NY Mets: Playing devil’s advocate with Michael Conforto
By Tim Boyle
Last offseason was one of the most exciting in New York Mets history. Nobody seemed out of reach for the club. Steve Cohen, baseball’s richest owner, took over. Big free agent acquisitions, trades to take on large contracts, and extensions for core players were all on the table.
An item not checked off during the offseason was an extension for outfielder Michael Conforto. A longtime member of the starting lineup and heartbeat of the franchise, the Mets only ended up extending newcomer Francisco Lindor. Conforto goes into this winter unsigned. Based on his performance this year, parting with him might not be so hard.
Conforto missed significant time yet again in 2021 and his performance when healthy was not remarkable. He remains a candidate to re-sign, but is he really the player we want in right field for the foreseeable future?
Let’s play devil’s advocate with the Mets right fielder, Michael Conforto, and his future with the team
I’ll be the first to admit I am not the biggest fan of Conforto. I hate to use the word “overrated” to describe him because it’s not exactly a fair term to use for a guy who is often overly criticized.
Conforto’s MLB career has been a strange one. Diehard loyalists think he is a tremendous player—which he is at times.
More pessimistic fans see the negatives and ignore the things Conforto can do well. He’s probably somewhere in between. A few facts, though, can show how much better the right field situation can be moving forward.
Without knowing how much Conforto will command in his next contract, it’s hard to say what would be an overpay for him. He once looked like a lock to earn $100 million. However, given his performance this season, he should come up well short.
The facts I also tend to lean on when comparing Conforto to the rest of the league are All-Star appearances and MVP votes. Conforto only made one All-Star team back in 2017. Injuries and a rough first half more than once in his career have contributed to this. The MVP voting is what I consider a bit more. Since debuting in 2015, a player of his caliber should have at least earned some minor recognition. Unfortunately, he never has.
I know MVP votes are subjective but consider this: many of the Mets starters this year have at least received some consideration for it at one point in their career. Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor, Dominic Smith, and Kevin Pillar have at one point received some acknowledgment for the league’s best player.
Has Conforto simply been overlooked or has he consistently been stuck in the second-tier of ballplayers?
Conforto does a lot of things well, but the one thing he has yet to do is carry the Mets. It’s a criticism many fans notice about any athlete. Not always fair, Conforto has regularly been the compass to whether or not the Mets win a game. In wins, Conforto has slashed a fantastic .325/.432/.624. In losses, Conforto is a .190/.281/.324 hitter. The strikeouts are notably different with 279 in team wins and 431 in losses.
Just for a random comparison, Lindor has hit .316/.386/.556 in wins and .227/.282/.371 in losses. It’s expected that a player would perform better in wins. The difference in Conforto feels a little extreme.
We see this further exemplified with Conforto’s numbers in high, medium, and low leverage situations. In high leverage situations, he’s hitting .225/.335/.426 (591 PAs), .256/.351/.478 in medium leverage (1112 PAs), and has been best in low leverage situations at .267/.370/.479 (1277 PAs).
There are a lot of numbers to suggest Conforto is not worth the investment. There are just as many to say he is the man for the job.
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However, if the current trends continue in his career, it might be an easy decision for the front office to make. Can we blame them for letting him walk after such a terrible season? Maybe not but there will be plenty of finger-pointing if he continues to decline and remains with the club.