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What do the Mets do with Michael Cuddyer when he returns?

When Cuddyer returns to the Mets' lineup, he will be coming to a team much different than the one he played for two weeks ago.

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

When Michael Cuddyer was placed on the disabled list two weeks ago with a knee injury, the Mets were a team that was incapable of scoring runs with playoff hopes fading faster than the taste of Big League Chew.

Since then Juan Uribe, Kelly Johnson, and Yoenis Cespedes have come along and injected new life into the Mets' season. The Mets were just a game over .500 and three games behind the Nationals the day Cuddyer was placed on the DL. Today, they are eight games over .500 and two games ahead of Washington. This is a totally different Mets team than the one Cuddyer played for a few weeks ago.

Now it appears that he is ready to come back by Monday, and the Mets will have to decide what Cuddyer's role with this revamped team is and what will happen to top prospect Michael Conforto, who has filled in for Cuddyer while he was out. Because they have invested in the former All-Star beyond this season, he will almost definitely be a Met next year. It looks like the team's probable and most sensible course of action is to put Cuddyer in the lineup and hope he can regain his stroke with more protection around him.

As poorly as he has played this year, Cuddyer is still just two years removed from winning the NL batting title and just one year removed from hitting .332/.376/.579 in 49 games. He has been a solid hitter over most of his career, and deserves another chance to contribute to the Mets.

With Uribe and Cespedes playing every day and Lucas Duda hitting like a superstar as of late, Cuddyer will only have to serve as a complementary player who would probably bat sixth or seventh in the lineup. He has been a very good supporting bat in past lineups that included the likes of Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Troy Tulowitzki, and Carlos Gonzalez.

Should the Mets ultimately decide to put Cuddyer right back in the starting lineup, it would make sense to send Conforto back to Triple-A and call him up in September once the minor league season is done. It is also reasonable to think that Cuddyer will be on a short leash. Terry Collins has been adamant about starting players who are hitting well, and the 36-year-old may be relegated to part-time status if he does not start hitting. Cuddyer has been a huge disappointment this season after signing with the Mets in November and because they have more options now, it is not necessary for them to start underperforming players on a daily basis.

The Mets have been fine without him the past two weeks, but a healthy Cuddyer would bring another great run producer to an already hot lineup. If he is capable of being even a decent hitter, he can surely help the team offensively. Not to mention his experience in pennant races and playoff games, which would undoubtedly be valuable to a young team like the Mets.