No, it’s not the 2021-2022 offseason anymore. Yes, the White Sox should still be interested in Michael Conforto.
After injuring his shoulder this January, then ultimately undergoing surgery in April, the hype around ex-Mets player Michael Conforto slowed down quite a bit. Not only was the injury concerning to MLB front offices, but the 29-year-old outfielder also had a compensatory pick attached to him, meaning any pre-draft signing would cost a team a 2022 draft pick. Needless to say, the earliest Conforto was getting signed was after July’s draft. Conforto’s agent, the well-known Scott Boras, admitted as such in a recent interview with The New York Post‘s baseball podcast: The Show. However, Boras also provided a key update: Conforto is progressing towards full hitting activity in September. CBS and The Athletic reporter Jim Bowden has confirmed multiple teams have interest, including the South Siders.
We are now a few weeks post-draft and Conforto, a career .255/.356/.468 hitter, is still unsigned. Meanwhile, the White Sox were unable to trade for any position players before Tuesday’s deadline. While nothing is set in stone for Conforto’s rehab, Rick Hahn and Co. would be smart to sign him if he proves to be healthy by early September.
What Contract Makes Sense?
Assuming Conforto would accept a very short deal, a one-year (one-month?) deal would likely be incredibly cheap—maybe a couple of million dollars for 2022, if that. A few years ago, Dallas Keuchel secured $21 million for about two-thirds of a season with the Atlanta Braves. Conforto, coming off surgery, would demand a fraction of that cost for roughly four weeks of regular season baseball. Notably, Craig Kimbrel took a similar path to Keuchel in 2019, but instead signed a three-year contract —which panned out poorly for the Chicago Cubs. General Managers looking at that outcome will likely limit Conforto’s market to one-year fliers, anyways. A one-year deal would make a lot of sense for the outfielder as well, as he could give MLB teams a shot to see him and gain confidence in his abilities before looking once more for a multi-year deal in the offseason.
Four weeks of baseball might sound like a waste, but the White Sox are likely to be within a game or two of the division lead throughout most of September. Any improvement is a monumental improvement at that point. If all goes well, playoff action would only make the signing even more of a steal too.
Why Conforto Fits Well on the Team
Yes, Conforto took a step back from his impressive ways in 2021. But he still managed a .729 OPS and a 106 wRC+ last year, which included a stellar 119 wRC+ against right-handed pitching. Besides, he’s just 29 years old and his career numbers are already miles better than any left-handed-hitting White Sox outfielder in recent memory.
It also goes without saying that Conforto is a wonderful fit for the roster. Gavin Sheets has picked it up of late, but can’t be relied on to totally flip the script on his subpar season. Conforto offers another powerful left-handed bat to add to the lineup against righties that doesn’t have the same level of struggles against LHP as Sheets. He has 132 dingers in 757 career games, a home run rate that would eclipse any 2022 White Sox player’s season rate. Further, it’s unclear if Conforto would be healthy enough to man the outfield in 2022, but if so, he would add a much-needed quality fielding option with his glove. His Outs Above Average has worsened slightly since a pretty impressive stretch to start his career, but he’s still a huge upgrade over Sheets, Vaughn, Garcia, etc. on the outfield grass.
There’s a decent likelihood that Conforto is unable to play in 2022, and an even higher likelihood he would be limited to a DH role. Perhaps Boras and Co. will demand a multi-year deal, and don’t like the one-year showcase option. The White Sox would be smart to consider a two or three-year deal, but that’s admittedly riskier. Ultimately though, if a one-year deal is possible, it’s an absolute must. Everything considered, signing him to such a contract in September would represent an enormous upside at a tiny cost. The South Siders are in the middle of a tight division race, and any edge they can secure is huge.
At this point, Hahn has cited the exorbitant prospect returns requested as the central reason the Sox didn’t make a big move at the deadline. Barring health or contract setbacks, he has a wonderful chance to make up for that by taking a chance on Michael Conforto. Get healthy fast Michael!
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