Barry M. Bloom,ContributorBoomskie on Baseball Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.
New York Mets slugger Yoenis Cespedes , recovering from a right hip injury, warms up before a game earlier in June at Citi Field. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)
The New York Mets are anxiously awaiting the return of Yoenis Cespedes from a right hip injury that recurred last week during a minor league rehab start.
“He’s still day to day,” beleaguered first-year manager Mickey Callaway said before the Mets dropped a 7-3 decision to the Arizona Diamondbacks Friday night at Chase Field, their 12th loss in the last 13 games. “[He’s] trying to get this soreness out so he can resume baseball activity.”
But they might as well be Waiting for Godot, the mythical Samuel Beckett character who never returns. In that case, Godot wasn’t stymied by repeated lower body injuries caused by lifting very heavy weights.
It’s been the same story everywhere the right-handed Cuban slugger has gone — from Oakland to Boston to Detroit and now New York. Love him or hate him, when he’s in the lineup Cespedes always makes his team a lot better. When he’s not, there are always the stories about his recalcitrance.
If one believes those tales, Cespedes was run out of the Red Sox on a rail. The A’s sent him to Boston at the July 31, 2014, non-waiver trade deadline for left-hander Jon Lester.
It was one of the worst deals ever for both teams. The A’s were almost 100 games over .500 and won two American League West titles when Cespedes was in the lineup. They lost a Wild Card Game to Kansas City with Lester on the mound that season and have never been the same.
Neither player stayed with their respective teams beyond the 2014 season. Boston begged Lester to return that offseason as a free agent, but he signed instead with the Chicago Cubs where he remains.
PHOENIX — Michael Conforto has returned to the laboratory in an attempt to find his missing swing.
And the Mets outfielder is confident that he, hitting coach Pat Roessler and assistant hitting coach Tom Slater discovered a glitch that can be rectified.
In simplest terms, the group noticed Conforto has been swinging too early — often extending to make contact with pitches — instead of waiting for the ball and hitting it in the natural course of his swing.
“We just sat down and said ‘What’s causing you to chase pitches? What’s causing you to not go the other way with power like you usually do?’ ” Conforto said before the Mets faced the Diamondbacks on Thursday.
“I hit a couple of balls the other way in the Subway Series and it didn’t feel like I had much behind it. Then you go back and look at video and see I am kind of at extension when hitting the ball the other way where as last year I was kind of catching it in my swing and I was getting a little extra behind it.”
Now the Mets need to receive results from Conforto, who entered play 3-for-34 (.088) for the month. He and Jay Bruce have been the biggest disappointments in a lineup that had scored three runs or fewer in nine straight games.
Michael ConfortoBill Kostroun
On June 14 last season, Conforto’s OPS was .999 and he was headed toward his first All-Star Game. He took a .689 OPS into play on the same date this year.
But Conforto is also only nine months removed from left shoulder surgery and didn’t have the benefit of a normal offseason workout routine or spring training.
When told of his OPS last June 14, Conforto said he “absolutely” expects a return to that level before this season concludes.
“I am not going to put that number on it, I am not going to do that, but that’s one of the things I take pride in,” Conforto said. “Getting on base and hitting for extra bases. I think that is something I am very good at and so far it hasn’t been there and I think that is my identity as a hitter and I think it’s going to get better.”
Though team officials recently considered demoting Conforto to the minor leagues — as first reported by The Post’s Joel Sherman last weekend — such a move seems unlikely with Yoenis Cespedes still on the disabled list and Bruce slumping (to go along with a nagging hip injury).
Another 2017 All-Star, Miguel Sano, was demoted to the minor leagues by the Twins on Thursday to work out his hitting troubles.
Conforto, who was demoted to Triple-A Las Vegas in 2016 to work on his swing, said he was surprised by the latest talk of a demotion.
“But having been here in New York and through struggling in New York, it’s not necessarily surprising I guess,” Conforto said. “To me I feel like I have earned the right to struggle here and work and get out of it, but it’s just one of those things. You just have to keep your blinders on and try not to let that stuff affect you, because in reality I can’t really control that. All I can do is control what happens on the field.”
For now, such control involves his refined hitting approach. Though manager Mickey Callaway hasn’t seen immediate results with the change, he trusts the process.
“I think in the game it looks like to me he has been feeling for it, but I have to use more information than just what I see in a game,” Callaway said. “Talking to the hitting coaches, it sounds like he is in a better spot with his swing and the timing, so I don’t think it’s always as easy as looking at a result or one at-bat in a game to determine where he is at and I think he’s in a lot better spot than people realize just watching the game.”
With Adrian Gonzalez released by the Mets due to his struggles, many are wondering when Mets GM Sandy Alderson will let INF Jose Reyes go.
Reyes has been struggling all season with a .149/.213/.203 slashline over 74 at-bats. But, unlike Gonzalez, Reyes has a long history with the Mets. Though Alderson said he is very aware of what Reyes has accomplished with the team over his career, he admitted to the media during a conference call on Tuesday that any decisions on whether or not to let go of a certain player is based off merits…
Danny Abriano, SNY.tv| Twitter | Whether or not you believe Reyes has been given the best opportunity to succeed with the Mets this season, the fact right now is that he doesn’t offer even average production in any facet of the game. At the moment, Reyes is one of the worst hitters in the league, one of the worst defensive players in the league, and he doesn’t even provide much speed/stolen base ability when he’s called upon to pinch run. And while he hasn’t gotten a ton of at-bats or time in the field in 2018, this jack of all trades bench role is the role he signed up for. And the role the Mets signed him for. If he can’t do it, that’s all that matters…
The Mariners came from behind to defeat the Angels 8-6 on Wednesday, completing a three-game series sweep at home against their division rival. In doing so, the Mariners maintained a slight hold on first place in the AL West ahead of the Astros, who entered the day a half-game behind.
