One of my goals as both a fan and a writer is to accurately judge each player, manager, coach and executive. It’s always a challenging thing to do because you can’t help but to have favorites, biases and people you just don’t like. As an example, it is my firm belief that LOOGYs were massively overrated, both by fans and management of the Mets. But that bias of mine does not extend to thinking all lefty relievers are bad. In my mind tendering Robert Gsellman and cutting loose Chasen Shreve was a big mistake. To me, Shreve’s performance greatly outweighed the flexibility of Gsellman, both his available options and alleged ability to pitch effectively in MLB as both a starter and a reliever.

Some people think there’s a bias from me towards Michael Conforto. But my position is to judge a player both by what he’s done and what he’s likely to do going forward. Conforto had a great year in 2020, if he kept up his pace over an entire 162-game season, he would have finished with a 5.4 fWAR, a full 1.0 better than his previous best. That’s terrific.

However, the previous two season, both with over 150 games played, resulted in fWAR marks of 3.0 and 3.7 for Conforto. My opinion is that’s more likely to be Conforto’s true talent level than what he did in 2020 extrapolated to a full season. My personal value for Conforto is as a 3-4 fWAR player. That’s a really good guy to have on your team. If you had a 3-4 fWAR player at every position, you’d probably win the pennant. The Nationals, the last team to win a World Series in a 162-game season, had at least a 3-fWAR season from just three hitters and three pitchers.

Meanwhile, Nick Castellanos put up fWAR marks of 2.5-3.0 in three of the four years before he was a free agent following the 2019 season. He got a 4/$64 with an opt out after one year. My valuation of Conforto has him as a better player than Castellanos. If Castellanos was worth an AAV of $16 million, Conforto to me would be worth somewhere around $20 million.

If Conforto was a free agent this season, rather than next, he would be behind George Springer in the pecking order. Springer was on pace for a 5.1 fWAR season in 2020, slightly behind Conforto. But Springer was better previously. He enjoyed a likely career year with a 6.5 fWAR in 2019 but he also has a 4.5 and 5.0 seasons under his belt – making three seasons better than Conforto’s best – outside of 2020.

Just because Springer had a 6.5 fWAR in 2019 doesn’t mean that he should be valued at that rate. He’d likely be valued as a 4-5 fWAR player, as that’s much more in line with what he’s done previously. If Conforto was valued at an AAV of $4 million higher than Castellanos, Springer would likely be close to $8 million above Conforto. Maybe not quite that high, given that he’s three years older, but in that ballpark.

Of course, Conforto’s not a free agent yet. This has the chance to help him, though. If Conforto puts up another 5.0-fWAR type season in 2021, that will certainly push his value higher. You can argue that 2018-19 aren’t his true value numbers, as in the former year he was still recovering from the shoulder injury while in the latter season, he had a good year interrupted by a concussion.

A lot of people don’t want to let Conforto get to free agency. Instead, they want to lock him up to a long-term yesterday. But the Mets aren’t in a great position to do that right now, at least not at terms that make sense to them. There’s no reason for Conforto to give the Mets any hometown discount. He’s just one year from free agency, where he’ll be available on the right side of 30. And even if he doesn’t have a great year in 2021, there’s enough there in Conforto’s career that some team might view him as being worth a premium.

In addition to Conforto, the Mets will have to make free agent decisions on Marcus Stroman and Noah Syndergaard. And if somehow all of the planets align and Steven Matz turns in a good year in 2021, he’ll be a free agent at the end of the season, too. Do you want to give Conforto a multi-year deal now, one that will likely take more than a $25 million AAV, when you have the potential departure of three free agent SP?

Gus has framed the Mets’ choice as Springer or Conforto. My opinion is that it’s bigger than that, that Stroman and Syndergaard are in the equation, too. There’s no reason to commit long-term now to any of those three that are under control in 2021. There are questions around all three and if none of them are offering a hometown discount, let them fight it out on the field and have them earn a market rate deal from the Mets.

