The Mets don’t have the luxury of time, at least as far as team COO Jeff Wilpon is concerned.
A day after getting swept by the worst team in the National League, Wilpon — not one to make big proclamations, or to reveal too much of anything, really — said the Mets may not be able to wait until the Aug. 1 trade deadline to add a bat to their offensively stagnant lineup.
“I think we might need to do something before,” Wilpon said Monday at the Harlem RBI fundraiser in Manhattan. “The deadline is still four, six weeks away. We’ve got to start playing better baseball now.”
Wilpon’s comments are in line with what Terry Collins said Sunday, after getting one-hit by the Braves’ Julio Teheran. Although he didn’t reveal specifics, Collins said he intended to shake things up and, when pressed, acknowledged that a roster move is probably around the bend. That comes as little surprise, as the Mets play the World Series champion Royals and the Cubs, the best team in baseball, before the All-Star break, in addition to two series with the Nationals and one with the Marlins.
“We’ve got to get better,” Collins said. “We’ve got to start playing better. We’ll see what we can do.”
Wilpon expanded on that Monday.
“Of course we’re concerned,” he said. “Nobody is happy with the way we’re playing. Sandy (Alderson), Terry and (assistant general manager) John Ricco all the time they’re working on things to try and get us to where we need to go and start playing a little better.”
It’s clear that Collins and Wilpon believe this to be a pivotal stretch. “What you don’t want is a week to turn into two weeks that runs into a month and hurts you very badly,” Wilpon said.
The Mets are next to last in baseball in batting average (.234) and toward the bottom in runs (250), on-base percentage (.307) and hits (527). They lag in almost every offensive category except home runs. They just went 2-4 against the Pirates and the Braves, and it’s hard to imagine the Mets proving themselves equal to the best teams in baseball after failing to keep up with one of its worst.
Which is exactly why drastic changes may be approaching. Although Wilpon said Monday that he believes David Wright will return, they still need a third baseman for now, and that certainly could be a focus for any potential trades. Wilmer Flores has been occupying the position, but he’s not a natural third baseman and, despite an excellent June, he’s never swung a hefty bat.
One move everyone can count on is the return of catcher Travis d’Arnaud on Tuesday. D’Arnaud, who has been out since April 25 with a strained rotator cuff, completed his rehab with Triple-A Las Vegas and, the Mets hope, will provide some pop to their pop-less lineup. This likely means the demotion of Kevin Plawecki, who’s struggled at the plate and behind it and becomes expendable thanks to backup Rene Rivera. It’s also likely that Wright, out at least two months, will move to the 60-day disabled list, opening a spot on the 40-man roster.
But that’s where the easy decisions end.
Collins acknowledged Sunday that the Mets are keeping an eye on Michael Conforto, which means it wouldn’t be surprising if the struggling outfielder is sent to Triple-A to make room for outfielder Brandon Nimmo, flourishing in Las Vegas. Nimmo, a lefthanded bat, is hitting .325 with a .404 on-base percentage. Conforto is 7-for-51 (.137) in June, and when a reporter said to Collins that Conforto had been in a slump for a while, the manager responded he “still is.”
“We are looking at him,’’ Collins said. “The other night he had a pretty good game, so we put him in there the next game and he didn’t do it. I’ll tell you, Michael Conforto plays, but he’s not coming in off the bench . . . We’re going to look at every angle we can.”
Conforto, aware his time may be running out, took a moment to plead his case. No one has mentioned a minor-league recalibration, he said. Wilpon would not comment on whether Conforto could benefit from being sent down, but did say he needed to see more consistency.
“Obviously, hopefully, I don’t go that route,” Conforto said. “I want to be here and I want to help the team and help us get out of this tough time that we’re having, but that’s out of my control and all I can do is go out there and try to produce as much as I can.”
Conforto was steadfast in his belief that he could turn it around, but, given what Collins said about not benching him, the Mets probably see more value in sending him down to play regularly and work out the kinks. The prospect, though, isn’t comforting to Conforto.
“I can get back to that and come out of the slump, the rough patch that I’m in right now,” Conforto said. “I know it’s going to happen. There’s no doubt in my mind. It’s a work in progress. You’ve got to trust the process and just know you’re going to come out of it and I know I will.”
It just might not be in Flushing.
With Neil Best