Inbox: Extensions for Lindor, Conforto?

Beat reporter Anthony DiComo answers questions from fans

February 4th, 2021

A hyperactive start to the offseason has given way to a milder February, though the Mets certainly aren’t done trying to improve their team. With fewer than two weeks to go until Spring Training, here’s a dig into what’s on your minds:

What do you think the chances are that the Mets will extend Michael Conforto, Francisco Lindor and Noah Syndergaard before the start of the season?
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, I give a strong chance … let’s call it 8 out of 10. As much as Mets officials say they are pleased with their trade for Lindor regardless of the long-term ramifications, the deal would certainly look better if the Mets can lock him up to an extension. There’s a real motivation to get something done, and Lindor has indicated he’s interested, as well. So as long as the money is right, there appears to be a match.

, I’d say a bit less likely … call it 5 out of 10. Again, there is mutual interest, but Conforto’s agent, Scott Boras, does have a long history of encouraging his clients to pursue free agency, and he’ll probably use George Springer’s recent six-year, $150-million contract as the starting point for any new deal. Then again, plenty of uncertainty exists on the open market these days, particularly with the Collective Bargaining Agreement expiring after this season. If the Mets offer Conforto fair market value on an extension, he’d have a lot of incentive to take it. So, I definitely think it’s possible.

, I see as quite unlikely … call it 2 out of 10. There’s just not much motivation for the Mets to offer him a lucrative extension before seeing how he responds to Tommy John surgery. And there’s virtually no reason for Syndergaard to accept a buy-low deal when he hasn’t pitched in a year in a half. His value could rise rapidly if he proves himself over even half a season in 2021.

A few others have asked about , whom I’d lump together in a similar place with Syndergaard. The range of outcomes for Stroman is so high coming off a season in which he did not play. As such, there’s little incentive for the Mets to take a big risk on him, or for Stroman to do anything other than bet on himself to have a strong year. I suspect that’s what he’ll do.

Is Jake Odorizzi an option for the rotation? It’s been very quiet about him.
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Quiet on the media front does not necessarily mean quiet behind the scenes, whether you’re talking about , or anyone else. Some agents and teams like to be vocal about their pursuits. Others, not so much.

Regarding Odorizzi specifically, I’ve always considered him a fine mid-rotation option for the Mets, particularly given their desire to stay under the $210 million luxury tax threshold. Signing Odorizzi might not preclude the Mets from signing Jackie Bradley Jr. as well, whereas signing Bauer might. And Odorizzi is a fine pitcher in his own right; from 2015-19, he produced a 109 league-adjusted ERA+, compared to a 113 mark for Bauer.

Until or unless Odorizzi signs elsewhere, I see him as an option for the Mets. And that goes for James Paxton, too -- another buy-low candidate with plenty of upside.

If the Mets were to sign Bauer and essentially go over the luxury tax, wouldn’t it make sense to also sign Bradley to go all-in and make a push for serious playoff run?
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Not necessarily. The luxury tax isn’t just a one-time penalty; teams pay taxes on the overage, and that escalates in future seasons, even costing clubs Draft picks if it goes too far. The bigger the overage, the more tax you pay.

That being said, the tax on a small one-year overage is relatively modest, and I suspect the Mets don’t care much about it. What they care about is having their tax spiral out of control in future seasons, particularly with Robinson Canó’s $24 million tax hit coming back in 2022. Bauer and Bradley will both almost certainly command multi-year deals, so signing them both now would have serious implications on ’22 and beyond.

Then again, the next CBA negotiations could change the rules, so plenty of uncertainty exists in this arena, as well.

Why were the Mets unable to claim Brad Hand when he was waived because of the “timing” of the ownership change, but able to make Stroman a qualifying offer, which happened earlier?
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The simple answer is roster construction. The Mets knew going into the offseason that they were going to need to acquire multiple starting pitchers. Stroman was an easy one to guarantee at something close to market value, so Brodie Van Wagenen’s front office made the easy decision (in consultation with Steve Cohen and Sandy Alderson).

Hand was a tougher call. It wasn’t obvious that the Mets were going to want to allocate $10 million on a left-handed reliever. Given the perspective of November and December, that did eventually become clear. But the incoming front office hadn’t yet had a chance to dig into market conditions, so I suspect that’s why they did not request a claim on Hand.

Do you see Jeff McNeil as the long-term answer at second base?
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I don’t see why not. Plenty of folks on my social media channels like to knock 's defense at second, but outside of a small sample in 2020, he’s been a solid defender there throughout his career. It’s his natural position, and it’s hard to envision Canó taking it back from him in 2022 … if Canó is even still on the active roster at that point.

But the beauty of McNeil is that he can play wherever the Mets need him -- at second, third or in the outfield. I can’t imagine the Mets will ask him to stop training at any of those positions, knowing they’re always an injury or an acquisition away from requiring his services elsewhere.

Should we expect no fans in Citi Field for 2021?
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Will fans be allowed to attend Spring Training games at Clover Park? If yes, when will the Spring Training tickets go on sale?
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I wish I had better answers for you guys. All I can do is say that if MLB and local government officials deem it safe, of course the league and all 30 teams would love to have fans in attendance. The Mets are hopeful that can be the case as soon as Spring Training, but they just don’t know for sure. Until they do, ticketing info will remain TBD.