Does Michael Conforto fit into the future of the Mets offense?
To scoot or not to scoot?
During the Mets final home game at Citi Field Field on Thursday night, Michael Conforto put on a show and displayed one of the great and genuinely emotional responses to what might have been his final game as a Met at Citi Field.
Conforto went 3-for-5 with a double and two RBI on Thursday against the Marlins, a night after hitting a 469-foot home run to the center field bleachers. To cap his performance, Conforto made an acrobatic, diving catch in right field in the ninth inning to save a hit, resulting in a roaring ovation from the crowd at which point it certainly appeared as though Conforto was on the verge of tears.
“It all hit me towards the end of the game,” Conforto said afterwards. “Making that play and hearing the reaction from the fans, just a lot going on from when I’m standing out there, fans cheering my name and telling me, ‘Don’t go.’ It really was a special night for me. It’s tough to put into words. But the emotions were definitely there. I tried to fight it as best I could. But when you got a crowd like that supporting you, it’s a great feeling.”
Conforto said his teammates also showed their appreciation for his performance and his service to the Mets over the years.
“The reaction in the clubhouse, those things are special to me. It was definitely something I’ll never forget.”
Francisco Lindor said he hopes the Mets are able to retain Conforto, who will become a free agent after this season.
“We all want him back, and we all want him to be the best he can be,” Lindor said.
It’s hard to believe Conforto won’t bounce back in 2022, wherever he lands. His second half numbers suggest there is promise - he has hit .247/.342/.433 in 70 games since July 16 with a .281 BABIP during that span, suggesting he has hit into some bad luck as well. He’s a homegrown player who made his mark during the 2015 season, and has been an All-Star player arguably twice (he had an incredible 60-game season in 2020) in his six-plus year career.
Given those second half marks, it’s logical to expect the Mets will extend Conforto a qualifying offer after the World Series and be rejected.
But it’s not a question of whether or not the Mets can fit Conforto into the payroll or on the roster in the now or over the course of the next few years.
It’s a question of whether or not the Mets should retain him.
There are several reasons the Mets struggled offensively in 2021. They didn’t hit with runners in scoring position, they didn’t hit for power, they didn’t run the bases well, they didn’t have a lot of speed, they struggled to plate runners from third with less than two out - all of that has been beaten to death. And Conforto certainly has played a role in all of that although he has been generally ok with runners in scoring position.
But how can the Mets improve upon all of that? Build a different kind of offense that’s more athletic, more balanced with better bat-to-ball skills, has better first-to-third speed and of course, runs the bases better and make fewer outs on the bases.
Of course, it’s not that simple, and what the Mets ultimately decide to do with Conforto could depend on how they intend to shape the future of their offense.
Moving on from Conforto - as unpopular as that might be with him and some other circles - could be a key to fixing some of these problems. Can the Mets spend similar dollars on a different kind of player and make the lineup more fluid?
Make no mistake - despite his bad overall season in 2021, Conforto’s a talented player who is likely to be part of any team’s solution going forward. He is so talented, he’s still young and a class act who knows how to handle the ups and downs over the course of a season. This is also a player who has said many times over the years he wants to stay in New York and that decision is up to him and not his agent. And, he was an extension candidate as late as seven months ago before his struggles and the team’s struggles clouded that possibility.
The outfield options in free agency are very limited behind Conforto as well.
Does the shoe still fit? Do the Mets still want those shoes? Time will tell if the Mets ride that scooter.