(Photo: Brad Penner — USA Today Sports)
If Michael Conforto wants to prove to Mets owner Steve Cohen that he is a $200 million player as his agent Scott Boras suggests, he is doing a terrible job of that.
Conforto struck out three times and stranded two men on base in the Mets’ 3-0 loss to the Miami Marlins Saturday afternoon at Citi Field. The fans let him hear it by booing him after he failed to get Brandon Nimmo home from third that would have given the Mets a 1-0 lead in the first inning and failing to get Jacob deGrom home from third to tie the game in the sixth inning.
Conforto only has three hits with one extra-base hit (a double) to show for it in this young season. He has as many hits as deGrom. He struck out eight times in 21 at-bats. His only fame (you can also say infamy) this season came when he leaned into a pitch that was clearly in the strike zone that would have been strike three. Instead, home plate umpire Ron Kulpa called it a hit by pitch, and that scored the game-winning run that would help the Mets get an underserved 3-2 victory over the Marlins in the Mets home opener Thursday afternoon.
The soon-to-be free agent plays a role in the Mets being 2-for-30 in runners in scoring position with 35 men stranded on base in their last 36 innings. If he is not striking out, he is grounding into a double play to end the threat.
Yes, it’s early to analyze what’s going on, but a poor start gets magnified. It’s clear now Conforto is scuffling and doing too much. Being a free agent to be is not helping matters. In New York, that’s a quick way to get out of town than stay with the Mets.
From what we learned about Cohen so far, he won’t be throwing money just for the sake of doing so. Just ask George Springer. When Springer received a six-year, $150 million deal from the Toronto Blue Jays, the Mets owner never bother to improved the offer, so Springer became a Blue Jay. At least, he won’t have buyer’s remorse since Springer injured his right quad while rehabbing from his oblique injury. Just ask J.T. Realmuto, who never got an offer from the Mets.
Cohen plans on being smart with his money. He will pay his player if it’s deserved. Conforto would get $100 million or less, but not at $200 million. If anything, he may not get $100 million with the trajectory he is in right now.
Conforto is obviously in a prove-it season. Cohen was not in a rush to pay his outfielder as he did with his new shortstop Francisco Lindor, who signed a 10-year, $341 million extension the night before what should have been the Mets season opener until the coronavirus plagued the Nationals, the Mets season opener opponent.
Conforto is certainly pressing just to prove a point.
But if he keeps struggling like this, the Mets may have no choice but to trade him. Some team will be stupid enough to overpay him. Maybe the Seattle Mariners or a big-market team that is ready to win next season. If Cohen does not feel like his outfielder’s play justifies what he would get in the free-agent market, then he likely will let him walk or be traded if the Mets play like a middling team for the first four months.
Conforto’s struggles could hasten Cohen’s decision sooner rather than later. Public pressure could force Cohen to make the decision of trading his outfielder than extending him considering the boos he has received in the Mets’ first two home games.
The Mets are playing like they are a middling team at best. They can’t hit with runners in scoring position as they hit .176 prior to Saturday’s game. As a team, they struck out 46 times. Their relievers stink outside of Miguel Castro.
It could just be Cohen may want to start a rebuild from the ground up rather than keep this same cast going. The Mets haven’t been a playoff team since Conor Gillaspie hit the game-winning home run off Jeurys Familia in the 2016 National League Wild-Card game. So it won’t be just Conforto being gone. Anyone can be had outside of Jacob deGrom, Dominic Smith, Jeff McNeil, Pete Alonso and Lindor.
It may not be a bad idea since the Mets’ championship window of opportunity seems shut from what we saw the last few seasons.
Conforto either figures it out soon or he will be an ex-Met by the summer while he searches for his $200 million deal somewhere else.