NEW YORK -- The calendar is barreling toward Spring Training now, and still the Mets and Michael Conforto have not discussed an extension.
Back in November, team president Sandy Alderson called Conforto to tell him Major League Baseball was honoring him on its All-MLB Second Team.
“Our conversations haven’t gone anywhere past that,” Conforto said Tuesday, in advance of the 41st Annual Thurman Munson Awards.
That doesn’t mean the sides expect to remain quiet; their current silence simply shortens the window for them to talk. Early this offseason, Alderson said he intended to open communication with Conforto and his reps once Spring Training drew closer. Now, the start of camp is less than two weeks away, and Conforto, without putting a hard deadline on negotiations, indicated he would like to have a resolution before Opening Day.
“I don’t want it to be a distraction,” said Conforto, who recently signed a one-year, $12.25 million deal to avoid arbitration in his final season before free agency. “I don’t want the extension stuff, the selfish-type stuff, to be something that’s going to be in the way of us winning games. I don’t want it to be a distraction from what we’re trying to do this year. I don’t want it to linger into the season. … I want to make sure that we’re focused on the main goal here, and that’s winning games.”
With Conforto coming off his best year as a big leaguer, albeit in a shortened 60-game season, the Mets appear well-positioned to do so. To complement Conforto, who hit .322/.412/.515 with nine homers in 54 games, the team has acquired Francisco Lindor, Carlos Carrasco, James McCann, Trevor May, Joey Lucchesi, Aaron Loup and others, transforming a roster that finished in fourth place last season. And there is still the possibility of more. The Mets have been in recent talks with free-agent starter Trevor Bauer, among others; Conforto says he’s a fan of bringing Bauer aboard.
All of it has been enough for the Mets to generate hype as one of the best teams in the National League -- something their starting right fielder cautions against embracing too fully.
“We all understand that the New York Mets, people are talking about them,” Conforto said. “But that doesn’t mean anything. That doesn’t mean anything if we go out there and we lose more games than we win. Talk is cheap. We need to go out there and we need to put the work in, and we need to win a lot of games.”
According to Conforto, the responsibility for that falls largely on his shoulders, as well as those of Lindor -- another prominent veteran who figures to assume a clubhouse leadership role. Mets officials have said they also intend to negotiate an extension with Lindor, whom many in the industry expect to command a long-term deal north of $300 million. While Conforto figures to receive less than that, he would still require a significant commitment. And he considers Lindor’s negotiations completely separate from his own.
Unlike Lindor, Conforto is a popular homegrown player who has been in New York since 2015. Tuesday’s Munson Awards underscored that, with Conforto taking home an honor presented annually to tri-state-area athletes who demonstrate “success and inspiration on the fields of play, and community spirit off the field.” The awards benefitted the AHRC NYC Foundation, which works to help “people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to build full lives.” Conforto also remains active in MLBPA proceedings, which has made him as popular within the clubhouse walls as he is outside of them.
From Mets fans, the push to extend Conforto is strong.
The next eight weeks will determine exactly how plausible that might be.
“I’m not so much interested in the extension stuff. I think that will take care of itself,” Conforto said. “I think Francisco would tell you the same thing: We are completely committed to winning games this year. That’s our No. 1 concern. That’s our No. 1 motivation. … It’s not about our numbers. It’s not about what kind of money we’re going to make. It’s about how many games we’re going to win.”