to part with, though it would also be highly appealing to other clubs and carry a great deal of trade value.
More from Heyman and other reporters on the Mets…
- From that same piece, Alderson notes that Daniel Murphy‘s name has come up “periodically” in trade talks. Heyman suggests that Alderson’s statement includes the mention of a Murphy in trade that would net Jonathan Villar and others, which appeared in the recent Astros’ data leak. Heyman adds that Alderson didn’t deny anything that was mentioned in those notes.
- In a second piece, Heyman reports that the Mets’ deal with top pick Michael Conforto still isn’t quite done. Alderson tells Heyman that the two sides are still working out three or four mostly non-financial clauses. The two sides remain in agreement on a $2.97MM signing bonus.
- While he was once thought to be on the Matt Harvey/Zack Wheeler summer promotion track, top prospect Noah Syndergaard now might not even be called up in 2014 at all, manager Terry Collins told reporters yesterday (including Mike Puma of the New York Post). One club source told Puma that team officials have struggled to get a read on Syndergaard, and some feel he would benefit from a full year at Triple-A. Andy Martino of the New York Daily News wrote earlier today that a club official recently told him Syndergaard is “not even on our radar” at this point.
- Martino also tweets that Alderson recently lamented the team’s run differential (a point he touched on with Heyman as well) but firmly stated that he doesn’t feel Collins is the cause for that issue.
- The Mets announced the signings of 11 international free agents today, and MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo runs down the list, noting that Venezuelan shortstops Yoel Romero and Edgardo Fermin received respective bonuses of $300K and $250K. None of the 11 signed by the Mets ranked among the Top 30 lists compiled by MLB.com and Baseball America.
After the Reds’ agreement with Alex Blandino yesterday, 25 of this year’s 34 first-round picks have signed or at least agreed to terms on their signing bonus. Here are some of the latest draft-related (non-signing) news items from around the league…
- As noted by Baseball America earlier this week, the White Sox have $6.58MM that they can spend on top pick Carlos Rodon without losing future draft picks (Twitter link). Chicago’s situation with Rodon is somewhat similar to the one the Mariners faced with Alex Jackson, with whom they agreed to terms earlier this week. Both Rodon and Jackson are advised by Scott Boras, and both teams signed picks 2-10 prior to dealing with their first-rounder. Because picks beyond the 10th round don’t count against a team’s bonus pool (unless a team gives a bonus of more than $100K in rounds 11-40), that basically places a firm limit on what type of bonus they can offer. If anything, Jackson may have had more leverage as a high school player. MLB.com’s Jim Callis recently noted that he fully expects Chicago to sign Rodon, though he added that the Sox haven’t inked a notable Boras draftee since Alex Fernandez back in 1990 (Twitter links).
- MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro writes that the Marlins considered Tyler Kolek the top player in this year’s draft, even over No. 1 overall pick Brady Aiken. Had Miami selected first overall, they’d still have taken Kolek, Frisaro reports. Had Houston taken Kolek, however, Aiken was No. 2 on their board.
- While the Mets and top pick Michael Conforto are in agreement on a signing bonus in the range of $2.987MM, as reported earlier in the week, there does appear to be a bit of work left to do before the deal becomes official, writes Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. It isn’t clear exactly what the holdup is at this time, he adds, stating that it could be an issue of language within the contract. Whatever the issue, his signing bonus doesn’t appear to be a factor anymore.
- Cardinals third-rounder Trevor Megill has decided to return to college for his senior season rather than sign with St. Louis, reports Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish. Megill’s draft stock plummeted after he required Tommy John prior to his junior season at Loyola Marymount. MLB.com’s Jen Langosch noted recently that Megill would likely require an over-slot bonus or would return for his senior year.