Between the signings of Starling Marte and Mark Canha, the New York Mets have been very active in deepening their outfield depth, overall across their roster there’s even been talks of possibly trading Jeff McNeil or Dom Smith. While we don’t know if there’s any truth behind that, if the Mets really are willing to deal one of those guys, it is true that those acquisitions have put the ball club in a more comfortable situation. That’s of great significance regarding a specific free agent: Michael Conforto.
Coming off his worst season since 2016, Conforto certainly cost himself a significant amount of money over the 2021 season. Nevertheless, it must be stated that this is a player who rejected the $18.4 million qualifying offer and did it to the surprise of very few (if any). The expectation league-wide is that the corner outfielder will either settle for a multi-year contract cheaper than he would’ve expected a year ago or go for the one-year prove it deal at a higher AAV, around what the qualifying offer was.
Regardless of his final decision, the Mets have already invested $104.5 million between two other outfielders and that’s not even accounting their spending elsewhere, which is a factor. It’s unlikely that Conforto returns to the Mets. However, that doesn’t mean he’d necessarily need to leave New York.
Conforto isn’t exactly the best fit for the Yankees and that statement holds true for the majority of outfielders, especially those who are for all intents and purposes, corner outfielders such as the former Met. That being said, his acquisition, much like any of a significantly productive player, has its merits. Between 2018 and 2019, Conforto ranked in the 89th percentile when it comes to Outs Above Average with six apiece in each particular season. Most if not all of that defensive production came from his time in the corner, as he also filled in consistently in centerfield without disastrous results. Since 2020, his defense has taken a step back, which makes it even harder to pass him as a center fielder even if sporadically.
The point is that if you’re signing Conforto you’re doing for the bat. Despite coming off a very pedestrian 2021 season, his batting profile and quality of contact weren’t that far off which indicates a degree of bad luck in an outlier year, at least to a certain point.
Career numbers / 2021 season:
BB%: 12.1 / 12.3
K%: 23.8 / 21.7
wOBA (career): .352 / xwOBA: .348
If you are signing Conforto, you can’t take that much away from the poor 2021 or the outstanding shortened 2020 season — he’s not gonna hit .300 on any sort of consistent basis. In fact, he reminds me of another outfielder with a power bat and good eye who played for the Mets and the Yankees: Curtis Granderson. Conforto doesn’t get that much of a strikeout prone rep and the same goes for Granderson with his BB%, but their batting profiles are very similar.
I’m not saying that Conforto is necessarily a great fit in New York and the likelihood that this happens is very small, but the Yankees could use help in the left-handed batters department and for the right price it may be a welcome addition. Maybe Aaron Boone could even give him some games at first and see if he can turn into a Nick Swisher-style hybrid outfielder/first baseman. That’s just pie-in-the-sky though — Conforto as is remains a solid hitter.