Mets GM Sandy Alderson was a guest on Tuesday's episode of Baseball Night in New York. Alderson addressed the current logjam in the outfield and what that could mean for Michael Conforto in 2017.
"I think he has the potential to be a very versatile player," Alderson said of Conforto. "He can be a very good offensive player across the board."
When asked what role Conforto might play next season, Alderson remarked that he still considers him a "long-term asset" and will not be "pieced together" in a platoon situation. If a clear avenue is not available for every day playing time at the end of Spring Training, Alderson said he'll determine where the best place for him to begin the season will be.
Conforto's agent, Scott Boras, who has previously vouched for the outfielder, said Wednesday on MLB Network Radio that playing in the minor leagues would not help Conforto's development.
"He needs major league experience, he's exhausted what the minor league can offered him," Boras said.
As of today, the Mets will head into Spring Training with Yoenis Cespedes, Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce, expected to be the everyday outfielders from left to right.
Alderson has reportedly shopped Bruce around on the trade market this offseason but has been unsuccessful in finding a team willing to pay his asking price. Bruce has since been informed that he is expected to be the team's everyday right fielder.
This leaves questions surrounding the future of the 23-year-old Conforto. As a rookie in 2015, Conforto hit .270 with a .335 OBP and .506 SLG with nine home runs and 26 RBI in 56 games played. He established himself as a near-everyday player on a team that advanced to the World Series.
In 2016, Conforto regressed to a .220/.310/.414 slash line with 12 home runs over 109 games played. Conforto spent time in Triple-A and was unable to solidify himself as a mainstay in the lineup throughout the season.
If they can eat Bruce's salary and trade him for nothing now then they can do the same again in April and May. It makes sense that Alderson would hang on to Bruce now, because -- who knows -- maybe the Mets suffer an injury and then Bruce can fill in. Or, maybe there is a major injury to an outfielder on the O's, Jays, or Rangers and they come back for Bruce in trade. In either case, I'd be surprised to see Bruce on Alderson's roster in May, which leads me to Conforto...
There are people in the organization who believe Conforto has to play regularly against left-handed pitching, in addition to continue batting well against righties. They believe in him and see him as a potential three-hole hitting All Star. However, the thinking is that, by only facing righties, he slowly changed his swing last season in a way that -- when carried over to facing lefties -- led to struggles that carried back over to facing righties, and so on and so on.
So, with that in mind, and with a million corner outfielders on the roster, Alderson is probably trying to consider his best option to get Conforto consistent at bats -- even if it means going to Triple-A for a month or two or until he can move (or have an everyday need for) Bruce.
You and I both know Conforto should be playing every day in right field for the Mets, with Jay Bruce on another team. But, that is not the situation the Mets are in. Instead, they're going to let this play out and signal to the market that Bruce has value...
The point is, I plan to let this play out before judging the situation -- because I think the Bruce, Outfield, Conforto Development story has yet to fully play out. And, may not fully play out until at least the end of Spring Training. I'm taking the situation one day at a time, which is exactly what I think Alderson is doing...