(Daniel Murphy is not Mickey Mantle on the bases either. Photo: David Pokress/Sportsday Wire)
The Mets are in the thick of the pennant race as the calendar turns to July and and the question is now whether the team will make a trade ahead of the July 31st deadline or sell to their fans that one of their injured players returning is the equivalent of an acquisition.
The latter approach is already in practice with the return of Daniel Murphy on Tuesday.
Manager Terry Collins said of Murphy ahead of his return on Tuesday, “It’s great to have him back. He’s a huge part of our lineup with his offense. We need him back in there. He’s been swinging great, which is good news for us. I think you’ll see a different middle of the lineup. When you add that one guy to the lineup, it takes the pressure off the other guys. We’re glad he’s back in there.”
Collins said of Murphy coming back being like bringing in a guy from a trade, “I do, I told Dan today ‘you can’t come back at a better time. We’ve been struggling offensively.’ Just the addition of his bat in the lineup, his name in the lineup, he’s been our best hitter for two years, I mean we need him back. He’s back and he came at the right time for us. I think you’ll see a different Lucas Duda because of it.Dan hitting behind him, no disrespect to Michael Cuddyer, but Dan’s got a name in this league. He’s done it for years and I think Lucas will get better pitches to hit.”
Collins makes Murphy out to be Mickey Mantle. In reality, Murphy is one of the faces of the worst era in the team’s history, along with Dillon Gee, Jon Niese, and Kirk Nieuwenhuis. Murphy has never won anything and gives off the impression that he accepts losing.
His return should not get the fans excited, as Murphy is a singles hitter, and that is not even close to what the Mets need now. The fact that they only got one run in the series with the Cubs, and Murphy got picked off first and made a throwing error on Thursday afternoon, does not engender confidence that he is the answer.
There is little to no faith in General Manager Sandy Alderson making a big trade, as every rumor for a big hitter like Troy Tulowitzki coming here fizzled out.
Alderson is a lightweight when it comes to the free-agent market as well, always settling for second-tier FAs like Michael Cuddyer and Curtis Granderson. Both were promoted as good clubhouse guys, as if Alderson is running a social club more than a baseball club.
With all this in mind, the biggest move they can make in July is to bring up their two highest-touted outfielders, Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo. Conforto, a left-fielder, was the Mets’ 2014 first-round draft pick out of Oregon State. Nimmo, a center fielder, was their first round pick out of high school in 2011.
Collins said recently of the immediate success their young pitchers have had when they hit the major leagues, “I attribute that to two things. First, I attribute it to the patience of our front office to let these kids develop, and I give credit to the coaches in the minor leagues.” The same thinking could apply to position players.
Conforto played at Oregon State, and he is definitely on the fast track in the Mets’ minor league system. Last season, he played for the short-season Brooklyn Cyclones, where he hit .331 with 3 ome runs and 19 RBIs in 42 games.
This season, Conforto has split time between High-Single-A St. Lucie and Double-A Binghmaton. Conforto played 46 games in St. Lucie, and hit .283 with 7 home runs and 28 RBIs. He is tearing it up with Binghamton, hitting .330 with 3 home runs and 16 RBIs in 29 games. In all, he has played in 75 games, with 10 home runs and 44 RBIs.
Nimmo is in his fifth season in the Mets minor league system, which is right in line with what they expect for a draftee out of high school before making the jump to the majors. He has spent most of his season at Binghamton, where he is hitting .291 with 2 home runs and 11 RBIs, along with 10 doubles, 2 triples, and 16 walks. He has an On-base percentage of .357 and a slugging percentage of .397. played just 4 games with St. Lucie and was 2-for-16 with 2 RBIs.
Conforto and Nimmo could rotate in left field with Juan Lagares in center. On days Collins wants both in there, Conforto takes left with Nimmo in center. Under this arramgement, Cuddyer and Granderson would rotate in right field. Since Granderson is a left-handed hitter and Cuddyer a righty, it’s a perfect righty-lefty platoon, and it would keep both of them fresh down the stretch run. Cuddyer leaving Tuesday night with a sofe left knee shows that his time should be limited from here on out, as he is already showing signs of fatigue.
If the Mets are not going to go “all in” on 2015 and make a splashy trade, may as well bring up the young sluggers to join the starting pitchers and they can begin the process now of growing together in the majors.