DALLAS - We all like Nomar Mazara, right?
Oh sure the Big Chill had a rough patch in his debut year, but to pull down a 1.2 WAR in his age 21 season with only 23 games at Triple A? It’s hard to reasonably ask for more. Factor in that Maz is now an entrenched MLB starter who will get the chance to grow on the biggest stage, and it’s hard to think that the son of a Dominican admiral isn’t one of the brightest spots on a team full of things to like.
Hard not to like that right? Right?
OK now get closer to your screen.
Too close, move back.
Perfect, stay there.
What if I told you that Texas might be able to have TWO Nomar Mazaras at the same time?
That’s possible; it’ll just take some work. Allow me to explain.
Up in New York, there’s a young man by the name of Michael Conforto.
Conforto is a 24 year old outfielder who by all measures should be playing every day in the majors. He put up 2.1 WAR in his rookie experience with the Mets in only 56 games. He posted an ISO of .236, which is absurd. His defense is above average, and while he does strike out at a decent clip if you can post an .800 plus OPS teams will live with the strikeouts.
He experienced the typical sophomore slump last season, where his numbers across 109 games declined. Despite struggling, he still found his way into 1.3 WAR in 2016. For a player in his second year after being a top ten pick in 2014, hard to complain too loud.
Yet as we go into 2017, where in the world is Michael Conforto?
I’ll tell you where he isn’t: On the grass at Citi Field.
The likelihood is despite his strong showing and slight regression, the Mets will begin the year with Conforto on he bench. Why? The Mets have an outfield of Yoenis Cespedes, Curtis Granderson, and Jay Bruce left to right. The first two are on long term deals, and Bruce joined the Mets at the deadline last year with another year at $13 million to go before he hits free agency.
Bruce is the issue because Conforto has been a right fielder for New York. Why the Mets think it’s a good idea to play Bruce, who is a negative defender worth 0.2 WAR over the last three seasons combined, instead of a 24 year old who will cost 26 times less is beyond me. Either Jay Bruce has incriminating photos of Sandy Alderson, Terry Collins, or both or there’s just something I’m missing.
Blackmail or otherwise, Bruce will take the spot that Conforto should occupy. This has led to the question about whether the Mets should trade Conforto, seeing as they don’t believe in him enough to play him over someone considerably worse than him.
This presents a window of opportunity that Texas should capitalize on. There’s nothing wrong with using the stupidity of others to your advantage, which is pretty much what Jon Daniels and company could do here when they have a need.
On the Texas side, they could easily slot Conforto into left field(he’s capable across the three positions with center being his weakest) while putting Maz in right which completes the Shin Soo Choo transition to a full time DH. You get improved defense across the outfield, and a safer role for Choo who has been plagued with injuries in the past.
At the plate, Conforto is another left handed bat in a lineup that has quite a few. That said, he’s shown quite a proficiency at mashing right handers, doing most of his career damage against then. There’s reason to believe with more regular at bats against southpaws, Conforto can become serviceable.
Plus he’s still dirt cheap; he’s not arbitration eligible until 2019 and won’t see free agency until at least 2022. Texas could conceivably have their starting corner outfielders make around a million combined. For a team on a budget, that’d be a god send to have quality talent that cost effective.
He’s also better than most options you have right now. Ryan Rua is a nice player, but Conforto has a higher ceiling and in ten more games played Conforto has outdueled Rua in WAR 3.4 to 0.8. Jurickson Profar will likely get time in left field this year, but his archetype needs to be Ben Zobrist where he plays everywhere. As much as I love Joey Gallo and want regular time for him, he might need to fill in for Adrian Beltre to start the season with the calf getting Belts issues. Even if not, his outfield experience is minimal.
So he’s a fit in Arlington safe to say. The question becomes what would the Metropolitans need to part with a player they valued at one point, but seem to have cooled considerably on.
It just so happens New York has some needs that Texas can fill in a trade.
Right now they need a backup center fielder who can play the corners if need be. Juan Lagares is fighting through some injuries, and the depth not named Conforto is mediocre. Meanwhile, out in Surprise Delino DeShields is having a renaissance. He’s walking and stealing in just about every game, looking the part of the player that took Texas by storm two years ago. Texas missed the chance to sell high on him after his banner year, but could short him this year in pursuit of a better player.
They could also use another high end bullpen arm. Jeurys Familia is the current closer who just caught a season opening 15 game suspension while making do with Addison Reed and Fernando Salas behind him. While those are capable arms, they’re not a dynamic controllable future star.
This could be the time for Keone Kela to depart the club even if the team doesn't want to sell low after his demotion. Texas has a stalwart top end with Sam Dyson, Matt Bush, and Jeremy Jeffress. They’ve also got RJ Alvarez at Triple A, who could come up and fill his spot admirably.
Pair those two with a midrange prospect, say LeDarious Clark or TiQuan Forbes or Andy Ibanez, and you’ve got a package the Mets would be willing to negotiate over. Maybe not a done deal, but Alderson isn’t hanging up the phone.
If you want to make this swap a bit more simple, yet potentially more painful, you attempt a one for one swap with Gallo. Gallo and Conforto are both players who have been edged out of regular playing time by high priced, aging veterans who may or may not be worth the money. Both are players who are rounding into the mid-twenties, seemingly needing a change of scenery from their current organization if they’re not going to play at the top level.
It becomes a swap of need for both. Texas needs another everyday outfielder that isn’t Choo, and the Mets could really use an everyday first baseman. They’re running Lucas Duda out there now, but the ability to shift Gallo to third in case aging vet David Wright needs a day off would be a versatile plus. There’s greatness to spare in Gallo, but if Texas is willing to overpay a mid-30s player instead of give him the chance to succeed maybe it’s time to consider letting another team try this.
One name that comes to mind that might concern Texas fans about a potential Conforto swap is another Michael: Michael Choice, the former 10th overall pick and UTA grad Texas acquired from Oakland in 2013. Both Michaels were highly touted in their minor league careers, and their acquisitions did and would represent opportunity they weren’t receiving where they started.
The big difference here though is where Choice was unproven at the big league level, Conforto has skins in the game. He’s had success in three tiered stadiums, so the risk factor isn’t nearly as present as it was for Choice. There are no guarantees in baseball save for the contracts, but Conforto is more of a sure thing than Choice was.
So unless we get a press conference soon that in addition to Texas Live and Oates Memorial Field(author suggested name), Ray Davis and Bob Simpson are investing in human cloning Texas can’t actually get their hands on a exact copy of Nomar Mazara. In Conforto though, they can get something that’s close enough. For a team needing more outfield help on a budget, it’s hard to say why they wouldn’t want to make a move for the short and long term benefit.
What do you say? Are you up for Texas rescuing Michael Conforto from the Mets? Share your take with Samuel on Twitter @thesamuelhale.
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