After Jurickson Profar opted out of his contract earlier this off-season, an opening in left field came available to the San Diego Padres.
Though Profar could ultimately return to the team, and there appears to be interest in him doing so, the Padres may fill that newly acquired need with a different everyday regular. There are talks of Fernando Tatis Jr. sliding into the outfield and perhaps manning one of those roles, but nothing of that nature is set in stone – and Tatis is still suspended for the season’s first 20 or so games of the regular season.
Expect the Padres to test the outfielders’ free agent market, though it’s unlikely they’ll be in on any of the ‘big’ names, such as Brandon Nimmo or Aaron Judge. President of Baseball Operations A.J. Preller will likely bargain hunt for a veteran player that won’t break the bank but still replicate or even improve upon the value Profar brought to the table.
One name that could fit that bill, among many, would be Michael Conforto.
To begin with, there’s no denying that whichever team brings Conforto along would be assuming some sort of risk. He’s about to be 30 years old and hasn’t played in the big leagues since 2021, sitting out the entire 2022 season on the free agent market with an injury. The last time he played wasn’t particularly inspiring either, as he slashed .232/.344/.729 with a 100 OPS+.
How much of that dip in production is attributed to his injury, we’ll never know, but the track record that came before makes taking a risk on Conforto much more enticing.
Conforto owns a career .824 OPS and 124 OPS+, respectively, both of which are above league marks. He’s had two seasons with an OPS above .900 under his belt, one of them was 2020, and his two best years in terms of OPS would have finished third on the Padres this season, behind only Manny Machado and Juan Soto. Those numbers are from the past, but Conforto’s proved that when he’s healthy, he can produce.
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The injuries, however, appear to be a major issue. He’s eclipsed the 600+ plate appearance mark just twice in his career, failing to reach above the 500 mark in any other season. All of that, combined with the fact that he hasn’t played in a game since 2021, would raise a red flag to any front office.
Still, giving Conforto a fairly low-priced one-year deal may not be the worst thing in the world. If he pans out, you have a solid contributor in a corner outfield spot who’s left-handed. If not, you’re not tied to him down the road at all, and he could potentially be a valuable asset off the bench.
It’s possible that the Padres, inching ever so closely to the luxury tax mark, avoid Conforto because of the risks attached to him, even on a short contract. Though, with Preller running the helm, it’s not impossible to envision a world where Conforto is donning the brown and gold in 2023.
Diego works at Prep Baseball Report as an Area Scout in Illinois and Missouri. He graduated this spring with a Bachelor Degree in Communications and played four years of college baseball, logging nearly 50 innings of work in a relief role. Diego hopes to work in an MLB front office one day and has been a Padres fan since he was six years old.