Shea Bridge Report: Extensions, Lee, Davis
There's plenty of time for the Mets to negotiate contract extensions — and to decide what to do with Khalil Lee — and to figure out what's happening at third base.
Every day that the Mets don’t sign Francisco Lindor, Noah Syndergaard, and Michael Conforto can start to seem like a day wasted, with time ticking away before the season starts and the players turn their attention back to the field. But there’s no need to worry. As a Twitter user points out, at least ten of the most recent enormous contract extensions have come only once Spring Training begins, and the teams and players and agents all find themselves in the same place. Jose Altuve, Mike Trout, Nolan Arenado, Christian Yelich, even Jacob deGrom…they’ve all agreed to extensions in February or March. For the Mets’ various extension targets, there’s still plenty of time left for negotiations.
Granted, extensions might be tough, especially for Conforto. Scott Boras is his agent, and Boras’ clients often test the free agent market rather than signing extensions before leaving team control. But actually, Conforto is in a strange situation that might make right now the perfect time for an extension. He’s coming off a monstrous year in a shortened season, and he probably has more value to the Mets than anywhere else, given his five seasons in Queens and the rumors of his ascent towards captaincy.
If Conforto has a mediocre year in 2021, he’ll hit the market as a so-so outfielder nearing 30. Right now, he’s coming off the best season of his career, and is not yet 28. Boras could probably earn his client $150 million or more from the Mets right now. He could decide to take a risk, bet on Conforto having a big year, and send him out into the open market, but given that Conforto’s 2020 season might turn out to be an outlier, will he risk it?
Conforto isn’t like Mike Trout or Nolan Arenado; he hasn’t had enough great seasons to be sure that he’ll have another one in 2021. He may never bat .322/.412/.515, as he did in 2020, again. His value might never be higher — so Boras and his client might agree that in this case, an extension before the 2021 season is the right move.
In a Zoom with beat writers today, General Manager Zack Scott seemed to confirm, at the very least, that there’s still plenty of time to get extensions signed. “The best time to do that is Spring Training, and I think we'll have those conversations,” he said. At a different point, he said, simply, “we’re not done.”
So yes, there’s time. Steve Cohen is in charge. He’s a Mets fan. If I had to guess, I’d say the Mets get either Lindor or Conforto — and maybe both — extended before Opening Day. It’s a whole new ballgame with Cohen and Sandy Alderson and a bunch of smart people in charge. The Mets might actually handle things perfectly. That’s incredibly difficult to believe, but it’s also the most likely outcome.
This week, the Mets traded Josh Winckowski to the Red Sox and a Player to be Named Later to either the Red Sox or the Royals — we still don’t know for some reason, because baseball is just weird that way — for Khalil Lee, an outfield prospect whole stole 53 bases at AA in 2019. At Metsmerized, I addressed the trade in detail.
Basically, until we see what the Mets do next, it’s a strange deal. Are they going to keep Lee or flip him? If they keep him, he might just be an outfield option in 2022, especially if Conforto leaves or Pete Alonso becomes a full-time DH and Dom Smith’s outfield spot opens up. If they acquired him in hopes of flipping him, maybe he’s a particularly appealing prospect to a team who has something the Mets are looking for. We’ll see. It wasn’t the big trade that’s been rumored and teased for months…but it was something.
Zack Scott, in his zoom with the beat reporters, also said that the Mets are “fully comfortable with going into the season with J.D. Davis playing an important role on our club." He was careful, though, not to put Davis in a starting role, even though he was asked specifically about Davis playing third base.
I’ve written previously about how the Mets need to find playing time for both Davis and Luis Guillorme. That’s still true. But playing time is a luxury, and if the Mets bring in a genuine offensive threat who can play third base, Davis and Guillorme will become backups. They may be better than that, but that stuff sometimes happens; you acquire someone, and all of a sudden, whoever previously held the spot seems outdated and mediocre. Francisco Lindor will play shortstop for the Mets on Opening Day, but it hasn’t been long since Mets fans believed that in Amed Rosario, we had a heck of a shortstop.