Whenever teams are again permitted to make major league transactions, clubs in search of corner outfield help will have to sort through a still-strong class. Nick Castellanos, Kyle Schwarber and Seiya Suzuki are unsigned, as is third baseman/outfielder Kris Bryant. All those players seem in line for significant multi-year contracts, but it’s not as clear whether that’ll be the case for Michael Conforto.
Conforto looked to be on the path to a huge deal after hitting .265/.369/.495 (133 wRC+) between 2017-20. Set to hit free agency in advance of his age-29 campaign, a nine-figure contract didn’t seem out of the question at the start of last season. Yet Conforto went to post his worst results since 2016, a .232/.344/.384 mark with 14 home runs over 479 plate appearances.
That offensive output was still six percentage points better than the league average, by measure of wRC+. The former tenth overall pick walked in a robust 12.3% of his trips to the dish to keep his on-base percentage at a respectable level. He played his home games in Citi Field, one of the more pitcher-friendly environments around the league. Yet for a player limited to the corner outfield, a 106 wRC+ is more fine than especially impressive.
Teams will have to determine how to weigh Conforto’s platform year against his prior four-year run of strong play. From a process perspective, there are some reasons for optimism. Last season’s 21.7% strikeout rate was a personal low, a couple points lower than the league mark. As mentioned, his plate discipline remained strong. His rates of hard contact and barrels (essentially hard-hit batted balls at the optimal angle for power production) were down a tick from his best years but still above-average. It wouldn’t be surprising if Conforto rights the ship moving forward, particularly if he signs with a club that plays in a more hitter-favorable setting.
So Conforto should still be an appealing free agent target, but he’s coming off a much worse platform year than both Castellanos and Schwarber. A long-term investment in Conforto probably feels riskier to teams now than it would’ve eight months ago. And any signing club will have to forfeit a draft pick, since the Washington native received and rejected a qualifying offer from the Mets.
There wasn’t much indication as to where Conforto might end up prior to the lockout. The Marlins were the only club known to have substantive interest. Miami already signed Avisaíl García, but they’re reportedly still on the hunt for an addition in the grass. Beyond the Fish, the clubs reaching out to Conforto’s representatives at the Boras Corporation remain a mystery. So that doesn’t offer much indication about how robust the market might be.
Nor is it clear how much money Conforto and his reps are seeking. Schwarber, though, is reportedly looking for a three-year deal in the $60MM range. The two players were born just five days apart in March 1993, and they’ve been similarly productive since the start of 2019. But with Schwarber coming off the much better platform year, it seems likely he’ll land the larger guarantee of the two whenever they both put pen to paper.
Entering the offseason, MLBTR projected Conforto would sign a one-year deal in the $20MM range in hopes of a bounceback season before re-testing the market after 2022. That could be a possibility, although his decision to turn down New York’s $18.4MM qualifying offer suggests he wanted to explore multi-year opportunities (or at least loftier single-year proposals) from suitors around the league.
Where does the MLBTR readership expect Conforto’s contract to end up?
I voted for “Pirates”. Can’t wait to see Conforto in a Bucs uniform!
The Pirates really should consider signing him. No reason for them not to try an improve even if just a bit.
Reason number one: Money
I speak the truth
As a Pirate fan. I don’t want him. He’s highly overrated and isn’t worth the money he would want to come to Pittsburgh. We have plenty of young outfielders that I want to see get a chance before we overpay for someone of his caliber.
Why on Earth would Conforto sign any kind of deal with the Pirates if even a single other team shows interest?
Every NL East team could use Conforto on a heavily weighted performance motivated deal. Why wouldn’t a team offer 3/30 with enough incentives to reach 3/60 along with a lucrative player option for a 4th? That’s a very low risk deal where both parties make out well that also gives Michael ample opportunities to prove his value while young enough to reel in another contract in 3-4 years.
After the new CBA, Pirates could surprise everyone with that type of signing. It could take a year or two of the rebuild. I wouldn’t rule Pirates out on him because they have the lowest payroll in the league, south of 35 million. Another 8-10 average million for 3 years, wouldn’t break them
I speak the truth
I’d take him at $8-10 million a year but he wants $20 million a year with total contract value of over $100 million.
Prediction: Michael T. (“Scooter”) Conforto will get four years at $53 million. Conforto will join Bryce A.M. Harper and Kevin J. Kiermaier (who will be acquired via trade with the Rays) in the Phillies’ outfield.
He wouldn’t sign that considering he rejected his qualifier.
It’s a longer term deal so he may.
I would add that my prediction includes that the deal will involve possible opt-outs at multiple junctures.
Even with the opt-outs, it’s doubtful he’d go that low on AAV to start his prime years. 3/$53M is possible.
One year, $16m in Yankee pinstripes to reset his value. He acknowledges he made a mistake not taking the QO and tries to stick it to the Mets staying in NY. I just don’t see a team giving him a Thor one year deal nor do I see a multi-year deal to his liking based on 2021.