Stroman sat out all of last year and struggled when he first joined the Mets in 2019. Syndergaard missed all of last year with an injury and no one knows when he’ll be able to return and how good he’ll be when he does. And Conforto, well, where do we start?

In 2016 he was sent to the minors multiple times.
In 2017 he was having a great year but it was cut short with a shoulder injury
In 2018 he didn’t miss any time because of the shoulder but his poor start was likely a result of rushing back.
In 2019 he had a great start and a great finish, but was done in by the concussion in the middle
In 2020 he had an unsustainable .412 BABIP

And the other thing that gets lost in the shuffle is that if the season hadn’t been delayed due to Covid, that Conforto would have opened the year on the IL, as he suffered an oblique injury in Spring Training. And while it happened at the end of the year, we should note that Conforto suffered a hamstring injury that caused him to miss the final series against the Nationals.

Maybe none of these by themselves are a giant red flag – although my opinion is that the 2020 BABIP fits that description – but all of them together should make one hesitant to give Conforto a long-term deal valued at what he did in the shortened season of 2020.

17 comments on “Why this isn’t the right time for a Michael Conforto extension

  • Mike W

    I was thinking of Conforto last night and the impact of what a contract could be to the Mets. I like him. He is a good player, not great. He probably wont play to the level that he did last year moving forward. Mets have a lot of other needs and the boat anchor of Cano’s contract for two more year.

    I think that the Mets will sign Springer. I would not be surprised if the Mets do not extend Conforto. Here is why. You could use a portion of Conforto’s money to sign Lindor. (I know, we have good young shortstops) Conforto is a corner outfielder and can easily be replaced.

    My thinking may not be that far off the mark.

  • TJ

    My comment is boring, but I fully agree.

  • JimO

    I always root for a homegrown player who is drafted, brought up in the minors, gets an opportunity, takes a starting position, and then makes a positive impact on the team’s chances for success. Conforto checks all those boxes and I hope they do pursue a long-term contract.

  • Seattle Steve

    I favor rewarding our own if its deserved…the issue I have is the tone deaf the agents are re the overall financial hardships that the pandemic had caused not just the teams but it fans…I can see back loaded contracts if we get back to our real normal…I realize this will not occur

  • José

    I like MC and say he should be signed, not just because he attended OSU Corvallis where my daughter is currently enrolled

  • Peter

    We need to save the Conforto $ for Lindor extension.

  • TexasGusCC

    You very well covered Conforto’s situation, but I think he would be very interested in doing something now rather than waiting. What if …he gets hurt again? …he doesn’t have that good a year with the BABIP possibly evening out? …the teams have even less money since it is expected to be a 162 game season, and lower or no ticket and concession revenue?

    Players like Drew Smily coming off two injury seasons and only 26 innings last year with a lifetime 4+ ERA – and he hasn’t been good since 2015 – signed early for $11MM and now better pitchers are not even getting good offers. It may be that Conforto would like to strike while the iron is hot.

    Conforto has done well every time he has been healthy since 2017, so if I’m a team decision maker, I need to realize that and expect good results. Last year may have been a bit higher than his norms, but we saw that coming as those sub.300 BABIP’s year after year were too low for a player of his talent that has some speed too, so I’m expecting good production to continue. If Conforto would sign a 5/$90-$100 deal, I’d offer it to him.

  • Remember1969

    Gus, I agree with that comment. I have been thinking recently that the longer the market ‘develops’, the worse the players do. The early signers (McCann, and as you pointed out, Smyly) made out pretty well.

    With the uncertainty of what COVID is going to do to 2021 or the CBA to 2022, I think signing now makes a lot of sense.

  • Steve S.

    Player A: Age 27 OPS+ of 130 for 5 years Decent Corner OFer

    Player B: Age 27 OPS+ of 128 for 6 years Decent Corner OFer

    Lots of fan pressure to extend Player B, but not so much to extend Player A

    Player A is Brandon Nimmo; Player B is Michael Conforto.

