In the last decade, fewer and fewer players are entering the free agent market when in their prime.
Instead, they tend to sign contract extensions in their younger years, swapping guaranteed money earlier in their career for more money during their prime seasons.
The following two position players, starting pitcher, and reliever are worthy of considering signing to a similar contract extension...
In terms of the team's young position players, Conforto is in prime position to agree to a contract extension, especially given how the Yankees handled Aaron Hicks last winter.
"I'm all ears," Conforto said earlier this season, when asked if he's open to a deal.
Conforto is under contract the next two years, during which he'll likely earn just under $20 million. He'll be a 28-year-old free agent after the 2021 season.
He put up 3.0 WAR in 2018, earned mostly in the second half of the season. In 2019, he further elevated his game, producing 3.7 WAR, helped in part by having Pete Alonso in the lineup.
He is coming off two very similar, very stable, healthy seasons, playing at least 150 games, hitting at least 28 home runs and batting around .250, while playing right and center field.
Based on what MLB analysts told me this past March, combined with what Conforto did again during the season, a good middle ground for him and the Mets might be a four- or five-year deal worth roughly $16 million each season.
It's worth noting the Mets should also be motivated to keep Conforto because they have very few upper-level prospects that can handle the outfield.
If Conforto just continues on his current path, he'll be making a fair swap comparing his final two years in arbitration with his first two or three years in free agency. Of course, his agent is Scott Boras, who is notorious for blowing off talks about contract extensions in favor of testing the open market.
The analysts I've talked to all feel the Mets should absolutely be speaking with Syndergaard about a contract extension, especially since he's currently arbitration-eligible and due to be a free agent after 2021. However, the group was split on what a deal should look like because they varied in how confident they are with Syndergaard's arm and mechanics.
"He's a ticking time bomb," one person told me earlier this season.
Another said "He's a freak. If anyone can push through the typical narrative, it's probably him."
Syndergaard, 27, said earlier this season he would be open to discussing a contract extension, but that the team had yet to approach him or his agent about a deal.
There have been no reports indicating there has been in change in communication.
"I love being a Met, I love New York City, the fanbase is great and has been very kind to me," Syndergaard once said, noting that he'd be nervous about entering the current free-agent market, which hasn't exactly been kind to elite players.
Last winter, the Phillies locked up Aaron Nola to a four-year, $45 million extension that included a club option, while the Yankees locked in Luis Severino with a four-year, $40 million extension.
The two contracts provide a likely framework for Syndergaard, who at this point might warrant just a three-year deal, though he'd certainly be looking for four or five.
"I'll be a 29-year-old free agent and I take care of my body," Syndergaard said. "I'm pretty confident I'll be able to stay healthy up to that point and able to to compete at the top of my level for the remainder of that contract, whatever it might be."
Admittedly, this is not someone I bet most people expected to see on the list. And, given his impressive 2019, this is probably the worst time to negotiate with his agent.
However, the 29-year-old Lugo is expected to earn just under $2 million in salary arbitration this coming season. He is eligible again in 2021 and 2022. In all likelihood, he will not break the bank and end up being paid less than $10 million total during those three seasons.
In this instance, I'm actually not suggesting an extension so much as an override deal that locks in his salary during the same stretch of time. For instance, if his agent and general manager Brodie Van Wagenen's analytics department can agree on expectations and a dollar total -- say, $10-11 million -- divide it up, lock it in, give Lugo peace of mind and give the Mets a number to fix in to their budget.
The other benefit is that, if Van Wagenen decides to listen to trade offers for Lugo, it is easier to peg a value to him because he has a set salary. In past summers -- if you notice -- because relievers are so inconsistent from year to year and don't have a starting value, it often makes trade packages equally inconsistent. In giving Lugo an override deal, it can help mitigate this situation.
The idea of extending a player about to win Rookie of the Year with five more seasons of control probably seems silly. However, look no further than the White Sox, who this past spring signed top prospect Eloy Jimenez to a six-year override deal when he was on the verge of him making his MLB debut.
The deal, which was for six years and $43 million, included two club options totaling $34 million, which would be his first two years as a free agent. Similarly, also before making his big-league debut, the Phillies signed 3B-OF Scott Kingery to a six-year, $24 million deal through 2023. Kingery's deal includes three team options totaling an addition $43 million.
The Mets obviously would have done quite well had they done something similar to the above with Alonso prior to his headline-making, 53-home run season, after which he's about to win Rookie of the Year.
Alonso is 24 years old. He'll earn the league minimum each of the next two seasons, after which his three arbitration seasons could net out around $30 million (maybe more if this past season is any indication of his power during that stretch). Therefore, to sign him to an extension now, the Mets would probably need to come closer to the $43 million (with an option or two) given to Jimenez than the $24 million that went to Kingery.
My hunch is that the Mets will not do this because it adds several million dollars to their payroll the next two years. However, at a time when Alonso's salary begins to spike to areas no one knows and the Mets have money coming off the books and want to add new talent, Alonso's money will be set in stone and less than it would be in arbitration.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. His new book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!