The San Francisco Giants will be picking up the pieces of their exploded reputation for a long time, but as rational actors in the marketplace operating with a Mr. Spock-level of logical efficiency, there is still a baseball season to be played and useful players for their game model to employ. Former Mets outfielder Michael Conforto fits the bill.
Despite missing all of 2022 following right shoulder surgery and a down year in 2021, the left-handed Conforto (who turns 30 on March 1st) has a .255/.356/.468 (.824 OPS) line through seven seasons. His 124 wRC+ over that stretch is the 46th-best in baseball, tied with Cody Bellinger and Trea Turner and just ahead of Mitch Haniger (123), Xander Bogaerts (121), and Mike Yastrzemski (120).
Now, can a player coming off shoulder surgery and a missed season be expected to bounce back to that level? Probably not, which is why the deal is for two years and $36 million, according to The Athletic (subscription required). And if it all works out and he slugs .500 despite being a left-handed hitter at Oracle Park? Well, the Giants made sure to give him an opt out.
Conforto was probably the best remaining offensive option left in free agency. He doesn’t help in center field or on the infield, but as a corner outfielder, he shores up Mitch Haniger’s opposite side and pushes Yaz to center field, which won’t be a totally bad thing. Conforto grades out as a generally average fielder, but not a net negative, at least according to FanGraphs Defensive Runs (+1.4 runs across those seven seasons) and 72nd percentile for Statcast’s Outs Above Average. In fact, his Statcast box looks good:
Whatever blues you might see with the hitting metrics could be the result of whatever ailed the shoulder. Prior to 2021, he hit the ball hard a lot more of the time. In fact, a lot of his batted ball data prior to 2021 lines up fairly well against Carlos Correa’s (so, this is 2015-2020):
None of this makes up for the loss of Carlos Correa, but like the Haniger signing, he does figure to — at least on paper — improve the lineup. At the very least a little bit. But as The Athletic report notes:
Conforto has struggled with injuries over his seven seasons in the league, including a shoulder capsule in 2017 and 2018 as well as hamstring issues last year.
Hypocrisy after injuries killed the Correa deal? Not really. This is a one-year deal if it all works out and a 2-year deal if it doesn’t. Whoever signed Conforto faced the same risk, and for the Giants, they’ve already hit their 100th percentile embarrassment for the offseason, so why not just go for it? The risk is just money.
That he’s also a Scott Boras client shows there’s no hard feelings when money’s involved and he’s able to secure his client their optimal — or close to optimal — deal. $18 million will be the most Conforto will have earned in a single season. And this move pushes the Giants beyond $200 million in commitments for 2023, so, good job Giants taking me up on my dare.
Now, in terms of future big ticket free agents, the calculus will be a little bit different. The Giants showed they were willing to screw with a player who chose to commit the rest of their pro career to the team. Conforto is looking to return to his former glory with a great 2023 and move on to greener pastures. That’s the preferred outcome for the Giants, too.