Much of the discussion about the Mets in Spring Training revolved around the team’s extension negotiations with Francisco Lindor and Michael Conforto. There was more urgency to work out a deal with Lindor, since the star shortstop had set an Opening Day deadline to conclude talks. Conforto, on the other hand, left open the possibility of in-season discourse.
The Mets and Lindor came to terms on a ten-year, $341MM deal just hours before the regular season began. Those negotiations seemed to keep Conforto’s situation on the back burner, as the Mets and the outfielder’s representatives at the Boras Corporation reportedly did not exchange dollar figures during the spring.
Just over a month later, it doesn’t seem the parties have moved any closer to an agreement. Mets acting general manager Zack Scott told reporters (including Deesha Thosar of the New York Daily News) that “there’s been no movement on anything contract wise for anyone” on the roster recently. That’s most notable regarding Conforto, although Scott’s statement was broad enough to suggest there’s nothing currently developing with other impending free agents Marcus Stroman or Noah Syndergaard either.
That there’s no movement on an extension in early May is not to say the Mets won’t be able to keep one or more of those players long-term. Scott didn’t suggest the Mets or any of the players were averse to future negotiations. There’s obviously still plenty of time in the season to discussion extensions with any or all of that group. Even if the players do reach the open market, nothing prevents the Mets from winning the free agent sweepstakes, just as the division-rival Phillies brought back J.T. Realmuto in January.
Conforto remains the most prominent of the Mets’ impending free agents. The 28-year-old outfielder placed seventh on MLBTR’s most recent free agent power rankings. Conforto got off to a slow start but has turned things around over the past few weeks, resulting in an overall .226/.368/.355 line over his first 114 plate appearances. That’s a step back from the cumulative .261/.365/.478 (128 wRC+) mark he compiled from 2018-20, but there’s reason to believe his bottom line numbers will improve as the season progresses.
Despite the low batting average, Conforto’s putting the bat on the ball more than ever. His 79.9% contact rate would be a career-best mark and is nearly five points higher than the league average. Meanwhile, Conforto’s swinging strike rate is at a career-low 8.5% and his plate discipline has remained strong, as evidenced by a 14.9% walk rate. His power production is down from recent seasons, but Statcast metrics suggest he’s still barreling balls at an above-average clip and making hard contact at a rate similar to past seasons. Leaguewide power production tends to improve as the year progresses and the weather gets warmer, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see Conforto find some more extra-base authority in the coming weeks and months.
Stroman and Syndergaard, meanwhile, have the potential to be among the top free agent starters available. The former is again scheduled to reach the market after accepting the Mets’ $18.9MM qualifying offer last winter. He’s off to a very strong start, working to a 2.10 ERA/3,57 SIERA over his first 34 1/3 innings. Stroman has never gotten huge strikeout totals, but he’s again finding plenty of success by throwing strikes (5.1% walk rate) and keeping the ball on the ground (55.1% grounder rate). Syndergaard is still on track to return from his March 2020 Tommy John surgery in June, giving him a couple months down the stretch to demonstrate he’s back to peak form.