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Michael Conforto wants to stay, but his focus is on the Mets, not his contract

The Mets' Michael Conforto wears a mask as

The Mets' Michael Conforto wears a mask as he heads toward the clubhouse during spring training on Tuesday in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Credit: AP/Jeff Roberson

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Michael Conforto still is scheduled to be a free agent after this season, still has not broached the subject of a contract extension with the Mets and still would like for those talks to happen soon.

"I can’t lie and say that I haven't thought about it," Conforto said Tuesday. "But I'm trying to keep my focus where it needs to be, and that's on this team.

"We haven’t started that conversation. I think for now, it’s great for me to be able to come in and get my feet wet and meet the guys and see everybody again. A lot of my best friends are out here, so it’s just good to see them, it’s good to be back out on a baseball field, run around and work on our craft. For now, that [contract] stuff hasn’t started yet."

Conforto is one of two Mets targets for long-term, big-money deals, alongside shortstop Francisco Lindor, who expressed basically the same extension sentiment Monday. Although Conforto is not as accomplished or talented as Lindor — a four-time All-Star, two-time Gold Glover and two-time Silver Slugger — his stature within the organization is perhaps greater.

Six years removed from the Mets’ World Series appearance in 2015, Conforto, then a rookie, is the only position player remaining from that team. (Only three pitchers — Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Jeurys Familia — are still around.) He is coming off the best statistical year of his career, albeit in a shortened season. And, as the Mets’ union representative, he naturally found a more influential role in 2020, particularly given the goings-on related to the pandemic-induced shutdown.

In the opening days of spring training, manager Luis Rojas repeatedly has referenced Conforto as a primary team leader.

"In years past, I would come, show up to the clubhouse and you'd have David Wright in there," Conforto said. "You'd have [Daniel] Murph[y], guys who've been tenured for a long time, and you're just sitting there listening to them and trying to learn from them, not necessarily being the one to speak up.

"You stick around long enough, and you start to look around — there's not as many of those guys around and there's an opening for that. It's been really cool to kind of grow up a little bit in the organization."

When the season ended last fall, Conforto stuck around New York City a couple of extra days. He ran into Rojas when he went to clean out his Citi Field locker. They ended up having an impromptu heart-to-heart about what it takes to win, which the Mets haven’t done much of in recent years.

New York Mets right fielder Michael Conforto.

Michael Conforto's career stats

632 games

.259 average

.358 on-base percentage

.484 slugging percentage

118 home runs

341 RBIs

 

"There always seems to be this hype around either the pitching staff or the young hitters that we have, whatever it may be," Conforto said. "It’s not that we didn’t work hard, but you can fall into this mode of thinking that you’re better than you are. You’re not good unless you win a lot of games, that’s just plain and simple. And we haven’t done that yet.

"We need to stay hungry. We didn’t win enough to get into an expanded playoff [last] year. You can have a great offense and not make [the postseason]. There’s 16 teams that go to the playoffs and you miss out? We didn’t do enough. We didn’t play defense well enough, baserun, pitch well enough."

Rojas said Conforto was "really emotional" during that conversation, full of ideas they shared again in recent days.

"The player, the man that he is right now, at a young age, the way he behaves and carries himself in the clubhouse, out on the field — it’s love for this organization," Rojas said. "Michael is one of those that being homegrown, you could tell that he bleeds, he cares so much for this team."

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