Discussing Michael Conforto's Future
Scooter's late-season uptick adds layers to this situation
Image credit: Roberto Carlo
Oh, Scooter. It can never be easy, can it?
Heading into the 2021 season, Mets outfielder Michael Conforto had the world in his hands. As one of the more highly touted free agent grassroamers set to hit the open market this winter, the 28-year-old Pacific Northwest product and his representation — super-agent Scott Boras — chose to push off extension talks until after the season.
In hindsight, coming off a high-water mark, season-and-a-half-long stretch, maybe you simply take the money and run.
Whether his impending contractual status change had anything to do with what was to come next is debatable (the player himself has hinted at his head getting in the way at times), but the first half Conforto endured this season substantially derailed any momentum he had approaching free agency.
Over his first 140 plate appearances of the year, Conforto hit .229/.350/.331 with two homers, six doubles, and 98 wRC+. Not great. In fact, this was the furthest of cries from the player who compiled a .265/.369/.495 line from 2017 through 2020 (97 HR, 132 wRC+).
Following a five-week absence due to a severely strained hamstring suffered at Tampa Bay on May 16, Scooter returned to hit just .163/.290/.317 over 124 plate appearances from his return to the lineup on June 23 through the end of July.
There was a high point tucked in there (four homers over five games from July 11 through July 19; 8-for-20), but for the most part, Conforto was what his statistics said he was: simply not the same player he had been over his half-decade in Flushing.
We spoke at length about Conforto’s struggles here during his downturn. We were just as confused as you, the team, and the player by what was happening. Missing fastballs down the middle, completely abandoning the opposite side of the field, just a compendium of messes.
But, as one does in this game, Michael Conforto turned things around. These things are never as simple as flipping a switch, but he’s sure made it look that way. Since the calendar turned to August, Conforto’s looked like himself again.
From August 1 through his 1-for-4 effort in Friday’s 4-3 loss to the Phillies, the 28-year-old is slashing .273/.379/.455 with eight doubles, six homers, and 130 wRC+ over 169 plate appearances.
His 23.5% strikeout rate through his first 264 plate appearances of the season (pre-and-post injury) has shrunken to 18.9% since, good for 25th in the National League over that span (130 wRC+, 17th; .833 OPS, 24th)
Conforto’s uptick over the last six weeks isn’t just keeping him on par with his counterparts, it’s echoing the level of production that we’ve come to expect from him. And it’s been huge.
Well, not for the Mets, as they’ve all but kissed their postseason chances goodbye. But for Conforto’s individual offseason docket, this turnaround has given it new life. Kind of.
What this all means heading into the winter is anyone’s guess. Hence, I wouldn’t get too wrapped up in the early hype surrounding the situation. Reports surfaced this week that Conforto is not expected to accept a potential qualifying offer from the Mets. Boras playing head games already, huh?
With the QO approaching $20 million this year and Conforto’s full body of work from 2021 still looking awfully deflated (.227/.344/.375, 104 wRC+) despite his roar to the finish line, we’re personally still leaning toward him accepting the offer, betting on himself, and returning to Queens with unfinished business on his mind.
Conforto spoke briefly on the subject this week at Citi Field, noting that this could be the end of his time in Queens, but it very well might not be. Thanks for the info, Mike.
Plenty of time for this cookie to crumble. Let’s see how it plays out.
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