Conforto reiterated on Sunday that he will not speak publicly about his extension talks, which sources said have yet to grow serious. Unlike Lindor, who set a hard Opening Day deadline to negotiate an extension, Conforto has indicated to Mets officials that he’s willing to talk throughout the season.
“At this point, I’m not interested in really talking about it,” Conforto said, referring to his conversations with the media. “Right now, I’m focusing on baseball. I’m focusing on getting ready for the Phillies.”
Shortly before Lindor signed his deal last week, a source said the Mets had yet to exchange numbers with Conforto’s agent, Scott Boras, on an extension. Industry sources have estimated that Conforto will seek $200 million or more, after George Springer received a six-year, $150 million deal from the Blue Jays last winter.
The Mets value Conforto greatly as both a player and a leader, particularly after a season in which he batted .322/.412/.515 with nine home runs in 54 games. But some uncertainty remains regarding how many significant contracts the Mets can have on their payroll at the same time. In addition to Lindor, who will make $34.1 million annually beginning next season, the Mets are paying Jacob deGrom $35.5 million over the next two seasons, and they may have to renegotiate that deal if they want to prevent deGrom from opting out after 2022. Robinson Canó is also on the payroll for two more years at $20.25 million per season. In addition, the Mets may need to invest in a free-agent starter next winter.
Making all those puzzle pieces fit could be a difficult proposition for team owner Steve Cohen and his front office, which Conforto realizes.
“I could see the team looking a lot different over the next couple of years, and I have thought about that,” Conforto said. “But aside from that, I can’t really speak to whether or not they can pay all those guys, or what our capacity is to keep everybody.”
For now, Conforto is playing out his final year before free agency on a $12.25 million salary; he, like his teammates, is eager for Opening Day in Philadelphia following a four-day layoff. In a lengthy interview on Sunday, Conforto revealed that he contracted COVID-19 about two weeks before reporting to Mets camp in February. His case was mild, involving some shortness of breath that made it difficult to work out, while his fiancée also contracted the virus and experienced more moderate symptoms.
Now fully recovered, Conforto considers himself “lucky.” Like other Mets who have spoken publicly on the topic, he said he is unsure if he will receive a vaccine when the team makes it available to all players later this week. Clubs were informed last week that MLB and the MLBPA have agreed to relax certain health and safety protocols contained in the 2021 Operations Manual for fully vaccinated Tier 1 Individuals and for clubs where 85 percent of their Tier 1 Individuals are fully vaccinated. As part of that memo, players and staff were again strongly encouraged to receive one of the approved COVID-19 vaccines when eligible.
Several Mets players have called that a “personal decision,” including Conforto, who said he is eager for the day when reporters can ask him about his performances in games -- not off-field issues.
Still, for as long as Conforto’s future remains unclear, questions will follow him. Although unwilling to comment on his own contract situation, Conforto said he was thrilled for Lindor, who may be his teammate for many years to come -- or merely one, depending upon how things break.
“I think he got what he deserved,” Conforto said. “I think it’s good for the game, a good sign of a player of that caliber being paid what he has earned over the course of his career. About the direction of the team, that’s huge to get a guy with the leadership, his all-around baseball ability and the head on his shoulders. I think it’s a great sign for this team. He’s certainly a guy you can build a team around.”