Michael Conforto has drawn the attention of a number of teams in the outfield market, and a pair of AL West contenders are apparently in the mix. Jon Morosi of MLB.com tweets the Mariners are showing interest in the former All-Star, while Brian McTaggart of MLB.com writes the Astros also have Conforto on their radar. Both New York teams and the Cubs have previously been tied to the Boras Corporation client.
There’s little surprise with either development. Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times wrote last week that Seattle was open to adding another outfielder, and they’ve since been tied to Andrew Benintendi and Brandon Nimmo. A Washington native, Conforto has ties to the Pacific Northwest that could be an ancillary bonus for Seattle. Meanwhile, Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic reported last week the Astros were looking to bring in a lefty-swinging outfielder, making Conforto a sensible target. Houston was linked to him this past summer, but no deal materialized at the time.
Conforto’s a buy-low target for outfield-needy clubs. He posted an excellent .265/.369/.495 line in just shy of 2000 plate appearances for the Mets from 2017-20. After a .232/.344/.384 showing during his platform campaign in 2021, Conforto lingered on the open market upon turning down a qualifying offer from New York. He reportedly suffered a right shoulder injury during the lockout, and he underwent surgery in April. Conforto was able to begin swinging a few months later, but the rehab process prevented him from throwing during the season. While there was some chatter he could sign with a team late in the 2022 season to serve as a designated hitter or bench bat, that didn’t come to pass.
On the heels of that lost season, Scott Boras has suggested Conforto is looking for a two-year guarantee that allows him to opt out after the first season. If that doesn’t prove attainable, it stands to reason he could pivot to a straight one-year deal to get back to free agency at the end of next year. There’s no longer any draft compensation attached to Conforto, so teams figure to be more willing to take a shot on him returning to form than they were this past spring after the shoulder injury.
It seems the 29-year-old (30 next March) continues to progress well from the surgery. Conforto has long since been cleared to begin hitting, and Morosi tweeted this afternoon he’s also begun a throwing program. There doesn’t figure to be much issue building his arm back into game shape by the time Spring Training rolls around, positioning him back in the corner outfield mix for clubs.
The Mariners have two outfield spots accounted for in Julio Rodríguez and Teoscar Hernández, but they’re open to upgrades over the contingent of Jesse Winker, Taylor Trammell, Jarred Kelenic and Sam Haggerty in left field and at designated hitter. The Astros have Kyle Tucker locked into right field, while Chas McCormick has the inside track on the center field job. Yordan Alvarez is slated to split time between left field and designated hitter, but Houston’s scoring the market for another lefty bat to serve the role Michael Brantley filled the past few seasons.
Brantley is coming off shoulder surgery of his own — his procedure coming in August. McTaggart suggests the club isn’t closing the door on retaining Brantley for a fifth season, but there’s a bit more uncertainty on the five-time All-Star’s status since he underwent his surgery more recently than Conforto has.