Why would he “stick it” to the Mets? He declined the QO that is more than anyone else would pay him. I doubt he gets better than 2/$30MM
As a Phillies fan I don’t see a Kiermaier trade unless the Rays are eating a big portion of his salary. The Phillies desperately need OFs who will actually play. He’s averaging 114 games a season for his career (not counting 2020). He has a career OBP of .310 and he’s still due and he’s still owed over $12M this year with a $2.5M buyout. The Phillies needed to sign Marte and then they could have spent far less to fill their last OF position. DD really has his work cot out for him. If they do trade for Kiermaier they will have to find a quality 4th OF and someone who can play CF.
Only if it were $20M for the first year with an opt-out afterwards. If he’s healthy at the end of the year, he’d surely decline the option. He can’t get another QO unless the new CBA changes how QOs work.
If the Giants don’t sign Bryant I could see them going after Conforto. Not ideal considering the LH bats, but he could be a nice piece. 4/75 seems to be plausible.
That’d be a serious waste of Giants $
Please, Tigers.. please
I guess he’s better than most of what we have. I’ve been a Tigers & Mets fan from the ‘60s onward, and I have never been frustrated so much by a streaky hitter as I’ve been by Conforto. Superb OF, though.
He’d block Greene.
No, Greene is a CF and will supplant Reyes if good enough.
He might block playing time for Baddoo.
Anthony did you actually say the Marlins are looking “for an addition in the grass?” I love inside baseball as much as the next fan but that was ….
5/$90 with an opt-out after two years.
So far the most popular results fall around 3yrs/$18-$30mil… that’s about 9-10mil a season… there’s gonna be alot of folks eating crow after he signs and I’m not even a Conforto mark.
The team that signs him will be eating crow having to give up a pick to get him and pay him what he wants is laughable. He shoulda just took the QO but he’s a Boras guy and Boras loves gambling with these kinda guys money. If Conorto gets shut out he’ll cry to media about how unfair the QO because Boras is a crybaby like that when rules don’t suit him. Comforto is the poster child on why the QO offers were good for some players. Would have guaranteed him the most money he’s ever made and probably will ever for one year for a guy that was decent player.
Considering his upside & track record he’ll definitely get more than 9-10mil_r and definitely more than 1yr. He’s quiet & soft-spoken so the only crying will be from those leaving godawful takes like this when he gets more than 1yr/9-10mil. And for the record I’m more than happy he didn’t accept the QO, he’s the type who will succeed and put up numbers but just not in NY… and that take is from someone who has watched him all 7 seasons and endorsed him as a draft pick.
Two separate questions.
I think the $18-30 range is a one year deal not three. That’s how I voted.
He will end up with a year deal since there will not be a lot of time after the lockout ends to sign Boras will not have enough time to work his usual magic.
They’re not starting from scratch. There’s been rapport and valuation already established which has nothing to do with magic.
18-30 is a mighty large window.
Good option for those that lose out on Suzuki. Conforto probably has the better year. Getting out of Citi Field can only help. Boras probably gets him 100M.
Boras lands him 3/60 or 4/80, but I wish the Mariners who need left handed hitting, could do a one year for 25 to recharge his value so to speak. That would be a good Segway into JRod for 23 full time.
If the Braves lose Freeman, Conforto signs with ATL. 1 year, $22-24 million. Plays RF (Duvall LF, RAJ CF, Ozuna DH). Moved at deadline as Michael Harris II gets called up in August.
knowing the way the Braves opperate there’s no way he’s up this year having not yet played in AA.
If a team can sign him for a reasonable price over 3/4 years and bat him 6th, they won’t regret giving up the draft pick
That’s a pretty darn good lineup if Conforto is hitting sixth.
I’m thinking that Conforto is going to have to wait until the other 3 sign (Castellanos, Suzuki, Schwarber & Bryant). I’m also thinking that I agree with the writers here, basically, on most of their contract predictions. I think he’ll get $20 million a year, but probably on a 1-year “bounce back” deal. He’ll get back to his 3-year run he had going & get his 4-5 year deal next winter, imho. Someone like Seattle (if they lose out on Story and Bryant, who they’ve been interested in), they would settle for Conforto. Cleveland needs him the most, imho, but they won’t be handing out any $20 million dollar contracts.
Someone may be willing to overpay for him. I remember Michael Brantley signed two years for 16 million each year. He’s older, but he’s also significantly better. So say if you go three years for a Conforto my mind says I’m not going more than $15mil/per year. 17 million per year seems like the logical ceiling. Of course illogical happens in baseball all the time.
Brantley is in no way “significantly better” than Conforto. Look at the stats again.
Brantley BA .311, OPS .799
Conforto BA .232, OPS .729
In my book that is significant – maybe not yours, whatever. Brantley is one of the most consistent hitters in baseball, with Conforto you don’t know what you’re going to get.
That’s just one season. Career wise Conforto is actually better than Brantley. I wouldn’t judge Conforto based on one bad season.
