Conforto, who will remain under team control until 2022, recently avoided arbitration with the organization by agreeing to a $4.03MM deal this past offseason. The 26-year old outfielder is currently set to start just his second big-league Opening Day, but has impressed with the stick across his first four seasons in the majors.
Despite questions regarding the health of his shoulder after a capsule tear pre-empted a breakout 2017 campaign, Conforto roared back in the second half of last year, hitting .273/.356/.539 with a .379 wOBA and 143 wRC+. Since he first secured everyday playing time in 2017, the Oregon State product has the 12th-highest ISO (.234), eighth-highest WPA (5.09), and sixth-highest walk-rate among outfielders (13.1%), and his 9.1 career bWAR – as it currently stands – is the 33rd-highest in franchise history.
“I think it’s our job to do two things: identify what our players need to be successful, give them the tools to be successful and then recognize who has the talent to be part of our plan long-term,” Van Wagenen told Rieber earlier on Friday. “[We] identified the players that we think are important now and are important in the future. Michael’s one of those guys.”
On the possibility of negotiating a long-term pact with a team that has started gearing up for a sustained run of success into the next decade, Conforto said “I would love to explore it… I’m all ears to anything. I really enjoy playing here, so I’m all ears.”
The news of the organization’s speculated engagement with Conforto comes on the heels of a less rosy process with ace pitcher and 2018 NL Cy Young award winner Jacob deGrom – and one that continues, at that. Heading into his age-31 season despite just one less year than Conforto in the orange and blue, deGrom has been tangled in discussions with the organization dating back to last summer, when Van Wagenen was employed by CAA, serving as deGrom’s agent.
Though little has surfaced since a contentious February that even featured the possibility of deGrom consulting his agent regarding an innings limit, the Mets’ willingness to pursue negotiations with Conforto should serve for some encouragement, with Van Wagenen adding “we have three years before we have to really think about losing him, but he’s going to be an important part of what we do and I think the success he had the second half of the season, we expect it to continue. We’ll be open to having those conversations about his longer-term future as time goes on.”
Truth be told, extensions have almost become a vogue alternative for several players across Major League Baseball, most notably Luis Severino, Aaron Nola, Nolan Arenado, Aaron Hicks, Max Kepler, and Jorge Polanco. For such players as Arenado and Hicks, the motivation for a long-term pact has been enforced largely by a devolving free agent market – one that surely neither player would look to be victimized by despite their respective track records. Securing money now via extension, even by means of closing the bidding among several potentially interested teams, has gained momentum of late.
Conforto, a client of noted free agency advocate Scott Boras, finds himself in a quandary, but was nonetheless transparent in his analysis of the situation, both in financial and competitive terms:
“Obviously, Scott has that track record, but ultimately he’s working for me,” Conforto said. “He always lets me know that. He’s going to advise me the best way he knows how, but everyone’s circumstances are different and he certainly understands that. When the time comes, we’ll talk about that, but I don’t think the time’s here yet. It’s just baseball for now.”
“I see myself as a long-term fixture in this program,” Conforto added afterward. “Brodie said he feels the same way. Obviously, I don’t know what’s going to happen down the road in a couple years, but I would love to stay here long-term. I love it here. I love playing in New York. I feel like I’m going to be a person that’s going to be in this organization for a long time.”