ST. LOUIS - Veteran outfielder Michael Cuddyer has struggled in his first season with the Mets. His banged-up left knee isn't getting any better, nor does he expect it to any time soon.
Centerfielder Juan Lagares looks like a shell of the Gold Glover he was a year ago, his game compromised by nagging injuries.
Top prospect Michael Conforto could help the Mets, whose need for outfield help has steered them toward exploring options in the trade market.
But the Mets still appear hesitant to promote the 10th overall pick in the 2014 draft, primarily because of concerns that he lacks enough professional experience to make the jump to the major leagues.
According to a source, there has been no recent talk within the organization about promoting the 22-year-old phenom, even as he batters Double-A pitching at Binghamton.
Conforto was hitting .315 with four homers and 22 RBIs before yesterday's game. But his only at-bats in the upper minor leagues are the 149 through Friday for the Eastern League team.
Philosophically, the Mets aren't opposed to the idea of fast-tracking Conforto.
General manager Sandy Alderson said earlier this month that promoting the fast-rising star has been discussed as a possibility. Another team official noted the Cubs' handling of prospect Kyle Schwarber, who was selected six slots ahead of Conforto in 2014.
Like Conforto, Schwarber had limited at-bats at Double-A and above. Yet, in his first seven big-league games over the span of two promotions, Schwarber was hitting .423 with a homer and six RBIs (11-for-26) through Friday.
Still, concerns persist within the organization about pushing Conforto too fast, even though some rival evaluators believe that Conforto is ready to help now.
One rival talent evaluator who has scouted Conforto this season called the prospect a "solid everyday player with a sound approach at the plate," with power that could develop over time.
Ultimately, the scout said adding Conforto would benefit the Mets, who have gotten little out of reserve outfielders John Mayberry Jr. and Kirk Nieuwenhuis.
Generally, evaluations of Conforto sound like testimonials from excited film reviewers. Scouts who have tracked him in the minors this season easily offer up the kind of lines that wind up on movie posters.
"One of the better hitters I've seen this year," one scout said, while another noted his "mature and confident approach to the game."
They rave about his smooth lefthanded swing and an advanced approach to hitting.
But plenty of debate exists about whether he should be pushed to the big leagues immediately.
One rival executive said promoting Conforto too soon could prove "fatal" to this long-term development, especially since he has yet to spend enough time in the upper minors.
"Double-A is just so valuable to learn the nuances," the executive said.
Another rival who has seen Conforto recently said his game is advanced enough that he could compete in the big leagues.
"I will say this," said the scout, "If anyone in the Mets' system could, it would be him. He goes up to plate with confidence and a good swing."
However, that same scout believes the Mets would be best served by exercising caution, even if Conforto proves to be their most realistic option for adding help in the outfield.
"I think it's rushing him," the scout said. "I know how everyone is looking for him to be that hitting savior because the Mets are not making a trade, but I'd be careful. Not many make the jump so quickly."
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