A return to National League East play has done wonders for the Mets, following a tough 3-11 mid-May stretch that saw them fall out of first place. The Mets have three more games scheduled against an NL East foe, the Marlins, at Citi Field this weekend, before heading out West for a seven-game swing.
But first, an off-day provides a chance for some questions and answers:
I'm wondering what the hesitation is with promoting Matt Reynolds. I understand Wilmer Flores has provided a bit of pop at shortstop, but he often makes mistakes in the field that cost the team in a big way; often, it's stuff that doesn't show up as an error in the box score. Are there any teeth to the rumors of trading Daniel Murphy and putting Flores at second base (or third base until if/when David Wright returns)?
-- Paul C., Durham, N.C.
If the Mets were convinced that Reynolds could play shortstop significantly better than Flores, he probably would be in the Majors already. But Reynolds has plenty of questions surrounding his own glove, with seven errors in 147 defensive chances at Triple-A Las Vegas (compared to nine in 172 chances for Flores in the Majors, amidst far greater scrutiny). I haven't personally seen Reynolds play shortstop at Vegas this season, but it would be fair to assume he is also making his share of misplays that don't show up in the box score.
Reynolds is a nice prospect -- No. 12 on the Mets' list -- possibly even with a future at shortstop. But Flores is a known commodity offensively at this point. He has not only succeeded but thrived in the big leagues, to the point that several people in the press box this week were asking -- not facetiously, mind you -- if he could challenge for a spot on the NL All-Star team. Compared to other shortstops around the league, Flores' offense is that good.
So while I totally get why fans want to see Reynolds, I don't think there's any guarantee he would be much better defensively than Flores. And given his rough month offensively at Vegas, Reynolds almost certainly would be worse at the plate. It just doesn't make much sense.
As for trading Murphy, while it certainly might help the Mets at this point, the window for that has probably closed. His salary is just too high for most teams to look seriously into acquiring a player of his limitations. It wouldn't do the Mets much good to trade Murphy away for scraps.
All that being said, the only way I see Reynolds debuting any time soon is if Wright's injury lingers and the Mets decide they are best served moving Murphy to third. Unless Dilson Herrera is healthy at that point, Reynolds could slide in at second base. But he first needs to start hitting more consistently at Vegas.
If Dillon Gee outperforms Jon Niese, is there any chance Steven Matz takes Niese's spot in the rotation, or is it going to be strictly about Niese having the contract, and Gee is on his way out?
-- Lou D., Lompoc, Calif.
If pitching coach Dan Warthen's comments this week were any indication, the Mets aren't against sticking with a six-man rotation for most of this summer. With that in mind, it's going to take more than a few bad starts to knock Niese out of the rotation (and yes, the $10 million guaranteed in his contract after this season is one of several reasons).
As we've seen all too often this season, pitchers get hurt. A lot. So why call up Matz and displace a healthy pitcher when there's a good chance someone in the rotation will suffer an injury between now and September? Matz is pitching wonderfully at Las Vegas, but he still has made only 21 career starts above Class A Advanced. Another few weeks, or even another few months, might do him good while the Mets sort out exactly what their veterans still have in the tank. A trade seems more likely than the Mets just cutting bait with Niese or Gee.
What's your opinion on Michael Conforto? He seems like he can be an asset very soon. His ability to hit the ball to all fields plays perfectly into the way the game is evolving at this point in time.
-- Shaun G., New York
It says something that the Mets were willing to let Conforto skip right over Class A Savannah, sending him straight to Class A Advanced St. Lucie. He has responded to the aggressive assignment by hitting .291 with seven home runs in his first 45 games. Conforto didn't look overmatched when he received a few assignments in big league camp this spring, and he doesn't look overmatched now.
Considering Conforto is a college draftee and already 22 years old, his success gives him an opportunity to move rapidly through the system. It's no longer a stretch to think Conforto could contribute to the Mets as soon as next season, though it may take until 2017 for him to stick on a full-time basis. Expect a ton of hype to surround Conforto when industry prospect lists begin emerging this winter.