Michael Conforto, by any standard, is having a career year in a losing effort for the Mets. “The Steve’s” are set to battle for his future.
Michael Conforto picked a good year to have the best of his six seasons with the Mets. His stats are worthy of serious consideration as the MVP of the National League.
If not, that is, for the fact that his team will once again not make the playoffs for the sixteenth time in the last two decades.
Forget all that for now because we are talking about a 28-year old centerfielder entering his third and final year of arbitration.
His salary of $8 million for this season will be heavily in play when Michael Conforto’s superagent, Steve Boras, sits across the table from Steve Cohen, the Mets newly crowned team owner with $12 billion left to spend from his stash of cash.
Boras, like Cohen, is a tough nut to crack, and his interest in Michael Conforto as a budding superstar allows him the opportunity to play both sides of the table with Cohen.
Right off the bat, Conforto is due a considerable increase from $8 million, upwards to $15 million as a given for what will be his “walk year” in 2021.
Michael Conforto And Steve Boras Make Their Case
Boras will come in with his standard three-ring binders that announce in a loud voice Michael Conforto’s numbers for this year.
The ammunition will include Top Ten finishes among National League battling leaders in these categories: (All stats are courtesy of Baseball-Reference) and as of September 19, 2020)
- WAR Position Players 5th (2.3)
- Offensive War 7th (2.1)
- Batting Average 4th (.337)
- On Base Percentage 4th (.427)
- On Base Percentage Plus Slugging 9th (.927)
- Games Played 6th (51)
- Runs Scored 5th (39)
- Hits 3rd (64)
- Runs Created 6th (44)
- Times On Base 2nd (94)
Steve Boras is at his best in these situations, mainly because he can wedge his argument on behalf of Michael Conforto in two ways.
By then, Boras will have studied Conforto’s peers among the batter in the Free Agent Class of 2022.
A glance puts Michael Conforto, who will then be only 29, as one of the top five free agents entering the market.
Eeny Meeny Miny Moe
The choice for Boras and Michael Conforto then becomes whether or not to accept a one-year arbitration infused deal for 2021, and then play the market for a multi-year agreement for 2022 and beyond.
Or, to make a play now for a contract extension with the Mets and Steve Cohen for a multi-year package, to strike while the iron is hot with guaranteed money for X number of years, putting to rest the risk of career-threatening injuries in the future.
The choice is always a weighty one for players who find themselves in this situation, but a lot depends on how Michael Conforto feels about playing in New York and for the Mets as his career moves on.
Michael Conforto: Steve Cohen’s Poster Child?
There is, of course, another element in this discussion, namely the man sitting on the other side of the table – Steve Cohen.
It is widely assumed and justified that Cohen will want and need to make a few “big splashes” with Mets fans who have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of his big pockets.
Signing Michael Conforto to a contract in the neighborhood of six-years at $25 million per season ($150 million overall) fits into the scenario of big splashes.
It would also succeed in sending a signal to the “Mets in waiting” that says – keep producing, and I (Cohen) promise you that you will be rewarded. Pete Alonso, Dominic Smith, and possibly Jeff McNeil are prime candidates for extensions down the road.
Cohen’s other option, of course, is to refuse an extension now saying, in essence, to Michael Conforto and Boras – “Fine, let’s see you do it again, and then we’ll talk about it during the 2021 season.”
Either way, Cohen has to realize he is dealing with a darling of the Mets fan base, and a player in Conforto who fits nicely into the absence of the All-American Boy image so nicely portrayed by David Wright.
Michael Conforto: Lead Me On, Steve Boras
Steve Boras has been in these situations before, and there is no established pattern as to how he will advise Conforto.
But it’s safe to assume that Boras will at least test the water with Cohen to establish the format of a multi-year deal and that Cohen will be open to doing the same.
Cohen may or may not be familiar with current trends in the MLB free-agent marketplace.
But Steve Boras indeed is aware that once you get beyond the top two or three free agents (think Gerrit Cole and $324 million), it’s a slippery slope down from there that leaves many players (think Didi Gregorius) settling for a paltry one-year deal worth $14 million.
Michael Conforto has his head on his shoulders, and he recognizes the magnitude and repercussions of the decision that rests squarely on his shoulders. He spoke of this earlier this year:
Stay tuned on this one, though, because no matter what happens, it’s likely that Michael Conforto will emerge as the first test of all we’ve been waiting for, and reliable measurement for what the Steve Cohen era promises to be.