The Mets announced that they have issued qualifying offers to outfielder Michael Conforto and right-hander Noah Syndergaard. The two players have until November 17 to decide if they will accept the one-year, $18.4MM offer, or if either will reject the offer and test free agency.
It was already expected that Conforto would receive a QO, though there wasn’t as much clarity on Syndergaard, considering the righty has missed virtually all of the last two seasons. Syndergaard underwent Tommy John surgery in March 2020 and then his return was further delayed by elbow inflammation, before he got back in time to pitch two innings over two games late in the Mets’ 2021 campaign.
Before the TJ surgery, however, Syndergaard had exhibited some front-of-the-rotation stuff over his first five seasons with New York. The peak was a 2016 season that saw “Thor” earn an All-Star nod and finish eighth in NL Cy Young Award voting, though over 716 innings from 2015-19, Syndergaard posted a 3.31 ERA, 26.4% strikeout rate, and a 20.7% K/BB rate.
If Syndergaard is able to deliver close to those types of numbers when healthy in 2022, that is certainly worth an $18.4MM payday. With this in mind, the Mets clearly felt comfortable issuing the QO to Syndergaard knowing that he very well could accept the one-year deal now, and re-enter free agency next winter in search of a longer-term contract (and an actual platform year on his resume). Syndergaard returning to the fold would go a long ways towards bolstering a Mets rotation that might lose Marcus Stroman to free agency, plus Jacob deGrom and Carlos Carrasco are coming off injury-plagued seasons of their own.
New York is now also eligible to receive a compensatory draft pick if Syndergaard rejects the qualifying offer and signs elsewhere, and that possibility can’t be ruled out. Another team might feel Syndergaard is worth some kind of multi-year commitment right now, or possibly a multi-year deal that contains an opt-out clause after a year so Syndergaard could end up re-entering the 2022-23 free agent class after all.
Conforto seemed like a surefire bet to receive a qualifying offer prior to the 2021 campaign, yet some doubts were raised when the outfielder struggled for a big portion of the season. A strained right hamstring cost Comforto over a month on the injured list, and he hit .232/.344/.384 over 479 plate appearances — a large step back from his .259/.358/.484 slash line over his first six seasons.
Looking at the advanced metrics, there isn’t any clear reason behind Conforto’s dropoff, apart from an increase in his groundball rate (a career-high 44.7%), which combined with a .276 BABIP could have resulted in just some bad batted-ball luck. Apart from that one stat, however, many of Conforto’s 2021 metrics were pretty close or even better than his career rates.
It would seem like Conforto might also be a candidate to accept the qualifying offer, if he wished to enter free agency on the heels of a better platform year come next winter. However, reports suggest that Conforto will likely reject the QO and test the market this season. It stands to reason that multiple teams will still have interest in giving Conforto a nice multi-year contract (especially since 2022 will only be his age-29 season), though it will be interesting to see just how big a deal he lands in the wake of his somewhat average 2021 numbers.