Look at the names left on the MLB free agency board, and it’s easy to forget Michael Conforto.
The former Mets star went unsigned before the lockout last year and then missed all of 2022 recovering from shoulder surgery. Cut to today, and a small faction of #YankeesTwitter thinks the Bronx Bombers signing him is a good idea.
Nope. No. Hard stop. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200. Forget it, NO. Conforto shouldn’t even be on the Yankees’ radar. Furthermore, given how general manager Brian Cashman and owner Hal Steinbrenner have operated this year, chances are he never has been.
Let’s start with the money and what a contract could look like. Conforto turns 30 on March 1 and is a .255 career hitter. Injuries and underperformance saw him bat just .232 with 14 home runs in 2021. This after he slugged 97 homers over the four previous seasons.
Throw in a lost season, and Conforto’s most realistic deal is probably a one-year contract in the neighborhood of $15 million. He earned $12.25 million in 2021, and a new deal could also feature various incentives and options. The Yankees only really need a left fielder for one year, maybe two until Jasson Dominguez is ready. There are cheaper options available, plus in-house utility man Oswaldo Cabrera.
Now, let’s take a look back at Conforto the hitter. Sure, he was injured for part of 2021, but that doesn’t really explain a dip in power. What’s particularly concerning is for someone with so much power, Conforto doesn’t seem to hit the ball particularly hard. His hard contact peaked at the 88th percentile in 2017 before nosediving to 48th, 49th, 38th, and 39th in the years since.
Luck isn’t much of a factor either, as Conforto also posted middling expected batting averages (xBA) over that stretch. It ranged between the 33rd and 59th percentiles with the exception of being in the 82nd in the shortened 2020 season. The solid barrel numbers confirm the sad truth.
Much like famous Yankees mistake Aaron Hicks, it looks very much that Conforto benefitted from juiced balls. Factor in the Yankees got overexcited at the power and gave Hicks a $70 million extension, and that’s another reason not to sign Conforto.
Oh, and how about his not playing left field in MLB since 2018? Aaron Judge and Harrison Bader are both elite gloves in right and center. Even with Conforto’s +10 career defensive runs saved (DRS) in left, that’s still a long time away for someone who wasn’t a great glove in center or right.
Conforto would thus be an overpriced stopgap outfielder in a Yankees uniform. Is there upside? Sure, but someone like a Max Kepler or Ian Happ makes more sense.
To say nothing of how much Mets fans would explode and implode at Conforto donning the pinstripes. Half would say “Good riddance” and cite the injuries and metrics, and half would lament him as a traitor. The Subway Series rivalry is exhausting enough. Do we really need Conforto signing in the Bronx and pouring gas on the fire?
The good news is this idea doesn’t exist beyond the form above. It’s simply being kicked around social media as an exciting possibility. At no point have the Yankees even been linked to Conforto and given Cashman’s relationship with analytics, likely never will be.
But if the Red Sox like him? Well, they should by all means make the deal by any means necessary.
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