Mets may have half-billion dollar dilemma on their hands

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Mets president Sandy Alderson watched from seats near the visitor’s dugout Sunday as potentially a half-billion dollars in contract extensions unloaded against the Nationals.

First, Michael Conforto homered onto the grassy knoll behind the center-field fence at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. Later, Francisco Lindor blasted his third homer in less than a week, a two-run shot inside the right-field foul pole, also against Max Scherzer.

Checkbook, Steve Cohen?

Both players are discussing long-term extensions with the Mets, but with Opening Day approaching, they are on the clock. Lindor was firm last week in saying he won’t negotiate into the regular season and is prepared to become a free agent if a deal isn’t reached by the season-opener. Conforto sounded less resolute Sunday when asked about potentially negotiating into the regular season.

“Ideally I would not like to do that,” he said.

And it’s also clear he is finished speaking about the topic, other than to acknowledge extension talks have occurred.

“At this point I am pretty much just focused on baseball,” Conforto said. “I’m not really interested in speaking about the contract stuff, it’s between me, my family, my agent and the team. I want to stay as focused on baseball as I can right now.”

Lindor could be facing a multiyear deal north of $300 million, which would place him in the same stratosphere as players such as Mookie Betts and Fernando Tatis Jr., who have received mammoth extensions in the past year. According to an industry source, the Mets’ offer to Lindor at this point has been less than $300 million, but the team is willing to increase it to that level. It’s unclear what Lindor has been seeking, but it’s believed to be greater than $300 million. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman first reported the Mets are willing to increase their initial offer.

If the six-year contract worth $150 million George Springer signed with the Blue Jays over the winter is used as the barometer, the 28-year-old Conforto — who is three years younger than Springer — could be looking at $200 million with his next deal. Conforto is represented by Scott Boras, who usually pushes his clients to free agency.

So to keep Lindor and Conforto, it could cost the Mets a half-billion dollars.

“Those two guys are great players, so you definitely want them around and to be on the same team as them,” Jacob deGrom said after pitching 4 ²/₃ shutout innings in the Mets’ 6-2 victory. “So it’s definitely something that I am rooting for.”

DeGrom, who finalized his own contract extension (five years, $137.5 million) only a day before his imposed deadline of the season-opener in 2019 was asked what advice he would give Lindor and Conforto.

“Whatever they decide to do, make that their decision and just whether you take an offer or leave an offer that’s your decision and just go for it from there,” deGrom said.

Would deGrom sign the extension if given a do-over?

“I honestly haven’t thought about it,” he said.

Conforto, who was drafted and developed by the Mets, has stated a desire to remain with the only organization he’s known. He reiterated that stance Sunday, to a degree.

“This is where I came up,” he said. “It’s something that us as players think is a cool thing to spend your whole career in one place, but there’s so many other factors that go into it and I won’t go too far, in depth. I have been pretty open about it before, but I like the people I come to work with every single day. It’s been a good place for me. I have grown up a lot. I have learned a lot and I love the city.”

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