Giants and Michael Conforto agree to two-year deal

The Giants and outfielder Michel Conforto agree to a two-year, $36 million deal. Conforto may withdraw after the first season. The case is awaiting a physical. He is represented by Boras Corporation.

Conforto, 30 in March, was arguably the best upside play left in the free agent market based on his excellent streak of results from 2017-2020. However, it’s not without risk for the Giants, as Conforto had a disappointing season in 2021 and then missed the 2022 season entirely due to shoulder surgery.

During that 2017-20 streak, Conforto played in 467 games for the Mets and threw 97 homers. His strikeout rate of 24.4% was slightly above average, but his walk rate of 12.7% was well above par. His overall offensive production translated into a .265/.369/.495 batting line, 33% above the league average by wRC+ metric. This 133 wRC+ was in the top 25 among all skilled hitters in baseball at that time.

In 2021, Conforto production fell, especially in the energy department. He hit just 14 homers in 125 games after hitting 27 or more in the previous three full seasons. He finished the year with a slash of .232/.344/.384, which was still a bit above average as his wRC+ was 106, but a noticeable drop from his previous form. Despite that year of decline, the Mets felt comfortable making him a qualifying offer of $18.4 million and Conforto felt comfortable rejecting.

He entered free agency looking for a lucrative multi-year deal but didn’t get it until the December 1 lockdown. He then injured his shoulder during training during this lockdown and eventually required surgery. Given his uncertain state of health and his attachment to forfeiting the draft pick for rejecting the qualifying offer, it erased any chance of him getting a major contract. Once the draft passed and he was no longer tied to any kind of penalties, there were rumors that teams were considering signing him to a short contract while hoping his shoulder could heal enough to facilitate a run. stretch, but it never materialized.

Conforto then entered this offseason as a high-risk, high-reward game. He just finished a missed entire season and a poor performance in 2021, but was one of the best hitters in baseball before that. MLBTR predicted he would land a one-year, $15 million contract, hoping to prove his health and return to free agency for a more lucrative deal in a year. Conforto agent Scott Boras said his client would be looking for a two-year contract with an opt-out similar to the one he negotiated between Carlos Rodon and the Giants. The situations were somewhat analogous since Rodón was also an extremely talented player with health issues. However, he was at least coming off a strong 2021 season when he signed that two-year, $44 million deal with the Giants, so it looked like Conforto would have to settle for something below that given his more great uncertainty. He has now indeed got the deal he was looking for, with the Giants once again proving to be the team ready to grant his desired opt-out. Conforto got a lesser guarantee than Rodón, as expected, but did quite well getting a higher salary than expected.

Despite Conforto’s uncertain status, it has still proven to be very popular this off-season. The Rangers, Blue Jays, Mets, Rockies, Cubs, Marlins, Rangers, Mariners and Astros were all connected to him at various points in the offseason. Some of these clubs ended up tackling their outfields with other players, but those who still have designs on upgrades will find limited options on the open market. Some of the best unsigned freefielders are Jurickson Profar, David Peralta, Trey Mancini and AJ Pollock.

For the Giants, they entered this offseason looking to be aggressive. They continued their 107-win campaign in 2021 with a disappointing 81-81 finish in 2022. Since their future payroll was quite wide open and they were looking for significant upgrades, they were frequently hooked up with free agents from renowned such as Judge Aaron and the “big four” shortstops: Carlos Correa, Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts and Dansby Swanson. President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi has done little to temper expectations, telling the media at the start of the offseason that “from a financial point of view, there would be no one who would be out of our capacity”.

The club’s early stages of the offseason seemed to revolve around their pursuit of Judge and the club reportedly offered him a $360 million contract, but he eventually got that same guarantee from the Yankees and accepted. The Giants then pivoted to Correa and agreed to a 13-year, $350 million deal, although that ended up falling through in unprecedented fashion. The Giants flagged something in Correa’s medical that gave them pause, later reported to be his right leg, postponing the official signing just when it was due to be announced. Ron Kroichick of the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Correa even started shopping with his family in the area. But the health issues were enough to allow him to walk away from the pact, freeing him to sign a 12-year, $315 million deal with the Mets soon after.

With all of the other top free agents already out of the board, there was no chance left for the Giants to take the big plunge many expected. Turning to Conforto, they arguably did their best among the remaining free agents. However, there is some absurdity in the club embarking on a PR nightmare of letting Correa slip away at the last second, only to see their two biggest free agent splashes being Conforto, who missed. the entire 2022 season, and Mitch Hanigerwho only played 100 games twice in a season due to various injuries.

Regardless of optics, the Giants would have looked to add two outfielders this offseason and have accomplished it. Conforto has played at center field in the past, but not since 2019 and he wasn’t highly ranked there then. The Giants will most likely watch Conforto and Haniger in the corners, leaving center field to Mike Yastrzemski and Austin Slater. It will probably push LaMonte Wade Jr. spend more time at first base, potentially platooning with JD Daviswhere the club will have to deal with the loss of Brandon Belt.

Assuming a fair distribution of money, this contract brings the club’s wage bill to $181 million, per Roster Resource. That’s well beyond last year’s opening day payroll of $154 million, according to Cot’s baseball contracts, though they’ve topped $200 million in the past. . Their competitive balance tax calculation of $197 million is also well below the luxury tax threshold of $233 million. This might give them some wiggle room if they consider other additions.

USA Today’s Bob Nightengale announced for the first time that the two parties had agreed to a two-year, $36 million deal. ESPN’s Buster Olney first noted the opt-out clause.

Image courtesy of USA Today Sports.

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