Trailing 6-4 after the top of the seventh inning, the Mariners began clawing back. Jean Segura knocked in a run with a double in the bottom of the seventh. Ryon Healy hit a game-tying solo home run in the eighth. Mitch Haniger ended it, breaking a 6-6 tie with a two-run home run to left field off of Oliver Drake.
Haniger homered twice in Tuesday’s win and also made a terrific throw from the left field corner to throw out Luis Valbuena, so he’s been pulling his weight and then some lately. On the season, Haniger is hitting .270/.352/.524 with 16 home runs, 52 RBI, and 35 runs scored in 284 plate appearances.
Earlier, Craig wrote about yet another great start from Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom that went to waste against the Braves on Wednesday afternoon. deGrom allowed only one run on seven hits with no walks and seven strikeouts in seven innings, but took the loss as the Mets fell 2-0 and were limited to a measly two hits on the afternoon. deGrom is now 4-2 with a league-best 1.55 ERA over 14 starts.
While deGrom has been the pitcher of record, the Mets have scored a total of 31 runs across his 14 starts, an average of 2.2 runs of support per start. He has received two or fewer runs of support in seven of his last eight starts.
deGrom’s lack of run support sticks out because he has pitched so well but hasn’t been rewarded with the W’s, which are sadly still relevant when fans and pundits discuss the best pitchers in the game. As a result, Todd Frazier felt bad enough to apologize to deGrom after Wednesday afternoon’s loss, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Frazier said, “I told [deGrom] after the game: ‘Dude, I am sorry.’ I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know why we’re not producing for him.”
As Puma points out, it’s not just deGrom the Mets’ offense isn’t backing. The club has scored two runs or fewer in nine of its last 11 games. Unsurprisingly, the club has lost nine of its last 11 games.
Frazier didn’t have to apologize to deGrom because it’s not like the club is choosing not to score runs for him. They’re just not hitting and the team has had to deal with injuries to key players like Yoenis Cespedes. But deGrom can be affected materially from the lack of run support as it may have an affect on whether or not he’s an All-Star and whether or not he’s a Cy Young winner, both of which could also affect how much money he makes going forward. The soon-to-be 30-year-old has two more years of arbitration eligibility remaining. Frazier, who’s been through arbitration and free agency, almost certainly understands this and that’s why he chose to apologize to deGrom.
The Mets do not have a lot to trade to try to get better. So here is a thought for taking a struggling player from an area of potential depth to obtain a struggling player who, if he can be fixed, would help in an area of weakness not just this year, but in the near future:
How about Jay Bruce to Colorado for Bryan Shaw?
Both players were signed to three-year contracts in the offseason — Bruce for $39 million, Shaw for $27 million. Money can always be evened up if necessary.
Why would the Rockies do it? Colorado went big on relievers in the offseason, investing $106 million on Shaw, Jake McGee and closer Wade Davis after giving Mike Dunn a three-year, $19 million pact the previous offseason. It has been a disaster.
The Rockies had a 5.22 bullpen ERA with Dunn, McGee and Shaw particular offenders. Among the 54 relievers with at least 30 appearances, Shaw’s 7.09 ERA was the majors’ worst by more than half a run.
Meanwhile, Colorado’s corner-outfield production has been among the majors’ worst, and even Bruce on a downswing would probably be an upgrade on Gerardo Parra. In some ways, both the Rockies and Mets would be betting on Bruce and Shaw becoming the players they have historically been.
Mickey Callaway and Shaw in 2017Getty Images
Why would the Mets do it? Shaw could simply be burned out — from 2013-17 with the Indians, he appeared in 15 more games than any pitcher, and he actually is leading the NL in appearances this year despite his failings. His pitching coach all five of those Cleveland seasons was Mickey Callaway.
Does Callaway see a reliever who is merely faltering because he is trying to justify his contract and/or the tough environment of Coors? Does Callaway, who knows Shaw best, think he can be fixed and, if so, is there anyone more qualified to do that than the Mets manager? Shaw’s velocity on his cutter/slider combo is the same as ever.
Perhaps the Mets should be thinking along these lines also with Greg Holland, who since signing a one-year, $14 million deal with the Cardinals has been atrocious and now is on the DL. His best seasons came with the Royals, when his pitching coach was Dave Eiland, the Mets’ current pitching coach. Might the Cardinals eat most of the pact just to get rid of him?
Remember that in the midst of a good season in 2017, Bruce did not have much value in the trade market. Now he is in the midst of a poor campaign with two more seasons on his deal.
I still believe Bruce is a good player who will hit better than he has. But the Mets might be best served with outfield clarification, namely moving forward for the next few seasons with Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo as their main trio. In addition, the Mets could give an extended run to Dominic Smith to see if he can handle first base and, if not, perhaps later in the season summon prospect Peter Alonso.
If Shaw can be returned to his career form, then he could join Jeurys Familia, Robert Gsellman and Anthony Swarzak in a late-game quartet that would make it easier to keep Seth Lugo in the rotation, which is where he should be.
Lastly, with Familia, Jerry Blevins and AJ Ramos free agents after the season, the Mets are going to have to do some bullpen restructuring. They considered Shaw seriously last offseason as a free agent. He would join Swarzak and Gsellman as pieces moving forward.
Mainly, the question is with the way they’re structured now and the next few years, would Colorado be better with Bruce and the Mets better with Shaw? If so, the teams should consider a deal.