    Who should get the larger contract?

    • TexasGusCC

      Excellent reporting Steve. Most people assume, either because Conforto has the power numbers or because Nimmo is so good natured or struggles to play a position he isn’t as good at, that Conforto is better. Truth is, they are both good players and the Mets would be well served to keep both. I’m hoping for all three – Lindor, Nimmo, and Conforto – to take a little less, not enough to alter their lifestyles, but say $19-20/year for our boys and about $28 for our newcomer in order to better fit everyone and keep a good team strong. Another reason to avoid Springer… man, have I soured on him.

      What do you guys think the Brewers want for $34 year old Lorenzo Cain, who has two years left on his deal at $16MM per year?

      • TexasGusCC

        Matz for Cain? Should the Mets do that? Would the Brewers?

        • Remember1969

          My thinking is that the Brewers absolutely would do that.

          Would the Mets? Not sure. Probably.

          Me personally, if I had Matz now, I would not do that deal. I am of the belief that Matz is ready for a big turn-around and will be a very good back end of the rotation starter. I think James McCann replacing Wilson Ramos will pay huge dividends for several pitchers, Matz the most. They already have a 3 or 4 year relationship with their winter work in Nashville. I feel they’ll build on that and Matz will have a very good season leading up to his free agency.

          Interesting idea, though. I had looked potential center field trades earlier this off-season and Cain’s name was one of interest to me. At this point, I think Bradley will be both cheaper and better, without giving up players.

          • TexasGusCC

            I’d like to believe in Matz too, but I have nothing to base it on and he’s in his walk year. Further, Cain has still been good on both defense and offense, even though the offense was down in 2019, he was also playing injured. He had an inflamed right thumb and then a deep thigh bruise. Cain is due $17MM and $18MM these next two years… I could go either way with it, but ultimately I think Cain would help the team more than Matz, so I do it.

    • Name

      The big caveat in that comparison is Conforto has produced that over 2500 PA while Nimmo has only done it for half that at 1300 PA.
      Nimmo has only one season of more than 260 PA which was 535 PA while Conforto has been fully healthy the last 3 seasons.
      I also think Nimmo is a injury waiting to happen – the guy loves to take one for the team and wants to get HBPs. At some point one of those will hit in a bad spot and cause a major injury.

      I think by similar logic when people watch Lindor on a day to day basis they will probably find him a less than dynamic player than his counting stats might suggest. His rate stats of 118 OPS+ and 11 UZR/150 put him in the high percentile but nowhere near elite levels. His real elite “skill” that brings his status to the upper echelon of players is his ability to stay on the field and play almost every inning – he’s averaged 154 games and 702 PA from 2016-2019.
      The downside is that one could argue that staying healthy is something that is less predictable than say fielding declines or batting declines.

      • Steve S.

        Conforto has had some injuries too, although less so than Nimmo. And a couple of them have come late in the season for MC, so he might have missed more time except for “good timing.”

        Nimmo also might be avoiding HBPs better. In fact, last year, he had 6 and Conforto had 7 in about the same number of PAs.

  • Metsense

    The Mets should extend their 27 yoa very good corner outfielders at a fair market price. Since 2018 Conforto achieved a 128 wRC+ ranking him 20th among the 191 MLB outfielders with at minimum of 400 AB. Nimmo ranks 7th at 140 wRC+ for the same period. The Mets don’t have outfield prospects immediately in the pipeline to take their place. Free agents will cost as much to replace them. When you have very good players then you should offer them their fair market value. If a team wants to be successful and remain successful they have to maintain their young very good players and also develop their farm system.

    • Steve S.

      Agree.

      Nimmo is scheduled to be a free agent one year after Conforto, but could be signed for much less money (for some reason I don’t really understand). He is the value signing.

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