MLB: New York Mets at Atlanta Braves

Terry Collins’s Stretch-Run Wish List

<Extremely Movie Trailer Voice> IN A WORLD where the names of disabled Mets are more prestigious than those still on the active roster </>, you’d expect to long ago (or at least two weeks ago) feel like injuries decimated the team’s playoff chances. Instead, entering Sunday’s slate of games, BP’s playoff odds page gave the Mets a near-two-thirds chance to reach the Coin Flip Game ($1, Joe Sheehan). No matter what happens the rest of the way, 2016 won’t go down as an utter disaster.

Except that Michael Conforto is a mess. Terry Collins transmogrified the 10th pick in the 2014 draft — a guy who raked to a .315 TAv as a 22-year-old rookie, who’d never posted a TAv lower than .292 at any level, who had hit .333 with two dingers in five World Series games — into a nonentity against left-handed pitching (.106/.157/.128) and an Adam Dunn-like three true outcomes hitter (.237/.327/.466) when Terry deigned to start him against northpaws.

And therein lies the problem. Collins jerked Conforto around between starting and platooning, between the majors and Triple-A, because he appears to prefer ballplayers whose pension benefits are fully vested. It’s as if Terry’s preferred outfielder is 29 years old and has played professionally for at least three years, having won at least one (national) championship along the way. So… this guy? In that vein, here are the veteran players from non-contenders we believe Terry Collins most wishes he had on his team for the last three weeks of the season. — Scott D. Simon (@scottdsimon)

A.J. Ellis

The catching position is a wasteland for the Mets right now. Travis d’Arnaud Year 2: Electric Boogaloo has been an utter disappointment. Rene Rivera is a backup at best; his slightly-higher TAv in comparison to d’Arnaud (.254 to .243) only underscores the latter’s struggles. Kevin Plawecki is Kevin Plawecki.  In the darkness, Terry Collins needs a veteran to step up to guide this pitching staff. A veteran who is also not going to hit, but brings with him the kind of stabilizing presence behind the plate that (almost) guided the team with the best pitcher in baseball to the World Series (once).

The Dodgers already gave up on him. Kicked him to a curb in Philly. Left his career for dead. Well now, Terry is calling out for that hero: A.J. Ellis might only play three weeks for the Mets, but think of the leadership he could provide! That’s to say nothing of the deep secrets he could reveal about Clayton Kershaw, or his cold, stony glare across the field toward Dave Roberts during another possible Dodgers-Mets playoff matchup. He’s sadly ineligible, but that mug is the 26th man on the roster that Terry needs. — Andrew Mearns (@MearnsPSA)

Eric Young, Jr.

I selected Eric Young, Jr. for this staff post before (i) the formerly non-contending Yankees climbed back into the AL Wild Card race, and (ii) Terry Collins essentially blew a game by forgetting to pinch-run for Wilmer Flores. But the song remains the same. Collins loved EY. Young was a regular for a retrospectively incomprehensible period in 2013 and 2014. The Mets even brought him back in 2015 to be the designated pinch-runner. Since the list of September call-ups did not include Champ Stuart, the 2016 Mets don’t have anyone in that role, so Collins has made weird choices like Ty Kelly and Robert Gsellman for pinch-running duty in September. Young would fill a need with one of the manager’s favorites. A win for everyone! – Jarrett Seidler (@jaseidler)

Joey Votto

The Mets’ midseason pickup of James Loney was always a reasonable gamble, but in the middle of a dogfight for a Wild Card spot, it’s tough to man an offense-first position with the literal embodiment of “replacement player.” Terry Collins reluctantly pencils Loney in every day because Wilmer Flores stole Terry’s sandwich from the employee refrigerator and must pay the price.

Earlier this week, Terry watched forlornly as one player showed a steely resistance to the aura of suck surrounding the Reds.  Joey Votto…his name rolls of the tongue, a Canadian cadence slipping through even the most American twang. The dingers (22) and the walks (100) and the smooth glove. He’s the bopper managers dream of. Particularly as managers don’t have to sign the paychecks for the $172 million remaining on his contract through his age-40 season. Keep dreaming, Terry. We’ll dream along with you. — Maggie Wiggin (@maggie162)

Brandon Phillips

Following Neil Walker’s season-ending back surgery, the Mets no longer have a bona fide starting second baseman on their roster. That role currently belongs to a strange combination of Wilmer Flores, Kelly Johnson and Matt Reynolds. These circumstances should provide a chance to see what Gavin Cecchini can do in the big leagues. However, Terry Collins would much rather go with the veteran presence of Brandon Phillips, the 35-year-old second baseman for the Cincinnati Reds instead of risking the season and potentially his job on his current options.

Though Phillips has posted a below-average season by Wins Above Replacement Player (1.4 WARP), he could benefit the Mets down the stretch with a .319 OBP and .406 SLG. Phillips would have been a better choice to acquire from the Reds than Jay Bruce, the player the Mets actually did acquire at the trade deadline. With second base now a position of pressing need, Phillips could have provided a useful resource for the second half of the season, whereas Bruce is crowding the corner outfield spots where the Mets already have too many options. — Seth Rubin (@sethrubin)

Jeff Franceour

Terry Collins probably envies the Miami Marlins’ August acquisition of Jeff Francoeur. A young Francoeur quickly developed a reputation for hammering left-handed pitching, but his .753 OPS against lefties this year is his best since 2011. We know Collins likes hitters whose reputations were hammered out years ago (see: James Loney’s glove). He also trusts lefty-righty matchups even when available data suggests no platoon split (see: Hansel Robles’s usage). Collins doesn’t mind if these veterans are minor-league retreads with no long-term upside. He’d look at Francoeur’s .353/.389/.471 in 37 plate appearances for Miami and ride that hot streak in to the ground. Trading for Francoeur could be the worst prank Sandy Alderson ever played on Collins. — Noah Grand (@noahgrand)

Photo Credit: Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

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