The signing of Jose Abreu filled a big hole at first base for the Astros, but the reigning World Series champions continue to explore ways to upgrade their outfield. Past reports have suggested that free agents like Michael Conforto or old friend Michael Brantley are on Houston’s radar, but Jon Heyman of the New York Post (Twitter link) adds Jurickson Profar as a new name under consideration.
Profar hit the open market after opting out of the final year (and leaving $6.5MM on the table) of his three-year deal with the Padres. After some disappointing numbers in the first year of that contract, Profar rebounded to hit .243/.331/.391 with 15 homers over a career-best 658 plate appearances in 2022, and his offense translated to a 110 wRC+.
While this performance was strong enough for Profar (who turns 30 in February) to feel comfortable in exercising his opt-out clause, it does continue the roller-coaster nature of his last five seasons. Alternating between solidly above and solidly below the league-average 100 wRC+ threshold, Profar clocks in at a 101 wRC+ in 2384 PA since the start of the 2018 season. Between this inconsistency and Profar’s okay but not outstanding left field glove, it makes sense why teams have perhaps been hesitant about making a push for his services. The Astros are the first team publicly linked to Profar since the offseason started.
MLBTR’s projection of a two-year, $20MM deal for Profar reflected these concerns about his market, but things could certainly pick up now that several other big free agents have some off the board. Profar has the highest fWAR of any remaining free agent outfielder, and his offensive profile does contain such positives as a consistently low strikeout rate, and an increasingly excellent walk rate over the last two seasons. While there has certainly been plenty of year-to-year variance in Profar’s numbers, it can be argued that he might still be a safer choice than either Brantley or Conforto, both of whom are coming off shoulder surgeries. (Conforto didn’t even end up playing in 2022.)
Profar played only left field in San Diego last season, but he bounced around the diamond to play first base, second base, and the other two outfield positions in 2021. While not the kind of true utilityman who could replace Aledmys Diaz (who signed with the A’s), Profar could at least provide some extra depth on the Astros’ roster. The switch-hitting Profar could also help balance out a Houston lineup that is still heavy in right-handed bats.