In addition to Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman, Javier Báez and Aaron Loup, the New York Mets will have to decide how to proceed with free-agent-to-be Michael Conforto this winter.
Given that it's been a relative down year for Conforto, one option for the Mets could be to extend a qualifying offer to the former All-Star and hope he accepts it like Marcus Stroman did last winter. It does sound as though Sandy Alderson and company plan to extend the qualifying offer -- which was worth $18.9 million this season -- to Conforto, though MLB.com's Anthony DiComo writes that him accepting it is less likely:
"Given Conforto’s track record, the Mets are primed to extend him a one-year qualifying offer in the neighborhood of $20 million no matter how he finishes this season. In recent weeks, multiple industry sources cautioned that Conforto would be unlikely to accept such an offer, given the prospect of a much bigger payday in free agency. Asked specifically about the qualifying offer Tuesday, Conforto deferred his thoughts to a later date."
Conforto is hitting just .227 with 12 home runs in 357 at-bats, but he has slashed .249/.347/.444 with a .791 OPS since the All-Star Break, which represents something of a second-half bounce-back. Still, given that Conforto won't turn 29 until next March, you have to wonder if taking the qualifying offer and hoping for a resurgence in 2022 wouldn't be his best strategy.
That said, Conforto slashed .274/.376/.499 with an .875 OPS between 2019 and 2020, and you could slot him in at either corner outfield spot. There may be some teams willing to take a risk and offer Conforto a multi-year deal because they believe 2021 isn't indicative of what's to come for him.
If Conforto is issued and declines a qualifying offer, that will mean that whatever team signs him will have to surrender draft compensation, assuming that's still part of the next collective bargaining agreement. The other two top potential free agent outfielders -- Starling Marte and Nick Castellanos -- will also likely decline qualifying offers, but both have had much better seasons in 2021 than Conforto has.