Michael Conforto has yet to find his groove this season, but the New York Mets need to avoid demoting him to the minors.
Things are not looking good for the New York Mets and Michael Conforto right now. The lefty outfielder came into the season with high expectations despite dealing with shoulder surgery in the offseason.
The Mets are in the midst of a complete tailspin having lost eight straight and in those games, Conforto is 3-for-28. During that stretch, he has one home run. That home run was also the only run he’s driven in during this stretch. And to make matters worse, he’s struck out twice as many times as he’s walked.
To say that Conforto has underachieved so far this season would be an understatement. He has a slash line of .219/.340/.705 with only seven home runs and 16 RBIs. But despite his inability to get going, sending him down to the minors should not be an option for Sandy Alderson and Mickey Callaway.
According to reports from Joel Sherman of The New York Post, this is exactly what the organization is contemplating doing. While this is a useful tactic that can sometimes help shake a young player out of a slump, this isn’t what the Mets need right now. It’s time to sink or swim.
The Mets currently sit 8.5 games back of the division as well as the second Wild Card spot. If New York continues to let that gap widen, any hopes at a possible postseason bid will be all but over.
In other words, the Mets don’t have time to let Conforto work out the kinks while riding the bus in the minors. Conforto is without a doubt one of the most talented players in the organization. You have to keep him up and give him at-bats in the hopes that he can break out of this slide. That could be the shot of life the lineup needs.
Even Conforto doesn’t think a demotion is the answer. He told Sherman, “Triple-A is not an answer. I’ve been through that. I have done all I can do down there. I play at this level, that’s it.”
He obviously wants to stay in the big leagues. Conforto is still young and he would likely take his demotion without creating any controversy, but it doesn’t sound like something that he is all that keen on. A demotion could mess with his head more than it would help fix his swing.
Not to mention, a demotion for Conforto would only mean more at-bats for lesser players. It’s been a particularly rough season for the one-time All-Star, but he’s not alone in that clubhouse. Jay Bruce, Adrian Gonzalez, and Jose Reyes have all been worse than Conforto thus far.
Bruce’s average (.222) edges out Conforto’s (.219) ever so slightly, but Conforto’s OPS is 72 points higher than Bruce’s. The younger outfielder is still getting on base at a decent clip (.340).
For all the reasons Bruce has been inferior to Conforto, the same applies to Gonzalez. The average is better, but the OBP and OPS leave something to be desired. You have to expect Conforto’s slugging percentage to go up from .365 to somewhere closer to Conforto’s career slugging percentage of .472. If he starts to drive the ball like he’s capable of doing, then he is the definitive choice in the lineup over Bruce or Gonzalez.
If Conforto is demoted before the team parts ways with Jose Reyes, then you have to seriously wonder if anyone in the front office watches the games. They don’t play the same position so this is a bit of an awkward comparison, but it’s about accountability. If the Mets are going to hold Conforto accountable by sending him down to the minors, then they should have cut bait with Reyes a long time ago.
At the very least, Conforto gives you a presence in the lineup. Reyes brings absolutely nothing to the table. To make matters worse, he’s likely held on to his roster spot for this long for sentimental value. Good grief.
With reports of a possible Conforto demotion, the Mets need to take a breath and assess the situation. With the postseason slipping through their fingers, Conforto’s own aversion to a demotion, and the absence of any better options in the lineup, it’s so clear that sending him down is the wrong move to make.
He may not be playing like it, but Conforto is still one of the most dangerous bats in the lineup. Without many alternatives, the best course of action is to let it ride with Conforto and hope he turns this season around.