NEW YORK -- If there is a player on the Mets' roster whose status could be most impacted by the team’s potential ownership change, it is probably Michael Conforto. For years, Conforto has discussed his interest in a contract extension, but the Mets never engaged him in talks until “a really, really brief and preliminary chat this spring.” Team officials did not follow up, according to Conforto.
Perhaps an ownership switch will change that, particularly if the Mets begin pumping more money into their annual payrolls. Conforto may not be willing to speculate on that aspect of his future, but he’s still as interested as ever in sticking around Flushing long term.
“I don’t know what the new ownership is going to come in and do,” Conforto said. “I’m just a baseball player, so I’ll leave those things to my agent, and to the people that know more about that stuff.”
Asked if he still wants to stay, Conforto responded: “Of course. I love it here. This is everything I know.”
A homegrown player selected in the first round of the 2014 Draft, Conforto debuted the next season and played a key role in the Mets’ run to the World Series. By 2017, he had settled in as a productive everyday outfielder.
This year, Conforto has taken the step forward that many have long envisioned for him, entering Wednesday’s play with a .328/.419/.525 slash line and nine home runs in 53 games. (Conforto returned to the lineup after missing the previous two games due to hamstring tightness.) They are numbers that could earn him down-ballot National League MVP Award votes, and that should pique the Mets’ interest as they begin discussing the long-term future of the franchise.
“I’m proud of some of the things that I’ve been able to do this year for sure,” Conforto said. “I’m looking forward to building on some of the individual successes that I’ve had this year, but also, I play this game to win, and I know all those guys in there do, too. That’s the most important thing for us.”
Now 27, Conforto is still young enough to be a key part of the Mets’ long-term core, along with a homegrown group of hitters that includes Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil and Dominic Smith. Although Alonso is often looked at as a future Mets captain, Conforto has also been a strong clubhouse leader, particularly while serving as the team’s union rep during return-to-play negotiations this summer.
If nothing else, extending Conforto would be a popular move with the Mets’ fan base.
“I can’t really look beyond today, tomorrow, the games we have left this year,” Conforto said. “Of course I’m aware of what’s going on and new ownership coming in, and you definitely think about what kind of things are going to change and what this team’s going to look like when we come back. But for right now, until I have a better understanding of what that’s going to look like, I’m just focused on playing the game today and making sure I do what I can to help the team win today.”
Better late than never
Nearly four weeks after Dellin Betances landed on the injured list due to a right lat issue, the Mets reliever returned to the active roster on Wednesday. Members of the team’s performance staff cleared Betances for game duty for the first time since Aug. 29.
It has been a difficult season for Betances, who struggled to regain his old velocity before going on the IL. All told, Betances posted a 6.10 ERA over his first 13 appearances as a Met. His average fastball velocity dipped from 97.7 mph during his last full season in 2018 to 93.2 mph this summer.
Betances’ struggles make it more likely that he will exercise his $6 million player option to return to the Mets in 2021, rather than jump back into free agency.
The Mets plan to reveal a Mr. Met “virtual bobblehead” on Friday, featuring “the beloved mascot in his familiar thumbs-up pose,” according to a team release. A link to access the giveaway will be distributed to all fans on the team’s email list.