Eyeing comeback, Conforto inks 2-year deal with Giants

January 6th, 2023

SAN FRANCISCO -- Three days after their megadeal with shortstop Carlos Correa collapsed, the Giants pivoted to the best remaining hitter on the free-agent market. They made the move official on Friday, signing Michael Conforto to a two-year, $36 million contract.

Conforto will make $18 million in both 2023 and '24 and will earn the right to opt out after one season if he reaches 350 plate appearances this year. To clear a spot on the 40-man roster, the Giants designated catcher Austin Wynns for assignment.

The deal with Conforto, 29, came on the heels of a stunning free-agent turnaround, as San Francisco was set to introduce Correa before pulling back on the deal due to a disagreement over the 28-year-old’s physical examination. Correa subsequently reached a similar deal with the Mets that was also put on hold due to concerns with the shortstop's injury history.

Conforto ultimately passed his physical, which was no formality considering he hasn’t appeared in an MLB game since 2021. He became a free agent last offseason but remained unsigned through Opening Day, then underwent right shoulder surgery in April to address an injury he suffered while training in January. There was some speculation that Conforto could sign with a team for the stretch run, but that never came to fruition.

Agent Scott Boras, who represents both Correa and Conforto, recently told reporters that Conforto is “back to full health” and has been throwing at 120 feet with full extension on his left-handed swing.

Still, it remains to be seen whether the long layoff will impact Conforto’s performance. The outfielder’s production dipped in his final year before free agency, as he hit .232 with 14 homers, 55 RBIs and a .729 OPS (100 OPS+) over 125 games for the Mets. He also missed more than a month with a right hamstring strain.

Conforto, who broke into the Majors a little over a year after the Mets made him the 10th overall pick in the 2014 MLB Draft, entered 2021 having recorded a 128 OPS+ over his first six seasons, including three straight (2017-19) with at least 27 homers.

The Oregon State University product set career highs with 33 homers, 29 doubles and 92 RBIs in 2019 and hit .322 with a .927 OPS during the shortened 2020 season.

Conforto bounced around the outfield in his first five seasons, seeing time at all three positions, but he was exclusively a right fielder in 2020-21. He isn’t an elite defender by any stretch, but he possessed a strong arm pre-surgery and has recorded a combined 10 outs above average (8 in LF, 2 in RF) as a corner outfielder.

The Giants had been seeking an additional outfielder to pair with fellow newcomer Mitch Haniger, who signed a three-year, $43.5 million deal earlier this offseason. Conforto and Haniger are likely to slot into regular roles in the corner outfield, leaving Mike Yastrzemski and Austin Slater to patrol center field.

Joc Pederson is expected to draw more at-bats at designated hitter, while LaMonte Wade Jr. will likely see more time at first base to help fill the void left by Brandon Belt, who is a free agent. The additions should provide a much-needed boost to the Giants’ outfield defense, which recorded a Major League-worst -26 OAA in 2022.