The New York Mets have had a rough start to the offseason. They had difficulty filling the vacant general manager position before inking former Angels general manager Billy Eppler to a four-year deal. They also have had difficulty retaining their key free agents so far: Noah Syndergaard, who many thought would accept the qualifying offer, myself included, ended up bolting Queens for Anaheim to sign with the Angels and star relief pitcher Aaron Loup also left the Mets for the Angels.
Amidst all the Mets pitchers leaving for Los Angeles, the team faces uncertain situations with their other impending free agents, and whether they are able to retain any of them is a huge mystery at this time. With the Mets now having an urgent need at pitcher following the surprising departure of Syndergaard and possibly Marcus Stroman, they have prioritized pitching in free agency, which means Michael Conforto, one of their important free agents, may no longer be a high priority for them.
Letting Conforto walk would be an unpopular move from a public relations standpoint and illogical from a team standpoint. As a homegrown player who was drafted by the Mets and has spent his entire career with the organization, Mets fans have grown to love Conforto as one of their own. From a team standpoint, the team does not necessarily have an abundance of outfielders. Brandon Nimmo and Dominic Smith will be back, and Jeff McNeil and J.D. Davis can play left field on occasion as well, but there is an obvious hole at right field that would need to be filled if Conforto walks, so letting him leave doesn’t make too sense from a roster construction standpoint.
The New York Mets should make an effort to resign Michael Conforto, but a contender in the American League could easily sign him away.
Given the Mets’ uninspiring offseason so far, which has consisted of key departures and much uncertainty over the construction of the front office, the team is not in a good position to attract free agents. With a vacancy at manager as well, the Mets may have a hard time convincing free agents that their organization would be the best one for free agents to commit to. And it’s not like they are coming off of a stellar season.
This leads back to Conforto, who faces an important offseason. He is 28 years old, and this may be his best chance at a decent contract. Despite a down season in 2021, Conforto has flashed an above-average bat and a capable glove in the past few years with the Mets. There is no reason to think that he will continue to have disappointing seasons. Although Conforto’s agent Scott Boras may be delusional in thinking Conforto could net a George Springer-like contract, there is no reason to think that Conforto could net a multiyear deal large enough that may give the Mets hesitation, given their pitching needs.
Therefore, if the Mets decide their financial resources may be better spent elsewhere, Conforto will surely look to cash in, preferably with a team that has an obvious need for a right fielder and is looking to compete for a championship in 2022 and beyond.
Therefore, with all of these factors considered, the Chicago White Sox might be the best fit for Conforto, and may emerge as the biggest threat to sign him away from Queens. The White Sox have struggled to get consistent production at right field for the past decade. In regards to overall WAR, the White Sox right fielders have been ranked poorly in the last decade. Adam Eaton, who was the primary right fielder for the White Sox in 2021, was not the answer and ended up being released during the season. Adam Engel is under contract through 2024 but is more suited for center field. Eloy Jimenez will slot in as the primary left fielder. Gavin Sheets, who spent some time in right field in 2021, may be more suited for designated hitter.
The White Sox are a young team who are set to compete in the immediate future. They have a young squad that is mostly all under cheap, rookie contracts. Conforto fits the team’s timeline, and he fills an obvious need for them.
If the Mets lose Conforto in free agency, they would receive draft pick compensation, which may deter teams from pursuing him. They better hope that’s the case, because Conforto and Boras do not seem interested in giving the team a hometown discount, and the team needs an outfielder like Conforto more than they realize.