TODAY: The move is now official, which further sets the stage for an exciting early-season tilt between the Mets and Nationals. Conforto will play center and take the leadoff spot in the lineup.
10:12am: The Mets will bring outfielder Michael Conforto on their forthcoming road trip to Washington, D.C., Mike Puma of the New York Post reports on Twitter. While the precise plans aren’t yet clear, it seems likely that Conforto will be activated from the DL tomorrow, Puma notes.
This is the latest good news for a Mets organization that came into the 2017-18 offseason with numerous health questions. By and large, the uncertainties have resolved to this point in a positive manner, significantly improving the club’s outlook for the new season and beyond.
Conforto had suffered a worrying shoulder injury late in the 2017 campaign, undergoing surgery to repair a torn capsule. That procedure came with a roughly six-month recovery timeline, so in that regard it’s not altogether surprising that he is returning now. But the fact that he’s already geared up to spend almost all of the season in the majors surely represents the best-case scenario for an important young player.
Even as the Mets stumbled in 2017, Conforto turned in a monster year at the plate, slashing .279/.384/.555 and driving 27 balls out of the park in 440 plate appearances. Then came the news that the 25-year-old would join several other core players on the DL with significant injuries, clouding the team’s near-term outlook.
If Conforto can produce at anything approaching that level, he’ll return to a roster that increasingly seems primed to contend. The Mets signed multiple veteran pieces over the winter, bringing in outfielder Jay Bruce, third baseman Todd Frazier, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, infielder Jose Reyes, starter Jason Vargas, and reliever Anthony Swarzak. With the club’s high-end rotation generally showing promise this spring, there’s generally cause for optimism in Queens.
It’ll be interesting to see how the return of Conforto changes the team’s position-player rotation, which is now full of options. He joins Bruce and center fielder Brandon Nimmo as left-handed-hitting outfielders. Yoenis Cespedes will continue to get the bulk of the time in left, while Juan Lagares will presumably mostly see action against southpaws and in late-game situations. Though Bruce could in theory appear at first base to help alleviate the outfield logjam, Gonzalez also hits from the left side and is already accompanied by a right-handed bat in utilityman Wilmer Flores.