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The Complicated Road to Extending Michael Conforto

Injuries 2018 MLB

Amidst all the talk this winter surrounding the New York Mets and making big name acquisitions, there has been one more hot-button issue at hand. With fan favorite right fielder Michael Conforto, 27, set to become a free agent in 2022, everyone wants to know whether or not the Mets will try to extend him long term.

The Other Extensions

After deciding against matching the Toronto Blue Jays $150 million offer for center fielder George Springer, it seems like a safe bet that the Mets will use those funds to extend Conforto instead. However, this becomes more complicated due to the fact that Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman and Francisco Lindor are all entering their contract years as well.

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Image Courtesy of NJ.com

Syndergaard and Stroman will undoubtedly command payouts of over $20 million AAV. Both will be roughly the same age (30) as former Met Zack Wheeler was when he signed a five-year, $118 million ($23.6 million AAV) contract with the Philadelphia Phillies. Likewise, both have have been more successful than pre-extension Wheeler. Even though they each missed all of 2020 with injury, top-level production from both may drive their prices closer to $30 million. Think reigning NL Cy Young Trevor Bauer and his reported $30 million AAV asking price.

As for Lindor, any offer made to the superstar shortstop will likely be similar to what Manny Machado inked back in 2019. Ten years, $300 million for the then 27-year-old made him the highest paid shortstop in history. Lindor’s performance has been comparable to Machado’s, but comes with the caveat that he’s a couple years older than Machado. At the bare minimum, and this is only if Lindor really likes playing in Queens in 2021, an eight-year $250 million contract seems to be the floor, while Machado’s deal will be the ceiling.

More Unknowns

If all of that wasn’t hindering enough to Conforto’s future with the team, there is still the fact that the Mets aren’t done signing new players yet. Still in the hunt for a center fielder, some relief help, a third baseman, and possibly another starting pitcher, there isn’t going to be much wiggle room before hitting the $210 million luxury tax threshold. Even more troublesome is that suspended second baseman Robinson Cano is set to return in 2022 and 2023. Though he is off the books this year, Cano will still earn $24 million in each of the next two. Unless Sandy Alderson finds some way to rid the Mets of this albatross contract, their singing abilities will take a huge hit in the coming years.

The Boras Effect

Let’s say that hypothetically, even with all of this uncertainty, the Mets still believe that extending Conforto takes priority over everything else. Even if Alderson does offer up a sizeable contract, there is still Conforto’s agent Scott Boras to consider. Infamous for taking most of his clients to free agency and demanding huge payouts, Boras has long been the most powerful agent in the league. Even if he does end up staying, he will still probably test the free agent market first, driving up his asking price from the Mets in the process.

Injuries 2018 MLB season
Image Courtesy of NJ.com

That said, Conforto has made it clear that the decision is ultimately his and that he would like to stay in New York. The question then becomes how much are the Mets willing to pay him. No doubt with a lesser outfield free agent pool next year, Conforto might stand out a bit more than usual and command a bigger contract than would be expected. Still, for all his success, Conforto is not Springer and shouldn’t meet or exceed $25 million AAV. He is, however, four years younger and has been trending upwards the last few seasons.

 

Currently, the most likely scenario looks to be something in the range of a six-year contract worth around $130 million ($21.6 million AAV). This price and length falls in line with previous deals to homegrown Mets stars (see Jacob deGrom and David Wright), as well as other comparable outfielders (i.e. Justin Upton and J.D. Martinez).

Hope for Conforto

Having said all of that, there is still a decent chance that the Mets do lock up Conforto long term. Steve Cohen’s commitment to staying under the luxury tax might just give way to his desire as a fan to see his team win. After proclaiming that he’d be disappointed if the team didn’t win a championship within five years, Conforto’s importance to the roster might force his hand. After all, the homegrown All-Star is one the Mets’ best players has been a leader in the clubhouse for years. If he continues to hit 30 home runs a season with an OPS north of .900, it might just be more important that the Mets extend him over anyone else in 2022.

Featured Image Courtesy of New York Daily News

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