One of the biggest New York Mets-related questions over the past year or so has been related to right fielder Michael Conforto and whether or not the Mets will extend him or let him hit free agency.
After putting up MVP numbers in 2020, the best season of his career, it seemed likely that the Mets would seek to extend him, especially with new owner Steve Cohen running the show.
However, the Mets prioritized making new acquisitions and signing superstar shortstop Francisco Lindor to a mega-deal put a pause on those plans.
Conforto, who is set to hit free agency this winter, got off to a slow start to begin the 2021 season. He is now on the IL with a serious hamstring injury that will see him off the field until late June at the earliest.
So how does Conforto’s injury impact his future with the Mets and free agency?
The short answer is the obvious one, that an injury such as this will hurt his case rather than help. The fact that he struggled at the plate to begin the season doesn’t help, either.
In 33 games this season, Conforto has slashed .230/.356/.336 with a .692 OPS, 10 R, 2 HR, 13 RBI, 27 SO, and 18 BB. Through 33 games last season, Conforto slashed .322/.429/.508 with a .937 OPS, 22 R, 5 HR, 16 RBI, 32 SO, and 17 BB. What a discrepancy that is.
He hasn’t been seeing the ball nearly as well and hasn’t been hitting for power at nearly the same rate. Conforto hasn’t played since May 16th and will have missed almost a month and a half if he does return in late June.
These two factors, and the fact that he never really had a superb season until 2020, take away his leverage in contract negotiations.
The good news is, this gives the Mets the upper hand. Unless they have plans to go out and acquire a star right fielder for the future, Conforto is their guy.
Unless he comes back from the IL a changed man and looks like the Conforto we saw last season, the Mets have a realistic chance of giving him a team-friendly deal.
When discussing potential extensions for Conforto, many projected he could get around five years and over $100 million. Because of his injury and general situation this season, the Mets might be able to avoid hitting the $100 million price tag.
Conforto’s agent, Scott Boras, has a reputation for taking his clients to free agency but even if he does, it’s difficult to envision another club paying the 28-year-old that much.
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The Mets have been devastated by injuries this season and no fan wants to see their players struggle, but every cloud has a silver lining. In Conforto’s case, it might be that he sticks around at a reasonable price for years to come while the team’s championship window is only just opening.