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Mets have messy situation on their hands with Michael Conforto

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Sep 23, 2016; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets left fielder Michael Conforto (30) hits a double against the Philadelphia Phillies during the second inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 23, 2016; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets left fielder Michael Conforto (30) hits a double against the Philadelphia Phillies during the second inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
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Could an unlikely scenario come to fruition with the report that Jay Bruce is going to stay and start in RF?

It’s been a wild offseason of Jay Bruce rumors that has amounted to no change for the moment.

As reported earlier this week, the New York Mets are looking at making Bruce their everyday starting right fielder. It has been an unpredictable ride this offseason for a player who many thought was as good as gone to (enter any team here).

Now, the big question is: what happens to the most likely odd man out in Michael Conforto? He could start the season in Triple-A Las Vegas with Bruce and Yoenis Cespedes covering the corners while Juan Lagares and Curtis Granderson platoon in center. There is no easy answer to how this situation will ultimately play out as the Mets head into the 2017 season.

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However, could this pave the way for a less likely scenario — Conforto getting dealt? On the surface, it sounds crazy. With what’s been rumored to have been offered for Conforto by other teams in the past, that puts my idea at a long shot.

Circumstances have changed, though, and I don’t see the Mets pivoting from this latest twist involving Bruce.

The fact is the market for Bruce dried up through a combination of factors. Other power bats lingered out there for a while. And there were trade rumors with more upper-echelon outfielders like Andrew McCutchen. That made it tough for the Mets and Sandy Alderson to move Bruce.

Not being willing to cover some of the cost of his $13 million owed next season made it virtually impossible to find a good deal. Now that brings us to this point where Bruce is blocking Conforto’s path to more playing time.

Conforto busted onto the scene during the Mets’ 2015 run. He didn’t come close to duplicating his numbers in 2016. His OBP dropped 25 points and his slugging percentage fell almost 100 points in nearly twice as many games from ’15 to ’16. Still, Conforto has shown promise and has room to improve to the point where he is at least a solid everyday starting outfielder.

The Mets have a window to contend after signing Cespedes to a mega contract in the offseason. Though it’s much more likely Conforto stays around and is a potential full-time starter by 2018, there are several layers to this conversation.

The scenario at its core is this: do you gamble on Conforto’s potential and development beyond this year? Or do you take a different risk and look to strike while his potential and team control is a valuable trade asset while trying to add another piece to this championship puzzle?

Cespedes is under contract for three more years after this season. Lagares has two years left on his contract after this coming season. Bruce and Granderson are free agents after this season, so it can open the door long-term for Conforto and/or Brandon Nimmo.

Or if the Mets get aggressive, it could set the wheels in motion to attack free agency with about $60 million coming off the books after this season just in contracts set to expire.

Next: SS Rosario ranked third best prospect.

Ultimately, depth is a nice thing to have and the Mets will most likely go into this season with all parts aboard. Plus, there’s the notion of Conforto getting a possible look at first base in Spring Training.

There is something to be said though for being aggressive when you have a team that’s constructed to contend now. It’s at least intriguing to explore what the road less traveled could bring in the immediate and more distant future.

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