NY Mets: Could Michael Conforto return on a one-year pillow contract?
By Staff Writer
The New York Mets, as a team, have struggled mightily on offense for the better part of 2021 to this point. It’s safe to say a big reason for this is due to the lack of production from their home grown veteran right fielder Michael Conforto. Conforto is in his seventh year as a New York Met and in his fifth straight year as a starting right fielder. Out of those five years, we can confidently deduce, so far, this is his worst year offensively.
Before the year began, there was much discussion as to whether or not the Mets were going to be able to even re-sign the native of Seattle Washington, as he entered 2021 in the prime of his career at 28 years old and coming off a stellar shortened 2020 pandemic season. At this point, all Mets fans were expecting a 35 homerun 100 RBI season and .285 average type of year from the Oregon State alumni as we hoped Michael would be an anchor of this newly vaunted offensive line up.
Well this has not been the case. Conforto and his high profile agent Scott Boras were probably excited at the possibility of landing a nice five or six year contract close to $30 million a year before the start of 2021, but now might have to settle for a three or four year deal at 70% that annual rate.
Will the Mets be able to land Michael Conforto one a one year rebound deal so he can increase his future value or will they have to commit to him long term?
An intriguing idea that works to the Mets favor when it comes to Michael Conforto’s below average year is the fact that they may be able to sign him on a one year deal for a reasonable dollar figure in the range of $17 to $19 million in hopes that he is able to rebound from a debacle of a 2021 year and put up a career best year in 2022 instead. That would allow the Mets All Star outfielder to then go into the free agent market and seek a nice five year contract next off season at the age of 29 and obtain the pay day he will be looking for. Considering the fact that Conforto has made it no secret that he would love to continue and his finish his career here as a New York Met, there is a chance he may actually go for such a “pillow” deal.
The reason why I believe the Mets won’t be able to land this type of deal with Michael Conforto however is because, despite his down year, I believe there will still be strong demand for him and his skill set on the open market. I can already see teams, looking for a left handed middle of the order type of bat to help bolster their line up and play off hopes, throw money at the 28 year old this off season (even if they have to overpay to get him).
Well keep in mind Conforto has always been known to be a streaky hitter throughout his Major League career and just as easily as he can go cold and look completely lost at the plate for a 50 game stretch, he can just as easily flip on a switch and become one of the hottest hitters in the game over his next 50 games. Somehow his production always seems to regress to his mean at the end of the year when it’s all said and done. And it’s still amounts to a decent year production wise.
Michael also plays a solid right field and has developed an above average arm playing out there. He shows he can cover a decent range at his position and can play a respectable center field also if he is called upon to do so. I can already see large market teams like the Yankees, Giants or Cardinals, that have some payroll room and are looking to increase their competitiveness in 2022 surely be tempted to throw a multi year offer his way because of this.
Teams looking to improve their roster depth at outfield will realize his true value and still consider offering a four year $90 million or more contract to him despite his horrid first half of this season. This will especially be true if, over the next 70 games or so (and perhaps into the post season) Conforto starts to go on a tear and drives in 40 RBI and belts out 12 home runs for the Mets. He is certainly capable of achieving those types of numbers should he get hot.
It should also be noted that Michael spent about six weeks on the IL with a hamstring injury earlier this season and that may have also contributed to his inability to get going thus far. Teams may also factor that into his poor 2021 season and chalk it up to being an anomaly.
Despite these reasons, I do think the Mets front office will still be in the driver’s seat when it comes time to sit down and negotiate with their home grown talent. As mentioned earlier, Conforto has grown comfortable and developed an affinity with having played here in the Mets organization for as long as he has. There is no doubt in my mind he would be willing to give our team a “hometown discount” should they offer one at the bargaining table. Couple this with the fact that he has had such a down year that it would leave much to be desired if the Mets were to offer him a really large and long deal, and I think a three year $70 to $75 million offer with a fourth year club option might be something he could agree to with us.
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With this deal I think both parties get what they want without have to sacrifice as much as they thought they would have to. Having both Brandon Nimmo and Dom Smith still on their arbitration contracts also softens the blow of giving Conforto $25 million a year should he falter again later in down the line in the future for the Mets. No matter what, if Conforto does remain in the orange and blue for the for seeable future, let’s just cross our fingers and hope we see more of the “hot” Michael Conforto than we do the “lost” version we have before us currently.