Michael Conforto didn’t play a single inning or even sign with a team following last year’s qualifying offer and eventual shoulder surgery due to an offseason injury. However, agent Scott Boras tells Joel Sherman of the New York Post that he nevertheless feels the market can bring about a multi-year deal for his client. Boras suggests Conforto could seek a contract at least loosely modeled after the two-year deal he negotiated for Carlos Rodon with the Giants, which allowed Rodon to opt out after year one. Unsurprisingly, Boras characterizes the interest in Conforto as “so broad,” adding that he’s throwing from 120 feet and is able to generate full extension in his swing.
While Boras and Conforto could seek a contract structured similarly to that of Rodon, there are a few caveats worth emphasizing. First and foremost, Conforto can’t reasonably hope to match the $22MM annual value on Rodon’s contract and would surely be in line for a lower rate of base pay. Secondly, it should be noted that the second-year player option on Rodon’s contract was conditional; he needed to first reach 110 innings pitched before gaining the right to opt out of the deal. Any team taking the risk of signing Conforto for multiple years might prefer that he fully “earn” the right to opt out rather than make it a flat guarantee. Such clauses are generally dependent on playing time, be it in the form of games played or total plate appearances.
The comments on Conforto come after rumors percolated throughout the season that the longtime Mets outfielder would sign on with a club as a DH down the stretch, after he was detached from draft pick compensation following July’s 2022 draft. Such a deal never materialized, though Sherman notes the Astros had interest in signing him.
Conforto’s continued free agency is sure to be one of the more interesting cases to follow this offseason. Between his lost season in 2022 and a down season in 2021 where he slashed just .232/.344/.384 with a barely above-average wRC+ of 106, there are plenty of question marks surrounding Conforto. However, that’s also the case with many of his free-agent peers on the corner outfield market. While Aaron Judge’s likely record-setting free agency highlights the class, Andrew Benintendi, Mitch Haniger, Jurickson Profar, Joc Pederson, and Michael Brantley all join Conforto in free agency. Of the bunch, only Profar managed a full, healthy season.
Conforto’s significant upside as a 29-year-old (30 in March) who has flashed All-Star caliber production should still create intrigue among clubs. From 2017-20, Conforto slashed an impressive .265/.369/.495 and looked to be establishing himself as one of the league’s best right fielders. It’s easy to see why a team would want to take a chance on someone with his past success, but he has competition in even that regard. Joey Gallo represents an option with similar upside, less injury concerns, and the ability to play center field if needed, though his extreme, high-strikeout profile and ghastly 2023 results are serious concerns of their own that could make Conforto a more attractive option.
Fortunately for Conforto, just as there’s a large class of quality corner outfield free agents, there’s an equally large list of teams that will likely be looking for outfield help in 2023. Whether they re-sign Judge or not, the Yankees will likely look for an upgrade on Aaron Hicks in left field so they can keep Giancarlo Stanton entrenched at DH. The White Sox are in desperate need for outfield help, with only Luis Robert fully locked into everyday outfield opportunities as Eloy Jimenez looks likely to spend more time at DH next year and Andrew Vaughn could replace Jose Abreu at first base going forward. The Rangers will likely be interested in adding to an outfield that lacks certainty beyond Adolis Garcia and Leody Taveras, the Padres may look to replace the departing Profar externally, and the Blue Jays could certainly do with an upgrade to their current tandem of Raimel Tapia and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. in left field. Even Conforto’s former team in Queens could be in search of outfield help this offseason, with center fielder Brandon Nimmo now a free agent and Starling Marte capable of sliding over to center without issue.