The Marlins have already made one big outfield acquisition this winter, signing Avisail Garcia to a four-year, $53MM deal before the lockout began, but recent rumors have indicated they are still looking to add another. One name on their list is Michael Conforto, as Joe Frisaro of Man on Second Baseball reports that “the Marlins have had discussions with Conforto’s camp, and he remains a possibility.” (Presumably, these discussions took place before the lockout, as teams and players are now not permitted to have such talks until the lockout ends.)
Conforto would make for an interesting fit in the Marlins outfield, given that he and Garcia were both primarily right fielders in 2021. However, it is worth noting that general manager Kim Ng recently said the team believes Garcia could be an everyday center fielder, if needed. Conforto also has some center field experience, but not since 2019. Even then, it was only 39 games. The club still lacks a proper everyday option in center and has been connected to both Ketel and Starling Marte this winter to try to address that need. It seems that installing Conforto in right field and sliding Garcia to center is another route they’ve considered.
Conforto is one of the more difficult markets to predict, due to the fact that he had a tremendous four-year run from 2017 to 2020 but is coming off an ill-timed downturn in 2021 as he entered free agency. During that stretch from 2017 to 2020, he hit 97 home runs and slashed .265/.369/.495, for a wRC+ of 133. But 2021 saw his numbers slip to .232/.344/.384 for a wRC+ of just 106. That’s still above league average, but a significant drop from his previous seasons.
After receiving a qualifying offer from the Mets, MLBTR predicted that Conforto would turn it down and then find his multi-year offers to be lacking, eventually settling for a one-year, $20MM deal to prove his 2021 slump was an outlier, then return to the open market without a qualifying offer attached. Although Conforto did end up turning down the QO, Frisaro spoke to Tim Healey of Newsday, who believes Conforto will beat that $20MM prediction and wind up somewhere in the range of $80MM to $100MM. (Same link as first paragraph.)
If that proves to be correct, the Marlins would have to blow past their recent track record for free agent expenditures in order to get a deal done. The $53MM given to Garcia was the largest contract given out by the club in the four-plus years since the team was purchased by Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter. Since then, they also gave Sandy Alcantara an extension worth $56MM. It would certainly come as a surprise if they then added another big contract to the books, especially one with a guarantee almost equal to those two combined. However, the organization has reportedly been planning to increase spending as they emerge from their rebuilding effort, meaning recent history perhaps can’t be used to eliminate the possibility of future spending.
Despite all the young talent they’ve collected on their roster during the rebuild, taking the next step towards competing won’t be easy, considering they share a division with the defending World Series champions in Atlanta, a strong Phillies team that likely still has moves to make, and a Mets team that has already spent at unprecedented levels to try and turn themselves into a true powerhouse. Perhaps the Marlins view a Conforto pursuit as the type of bold move they need to consider in order to gain ground on their rivals. For similar reasons, they’ve also been connected to other outfielders who remain available, such as Nick Castellanos, Eddie Rosario and Kyle Schwarber.