Michael Conforto was diagnosed Tuesday with a right oblique strain.
Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen and his staff talked with teams about trading for an outfielder, ideally a center fielder, this past offseason. However, understandable confidence in Brandon Nimmo and Conforto, as well as having J.D. Davis and Jeff McNeil -- not to mention the possible return of Yoenis Cespedes -- allowed him to give up his search when a perfect deal failed to come to fruition.
Unfortunately for Conforto, while oblique strains tend to seemingly resolve quickly, they're easy to re-aggravate, which often results in a stop-and-go, longer-than-expected return to big-league action.
Regardless of when Conforto returns, third base or one of the two corner outfield spots will continue to bounce between Davis and McNeil.
In regards to the third spot in the outfield, SNY's Danny Abriano in a post earlier Tuesday detailed three possible solutions centering on Dominic Smith, Cespedes and Jake Marisnick.
I agree with Danny on the above names, but I would turn to one scenario that divvies up equal time for each player capable of making a contribution, because it's a fluid situation that will often require every hand on the roster to be on deck...
For instance, if McNeil is in left, Davis is at third and most likely Marisnick is in right. If McNeil is at third and Smith is in right, one of Cespedes or Marisnick is in left. If Jed Lowrie is needed at second at a time when Robinson Cano is needing a rest or injured, Smith would likely be the backup at first base, Davis will be at third, McNeil will be in left, and Marisnick is in right. And so on and so on...
Idealistically, Cespedes is ready and healthy, able to shoulder the entire load, he starts Opening Day and the entire situation takes on a bit of set routine. By the way, he should be allowed to wear a Superman cape the following game if he hits a few home runs to start April.
Cespedes has told reporters he expects to get in a game during the next week or so, which seemed all the more possible when he was seen Monday running full speed to first base. He's been hitting the ball hard since the beginning of camp.
The thing is, let's be honest, after having not played in two years, even if he looks ready, it would be foolish to run him out there every day... even with a cape on.
Therefore, Smith and Marisnick -- more than was ever expected -- are going to see a lot of playing time in some way, shape or form. And, they better get used to switching gloves and moving around the field.
For instance, given that Luis Rojas would be smart to take baby steps with Cespedes, it's near certain Marisnick will be often needed as a late-game replacement, especially if upcoming pitching matchups are favorable and the Mets are in the lead.
Injuries are always more likely as the game goes on, especially for guys like Cespedes dealing with heel, calf, hamstring and other lower-body issues, so he's going to need time to rest and fully recover.
Thankfully, between Lowrie and Cano, the Mets have enough experience on the roster to handle filling in for Smith, who would ordinarily have been Pete Alonso's backup. As a result, Smith will be freed up to handle playing a corner outfield spot nearly every day.
Smith early last season flashed signs of being a versatile, everyday player. It's time for him to grab that ring and make the Mets and the entire league take notice. He can do it with his bat and his glove and I'm excited he's getting this opportunity, because in each day, in any situation he's likely to be on field.
It's not a one-size-fits-all problem and solution and, sadly, it underscores the risk taken by Van Wagenen when not pushing the budget or trade proposals in order to bring in a more established corner outfielder, which is something I was begging to be done during most of the winter.
Worse, it returns to needing to use different players in different spots on a daily basis, which is something I hoped would be avoided because - in baseball - routine is currency.
Worse than that, given he had been healthy the past two seasons since having major shoulder surgery a few years ago, Conforto was finally in position to take a big step forward in his career, having Alonso either hitting ahead of or after him in the lineup. This recent injury will at the very least delay that opportunity.
The good news is the Mets have the parts and pieces to weather the storm. They also have enough room remaining in their budget - and prospects to deal - in the event a trade presents itself that can help stabilize all of the above.
I believe they're going to be fine, but it's never easy is it?
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is a senior writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. His book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime.