Well, the Cubs have opened up the checkbook this offseason, but Jed Hoyer wasn’t able to get the best upside bat remaining in free agency. As recent as Thursday night, the Cubs were still being linked to left-handed hitter Michael Conforto, but on Friday morning news came out that the former New York Met is signing with the San Francisco Giants.
Conforto, who will be 30-years-old next season, has agreed to a two-year deal that includes an opt-out after the 2023 season.
While there are questions about Conforto’s ability to play in the outfield full-time following his shoulder surgery in April earlier this year, he is expected to be back in full capacity in spring training. The left-handed hitting outfielder did not play in 2022, after going unsigned in free agency and then having surgery, which shut him down for the season.
From 2017-19, Conforto hit a total of 88 home runs with the New York Mets, including a career best of 33 long balls in 2019. Of course, that was back in the peak of home run numbers sky-rocketing across MLB. He was on pace for another 25+ home run season in 2020, as well.
Conforto would have given the Cubs much-needed power from the left-side of the plate while having solid on base skills, too, sustaining a 12.1% walk rate throughout his career. Conforto has a career slash line of .255/.356/.468, with a 124 wRC+. He’s accumulated 19.3 fWAR in 757 games since reaching the majors back in 2015. His best season came in 2017, when he was an All-Star and finished the year with a 4.8 fWAR and 147 wRC+.
This group could have been the Cubs starters with Conforto.
Yan Gomes/Tucker Barnhart – C
Matt Mervis/Patrick Wisdom – 1B
Nico Hoerner – 2B
Dansby Swanson – SS
Christopher Morel/Patrick Wisdom – 3B
Ian Happ – LF
Cody Bellinger – CF
Seiya Suzuki – RF
Michael Conforto – DH
After the good vibes following the Dansby Swanson signing, not being able to get Conforto really is a bummer for Cubs fans. I know that there’s no guarantee that Conforto will get back to his regular numbers, but he still represented the highest upside on offense in free agency at this point of the offseason.
So, where do the Cubs go from here? Well, the first thing is to wait until the Giants actually sign on off on Conforto’s physical and don’t back out from their deal like they did with Carlos Correa. Then, sign him on NYE!
OK, but seriously, the most obvious pivot for the Cubs to add a solid hitter is Trey Mancini. He can play first base, get time at designated hitter and fill in from time to time in left and right field. It seems like Mancini has been the Cubs backup plan for another veteran bat this offseason because he’s been linked to them since free agency first kicked off back in November.
A few other options at third base could be Evan Longoria or Brian Anderson.
Yet, the Cubs may be focusing on adding a left-handed hitter. Hoyer was on 670 The Score Thursday morning and specifically said how the roster is a little too right-handed.
Here are some left-handed hitting free agents left.
There has also been links between the Cubs and Dominic Smith, dating back to the Winter Meetings in early December. He was brought up again a few days ago by Bruce Levine, however adding Smith would most likely come as a minor-league signing…which fine, but it doesn’t really move the needle
The Cubs could also look to the trade market. Maybe they give the Mets a call about Luis Guillorme or Eduardo Escobar. And while you’re on the phone ask if they have any plans to trade Brett Baty.
And now that I have you thinking about trades, why the hell not. Call the Red Sox and see what it takes to get Rafael Devers. That. Do that.