What a Mets/Michael Conforto contract extension negotiation will likely look like

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Andy Martino
·4 min read
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Michael Conforto rounding bases with Citi in background TREATED ART
Michael Conforto rounding bases with Citi in background TREATED ART

When Michael Conforto’s agent, Scott Boras, saw George Springer sign a six-year, $150 million contract with the Toronto Blue Jays, he surely noted that his client was more than three years younger than Springer, and therefore in for a massive payday.

Negotiations between Conforto and the Mets have not yet begun, but they almost certainly will. The front office loves Conforto, whom they drafted and developed. Teammates are attached to his quiet leadership and advocacy as a leader in the Players’ Association.

Despite those feelings, it will not be easy or inexpensive to make Conforto a Met long-term. Here’s how the back-and-forth could play out over the coming months, according to multiple agents, executives, and people in the league connected to the situation.

Conforto’s age will be a significant argument in favor of his receiving more money than Springer. A player’s prime years typically come in his mid-to-late 20s.

Springer will play most of this season at 31. Conforto turns 28 in March.

If Boras’ approach is consistent with the way he and other agents typically value those late-20s prime years, he will likely make a case that a team should pay a premium for Conforto’s.

In other words, he would argue that if Springer is making $22 million at age 31, Conforto should get significantly more at 28 -- an agent might claim that the prime years are worth as much as $10-15 million annually (agents are paid to exaggerate, at least at first).

The Mets could counter that Conforto is a corner outfielder, while Springer is a center fielder. Boras could respond that no one in baseball expects Springer to play center for much longer.

As for their respective production to date, Springer had a career OPS of .852. Conforto’s is .843 -- and, as Boras might raise again at this point in the conversation, that number is entering his prime rather than preparing to leave it.

When it comes to Springer’s top-shelf postseason performance, the Mets could bring up the Houston Astros’ cheating, while Boras could posit that it’s hardly Conforto’s fault that the Mets haven't been a World Series-caliber team for most of his career. That topic could be a wash for both sides.

If you take the $10-15 million for Conforto’s premium years literally, an opening concept from Boras’ side could look like this: $33 million annually for the next three years, then $25 million for four years after that.

That adds up to seven years, $199 million, an average annual value of $28.4 million (it’s not known if Conforto will want a six or seven year deal and one more shot at free agency, or an eight-to-10 year contract that will secure him until his late 30s -- if I had to bet, I’d bet on the latter, but we’ll split the difference today at seven years).

To a proposal like this, Sandy Alderson would likely say, “Thank you, Scott, but that is too expensive.”

But seven years, $175 million might be closer to a number that would keep Conforto from testing free agency. Push it to $180 million, and it could be even more tempting.

Would the Mets pay him $30 million more than the Blue Jays are paying Springer? That’s no sure thing, but it might be what it takes to keep him from hitting the open market.

Remember, too, that Conforto is one of just eight players on the Executive Subcommittee at the union, and will take a leading role in collective bargaining talks that are almost certain to become contentions. Under those circumstances, he might feel obligated to maximize his own payday in order to set a precedent for others. Conforto hasn’t taken that stance publicly, but it’s common among players active in the union.

Boras has a reputation for disliking extensions and preferring free agency. In conversations over the years, he has consistently disputed that, framing it as a preference to help players maximize their value.

In 2014, he turned down a six-year, $144 million offer from the Detroit Tigers to Max Scherzer, because he believed that was significantly below market. He was proven correct, and found Scherzer a $210 million deal with the Nationals.

But seeing a different context with Xander Bogaerts and the Red Sox in 2019, he agreed to a six year, $120 extension.

The next few months will tell us which way it goes with Conforto.