As a team with lots of young talent and few long-term payroll commitments, the Mets should view Jacob deGrom‘s contract extension as just the beginning. Here are a few of the candidates for extensions and what their deals might look like.
The reigning number two in Queens, Syndergaard has three more years of control by the Mets, after which he’ll hit the free agent market at 29 years old following the 2021 season. His 2019 price tag of $6 million stands to increase significantly in each of the next two offseasons, particularly if he matches or exceeds his career 2.93 ERA.
The closest analog to Syndergaard’s most likely deal would be the nearly-identical four-year, $45 million plus team option deals received by Luis Severino and Aaron Nola last month. All three right-handed fireballers were slated to hit free agency at the same time, and while Severino and Nola are a year younger than Syndergaard—and, in Nola’s case, healthier—they also have been less consistent in their performances.
The Mets should certainly jump at the chance to lock Syndergaard in for his peak years at an average annual cost of under $15 million, but there’s a good chance he might not take it, if the historically risk-averse Mets were to offer it at all. The brash Syndergaard has publicly clashed with the team on a number of occasions and he also may feel that becoming a free agent at 29 is a more appealing prospect than doing so at 30 or 31. He’s not wrong about that, but the specter of a potential strike before then may tilt the scale somewhat.
The other beloved Met slated for free agency after the 2021 season doesn’t have a clear comparison in the recent spate of contract extensions. The 26-year-old has one MVP-caliber season under his belt and looks primed for another, but everything in between has been harder to pin down.
On the Mets’ part, their organization is still paper-thin regarding potential outfielders for the long term, and the contract extension craze league-wide means there will be fewer and fewer quality free agents around to fill those roles. Keeping Conforto around means preventing a huge hole from developing there. If—a big if—he’s willing to sign soon, they might be looking at the last chance to buy low on a player who looks poised to break out.
That potential breakout is probably what will scuttle any chance of a deal anytime soon. While Conforto no doubt has seen the risks of hitting the market at the end of his peak, he also has the chance to put together a huge season, prove he’s healthy, and potentially cash in on an Alex Bregman-lite deal around five years, $80 million.
The idea of extending a player who has yet to take a single major league at bat sounded a lot stranger before the White Sox locked in Eloy Jimenez. But Chicago doled out a whopping $43 million to the consensus top-five prospect to buy out all six years of team control, plus two team option years that would add another $32 million.
The key differences that separate Alonso from Jimenez are age and pedigree. Alonso is three years older than Jimenez, and while Alonso’s arrival warrants excitement, he’s not the all-around can’t-miss kind of player that Jimenez appears to be, and first-base-only prospects carry a fair amount of risk because the offensive expectations for the position are so high.
But if the Mets wanted to lock in their time with Alonso, and insure against a breakout that could skyrocket his arbitration salary, they might offer something a little more like the $24 million the Phillies gave pre-debut Scott Kingery last year. Assuming an average performance, his arbitration years might come in somewhere around $4 million, $6 million, and $8 million so offering somewhere in the low $20 millions would be a nice guaranteed chunk of change. Adding some generous team options and buy-outs would sweeten the deal on both sides.
This is a long-shot, though, because players tend to want to try for the big bucks in arbitration and teams are hesitant to commit money to players they control for league minimum for three more years. There’s a reason this happens so rarely - it’s hard to find a sweet spot for both. But with the Mets already bucking the trend by bringing Alonso north so there could always be more surprises coming down the pike.