The Padres and Michael Conforto are a unique fit

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Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The San Diego Padres may need outfield help, and Micheal Conforto makes for an interesting option for the team this winter. 

There is no doubt that A.J. Preller has thought outside the box while constructing the San Diego Padres roster we see before us presently.

When you think you can predict the Padres’ next move, the young GM does the exact opposite. With a manager in place, Bob Melvin will now also take on the task of finding the correct pieces to bring a championship to San Diego. The new manager will have the opportunity to lead a roster full of legitimate talent. The Padres are spending like no other time in their franchises’ history. The goal is a World Series title, and anything else is a failure.

The Padres presently possess an outfield of Trent Grisham, Wil Myers, and probably Adam Frazier. If the Padres move Eric Hosmer, Jake Cronenworth could easily slide over to first base. That would force Frazier back to second and leave the team in need of a corner outfielder. The Padres could also move Wil Myers this winter as they attempt to save money.

With all that being said- there looks to be a few spots on the roster that will likely go to outfielders—men who are not yet with the franchise.

The Padres are attempting to save money as several free agents are relevant this winter. Big-time players like Freddie Freeman and Max Scherzer are out there on the open market. There is no doubt the Padres want to be players in some big names this off-season. However, in order to compete with teams restocking for a 2022 run, the Padres will need to open up the pocketbooks again. Peter Seidler and company already made huge investments into the franchise though, it is difficult to see them pay more money without some kind of results.

If the Padres can move some money, there are a few outfielders who make sense.

Former New York Mets’ outfielder Michael Conforto is a free agent this winter and could be one of the most undervalued players in the league. The 28-year-old outfielder is a left-handed hitter who owns a career .824 OPS in seven major league seasons. Conforto’s numbers have gone up and down over the last few seasons as he struggles with consistency and injuries. In 2020, the outfielder recorded a .927 OPS only to put up a .729 OPS this past season in his walk year. However, the potential is there for him to be one of the better hitters in the league.

The Mets and Conforto could not agree before the 2021 season began, which proved to be a loss for the outfielder. There were rumors of the Mets contemplating as much as a $150-200 million extension to Conforto and his representative Scott Boras. It never happened, and now he will likely only get a fraction of that after a subpar year in New York. The Padres surely enjoy the potential Conforto brings, but it will all come down to price.

Last week, the Mets extended a qualifying offer to Conforto worth $18.4 million for the 2022 season. Conforto could have returned to New York for that salary next season. Instead, the outfielder wasted no time to decline the offer and is now officially a free agent. However, now a team signing him will forfeit their second-highest draft pick next June in the draft.  So there is a lot to consider in this whole situation.

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What is Conforto’s value, and can the Padres afford him?

The outfielder will command somewhere around a $100-million deal (four 0r five years) but might have trouble securing that kind of contract. George Springer signed a six-year/$150 million contract last winter from the Jays, which is a decent comparison to Conforto’s value. Springer is capable of playing centerfield and has shown more consistency over his major league tenure. Conforto’s worth is arguably just below Springer, so the $100 million assessment seems accurate. However, Conforto is a full two years younger than when Springer tested the free-agent waters in the winter of 2020.

The Padres can surely afford $20-25 million for a potential middle-of-the-order bat, but they will need to free some salary for the 2022 season first. Roughly 22% of the San Diego Padres 2022 payroll is invested into Wil Myers and Eric Hosmer, as they will make a combined $43.5 million next year. Moving one or both would be a massive boost for the team financially, but this task could prove to be way too challenging to accomplish this winter. That does seem to be the number one priority for the franchise.

If San Diego were able to free up payroll, the team may look elsewhere (position-wise) to spend their money. The pitching staff is in need of some help. and if Hosmer were dealt- the Padres could need a first baseman. There are a lot of variables, and that is the way A.J. Preller and his staff like it. The team can easily swing in several different directions while constructing the roster for the 2022 season.

Signing Michael Conforto will come down to dollars and cents for the Padres. The loss of a draft pick is also a big factor. However, slotting the left-handed hitter in the lineup could provide the Padres with what they need to get to the next level. Some argue, that we have yet to see the best years from this young slugger. The front office will need to get creative to allocate the funds to make Conforto a decent offer. The winter is here, so it is natural to expect the Padres to be linked to several free agents. There are certainly options for the Friars, and Conforto is an interesting one.

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