Upon the looming departure of veteran third baseman Kyle Seager this offseason, the Seattle Mariners will have a massive hole in the middle of their batting order for a proven left-handed hitter. The Mariners will likely look to the 2022 Free Agency class to fill this void, and one name that could come up is outfielder Michael Conforto, a 29-year-old with solid career numbers and World Series experience.
Conforto, a Seattle native who attended Redmond High School, has a career slash line of .255/.356/.468, with 132 home runs and an outstanding .824 OPS through his first seven seasons. Conforto’s best season came in 2017, when he hit .279 with 27 home runs, 68 RBIs, and an eye-popping .939 OPS.
With the Mariners coming off of a season in which they narrowly missed the playoffs, and in a position where they have the luxuries of both a top-ranked farm system and a hefty amount of salary cap space, it’s almost a certain bet that they will be major players this offseason. But, they are going to need to be very keen about how they use their precious resources.
Mariners President of Baseball Operations, Jerry Dipoto, is going to look in several different directions when considering how to build the best possible roster for 2022. Trades, minor league promotions, and big free agent signings will likely all be in play, but Dipoto also loves to find high value in low places (see the acquisitions of Ty France, Luis Torrens, and pretty much the entire Mariners bullpen).
Entering the final year of his contract this past season, Conforto struggled to the tune of a .232 BA with 14 home runs and 55 RBIs in 125 games. His OBP and OPS were still a respectable .344 and .729, but it’s safe to say his free agent stock took a plummet. Because of this turn of events, Conforto fits the bill for who Jerry Dipoto could pursue next.
While Michael Conforto’s recent struggles cause some concern for his future, they come at the right time to put the Mariners in position to sign him at an affordable rate.
The Mariners have a heavily right-handed lineup set up for the middle of their order next year (Ty France, Mitch Haniger, Kyle Lewis, and potentially Marcus Semien and Julio Rodriguez), and centerfielder Jarred Kelenic likely won’t get implemented into that mix as a left-handed change of pace until later in the year; that leaves a huge hole for a dependable left-handed hitter in Seattle’s lineup for at least the first half of next season.
Teams will be unlikely to commit several years of big money to Conforto after his decline in performance this past season, so it could be in his best interest to sign a one-year deal with a contending team to prove his worth before re-entering free agency in 2023; we’ve seen similar approaches the past few years from Semien and Marcell Ozuna, with Ozuna eventually signing a 4-year, $65 million deal at age 29, and Semien set for a massive pay day this offseason at age 31.
On paper, the fit looks great for both parties; Michael Conforto coming home to Seattle on a prove-it deal (while hopefully propelling his hometown team to the playoffs) and setting himself up for more future cash, and the Mariners getting their middle-of-the-order lefty bat without a long-term commitment.