The contract extension has been all the rage this past month in Major League Baseball.
In addition to Jacob deGrom inking a five-year, $137.5 million deal, Mike Trout (Angels), Chris Sale (Red Sox), Paul Goldschmidt (Cardinals), Luis Severino (Yankees), Alex Bregman (Astros) and Aaron Nola (Phillies), among many others, have all recently signed contract extensions to remain long term with their current teams.
By doing so, in exchange for long-term security, each of the above players settled for slightly less money than they probably could have gotten as a free agent. Inversely, the team no longer has to fear losing the player to another team, and they also got the chance to restructure the remaining arbitration years.
In each of the above deals, I've read or heard from no one that thinks both sides were right in agreeing to their respective pacts, which includes deGrom and the Mets.
That said, as long as Brodie Van Wagenen is handing out contract extensions, Michael Conforto and Noah Syndergaard should be the next two players he sits down with at the negotiating table...
Why lock in Conforto?
Conforto is under contract the next three seasons, during which he'll likely earn just under $20 million. He's eligible to be a free agent after 2021, at which point he'll be 28 years old and in the prime of his career.
Based on his increased production in the second half of last season, when he had a very low BABIP, I firmly believe Conforto is on the verge of a breakout season. He's healthy, experienced and he'll have Robinson Cano, Jed Lowrie and Wilson Ramos batting around him. He put up 3.0 WAR in 2018, earned mostly in the second half of the season.
If he continues what he did in late 2018, again plays in 150 games, finds a bit more luck on balls in play and drives in more runs because of who is hitting around him, it's not far off to imagine him putting up 5-6 WAR season.
If Conforto is considered an elite outfielder, All-Star and MVP candidate one year from now, his agent -- Scott Boras -- will almost certainly brush off any offer by the Mets and begin prepping his client for the open market.
Conforto recently told Boras that he's open to signing a long-term deal with the Mets. Therefore, since Conforto has yet to have an MVP-caliber breakout season and he does have a major shoulder surgery under his belt, now may be the last, perfect time for Van Wagenen to make his move.
The consensus among MLB analysts with rival teams say the Mets would be wise to give a six-year, $65 million deal to Conforto right now. I'm sure Boars believes Conforto can outpace that income during the next three years, but the young outfielder will need to do it while worrying about fall-off, injury and other obstacles in his path.
Much like the extensions mentioned at the top of this post, in return for easing Conforto's mind about job security and income from now through his early 30s, Van Wagenen will pray Conforto doubles his production to date -- making the six-year extension a unquestioned bargain.
Why lock in Syndergaard?
Syndergaard is arbitration-eligible through 2021, after which he too can become a free agent at 28 years old, just like Conforto. However, while Syndergaard is open to discussing a contract extension, he recently told reporters that the team had yet to approach him or his agent about a deal.
I'm sure the Mets have interest, but most MLB insiders tell me Van Wagenen should take it slow.
"He's a ticking time bomb," one rival analyst told me in February, specifically pointing to Syndergaard's velocity, past injuries and mechanics.
On the other hand, "He's a freak," stated a different evaluator with an NL East team. "If anyone can push through the typical path, it's probably him."
The Mets have seen Syndergaard excel in New York over the course of an entire season. They know what he's capable of when pitching every five days for six months, including during a pennant race. However, they also know he has missed the majority of the 2017 season and has done nothing mechanically to adjust his delivery and reduce his chance of further damage to his body.
Severino and Nola both agreed to a four-year deal that wiped out three years of arbitration and one year of free agency. Syndergaard has just two years of arbitration remaining after this coming season, which means he'll probably want an offer from Van Wagenen with more years and slightly more money than Severino and Nola received. The thing is, while Syndergaard may be closer to free agency, both Nola and Severino entered this winter having been more productive, healthier and more reliable than Syndergaard the previous two years.
I'd be thrilled to have Syndergaard standing next to deGrom the next five to six years. Of course, it was jut a few months ago that New York was wrapped up in rumors about Van Wagenen shopping Syndergaard in trade. What's more, earlier this week the pitcher criticized the team's treatment of deGrom and the team having to travel to Syracuse two days before Opening Day.
The point is, there should be mutual interest to at least explore the makings of a contract extension. However, while Severino and Nola set a decent precedent for what a deal could look like, I suspect both Syndergaard and the Mets will want to wait until next winter before making any formal decisions.
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!