I think he’ll get three years, but the trend right now may make some buyers beware. Personally, if I’m going to hitch my buggy to a horse, I want a horse that is reliable. It would be very difficult for me to say that about Conforto.
Brantley was also entering his age 34 season and mostly a DH when he signed that. Conforto is a decent glove and entering his age 29 season. They’ve been more similar over the past few years than you are giving Conforto credit for. There’s even an edge to Conforto if you look at the more advanced metrics that are more similar to what teams use to project future performance.
I think Cosmo2 means career, not one season.
True, those are reasons I might be willing to pay up to 17 million for Conforto. But he’s not a better hitter than Brantley. However he maybe a better overall value IF he has a good season.
Brantley does play the majority of his time in the field (Alverez DH’s most games) but like you said he is 34, still good in the outfield, but not quite the gold glove caliber fielder he was earlier.
If you ignore 2021, maybe. And I don’t think you can. He might rebound at the plate but I think 2021 conforto is where he’s at defensively right now.
Career-wise Conforto has more power, but he’s not a better “hitter” than Brantley. Brantley continues to be Brantley while Conforto seems to be trending in the wrong direction.
I don’t understand, I never denied Conforto is a good outfielder.
Admittedly, by decent glove, I mean from afar looking at a statcast page that shows he was in the 63rd percentile by OAA last year and just remembering that he was at times their best option for CF earlier in his career. I don’t watch the Mets regularly so I don’t get to see it with my eyes. I do watch the Blue Jays and back to back GG nominations for Gurriel is something I can’t get my head around so I realize you really need to have a regular eye on a guy to make sense of defensive ability. In my mind, I picture Conforto as similar to Grichuk defensively.
Fair enough. You’d also need to normalize oaa for it to be more useful.
Everything on fangraphs is not good. I did watch him last year regularly, and it didn’t seem like I was watching the same guy.
He has had more than 1 bad season.
Conforto plays a VERY solid outfield with an accurate arm, good reads and not afraid to leave his feet or run through a wall. He may not have the coverage that other outfielders have, but he catches what he can reach, throws to the correct base and hits his cut off. His throws give the appearance of being cut off as well, limiting trail runners from taking extra bases.
The only downfall to Michael’s defensive metrics largely came while having to play center field because we had no other option. Which, by the way, resulted in one of his worse injuries that hindered his performance at the plate. Another wrist injury really lingered when he broke a bone in his wrist on a hit by pitch.
Bottom line is that he’s had a couple of significant freak injuries. A healthy Conforto will help any team.
My prediction: Reds – RF
…watch his numbers in THAT stadium!
Stats like OPS+ have Conforto as a better hitter than Brantley.
I feel like he’s not just going to take 3/$45m-$50m or something like that, but I can see a creative Boras contract where there are both player and team options so he ends up with a reasonable guarantee but offers him the chance for more.
He’s been really good for a several seasons. Still above average offensively in his down year last year with reason to think there was bad luck there. I don’t think teams are going to be scared away by an above average output in a down year. I’d guess quite a few teams will try to buy low but there’ll be a couple of teams who value the entire body of work over just last season.
The Blue Jays really need a patient lefty to break up the slew of free swinging righties. Conforto is perfect in that lineup and they got incredible production from their buy low guys last year in Semien, Ray, and Matz.
I don’t know what he’ll get but if I had to choose between him and Schwarber on a 3 year deal at equal money I’d take Conforto every time.
I think Schwarber is more likely to produce offensively than Conforto, but defensively Schwarber is definitely lacking. I don’t know how he feels about being a DH, but it’s kinda like where he belongs.
Schwarber’s numbers were padded…by Mets’ pitching. He killed us!!
Least clutch hitter in probably MLB history
The team that ends up with Conforto – regardless of contract size or length – will do so after talking themselves into believing he’s a worthwhile investment. The Rockies lead the league in self-delusion, so COL lands him on a 3/75 deal.
I agree, I think he gets between 15 and 20 mil per and 3 years. 20 seems like an over pay though.
The Phillies have a bunch of holes to fill, spending big time money on another big free agent isn’t gonna solve our problem. I think Michael Conforto could be what the Phillies r looking for in LF. Since 2017 his stats r pretty close & similar to the rest of the free agents available in Bryant, Schwarber, Castellonos. Conforto brings better D and base running then the rest and might be the better bang for your buck out of the group. Who cares if u have to surrender a 2nd or 3rd rd pick for him.
Another guy that can’t hit for average and strikes out 20% of the time. How entertaining.
He’s either gonna sign for 1/20 to re-establish his value for next year, or some team will be willing to look more at the totality of his career and somewhat dismiss last season. In that case, I think he goes for around 5/100.
It’s also important to note that his power was up significantly in the 2nd half, which boosted his wRC+ to 118 during that time. Conforto also had COVID right at the start of ST, and it’s possible he suffered extended effects as a result, which he gradually recovered from – that could explain the differences in his production 1st 1/2 vs. 2nd.