Outfielder Michael Conforto turned down an extension offer from the Mets one year ago, reports Andy Martino of SNY. Per Martino’s tweet, the contract offer was “in the $100 million range” and “would have gone to about $120MM.”
Conforto’s market this winter has been one of the more difficult to predict, given that he followed up a run of four consecutive seasons of excellent production with a bit of a down year right before free agency. One year ago, at the time of this reported offer, Conforto had just finished a 2017-2020 run wherein he launched 97 home runs and hit .265/.369/.495, wRC+ of 133.
Other than the vague approximation of the final value of the offer, there’s nothing publicly known about it, making it difficult to evaluate Conforto’s decision. For instance, that number could have been spread over enough years to make the average annual value a non-starter. But just looking at the final number, it wasn’t outlandish for Conforto to reject that contract at that time. Just as a comparison, Nick Castellanos hit 98 homers over his past four years and put up a wRC+ of 126. He just signed with the Phillies for $100MM over five years. Conforto is a year younger than Castellanos, hits from the left side and doesn’t have the same defensive liabilities. If he had yet another great year at the plate in 2021, he certainly could have topped that $100MM number.
Unfortunately, Conforto had an ill-timed swoon last year, just as he was headed into free agency. Despite lowering his strikeout rate, he only managed 14 homers in 125 games and slashed .232/.344/.384 overall, for a wRC+ of just 106. Based on that performance, MLBTR predicted that Conforto would reject the qualifying offer, not find deals to his liking and eventually settle for a one-year, $20MM deal, hoping for a bounceback campaign and a return to the free agent market without the QO and with a better platform. So far, it’s seems possible things are following that script, as Conforto did indeed reject the QO is now just one of three free agents from that Top 50 list that remain unsigned or retired. (Trevor Story and Jorge Soler are the others.)
It is perhaps worth mentioned that Conforto is represented by the Boras Corporation. Superstar agent Scott Boras has often found creative ways to get his clients paid in a way that also ensures them future opportunities for further contracts. For instance, the aforementioned Castellanos signed a four-year deal with the Reds prior to the 2020 season, which came with opt-outs after each of the first two years of the deal. After a down year in 2020, he stayed put in Cincy and mashed through 2021, triggering his second opt-out and securing his $100MM deal this week. Carlos Rodon was also a candidate to settle for a one-year deal due to his excellent but injury-hampered season, but he ended up securing a two-year, $44MM deal that allows him to opt-out after the first year as long as he throws 110 innings. Carlos Correa went into the offseason looking for $330MM or more but couldn’t find a deal in that range. After switching his representation to Boras during the lockout, he just settled with the Twins for $105.3MM over three years, but with opt-outs after each season, allowing him to re-enter the market essentially at his will and take another shot at a mega payday.
Although it might initially seem like it was a mistake for Conforto to have turned down that $100MM, there’s still a chance he could come out ahead in the end. It’s entirely possible that he and Boras could find a similar deal to those examples, one that finds some middle ground between current financial security and future earning potential. He only turned 29 years of age a few weeks ago, meaning that it’s possible for Conforto to bank some money now and return to the open market going into his age-30 or age-31 season. All he has to do is put 2021 behind him and return to the form he showed in the previous four seasons.