How Red Sox Could Improve Outfield With All-Star Who Didn’t Play In 2022

Michael Conforto is an intriguing buy-low free agent option


Nov 11, 2022

It’s no secret the Boston Red Sox’s outfield was a problem in 2022.

The unit ranked 27th in Major League Baseball in fWAR (2.1), a combination of both lackluster offensive production and below-average defense. There were myriad issues — Kiké Hernández’s injuries, Alex Verdugo’s inconsistency, Jackie Bradley Jr.’s underwhelming return, Jarren Duran’s struggles, etc. — and the Red Sox almost certainly need to augment the group in some way, shape or form before the 2023 season.

One potential target worth kicking around: Michael Conforto.

Conforto, who turns 30 in March, spent seven seasons with the New York Mets before sitting out the entire 2022 campaign. He was a free agent last offseason, as well, after rejecting a one-year qualifying offer from the Mets, but the veteran outfielder didn’t sign a deal before the MLB lockout and later sustained a shoulder injury that derailed his trip to the open market.

Why might the Red Sox — or any club, for that matter — be interested in Conforto? Well, the circumstances surrounding his free agency — having not played since 2021, which was a down year by his standards — make him a buy-low candidate, presumably attainable on a one-year, prove-it deal or a multiyear contract with built-in options.

MLB Trade Rumors released its free agent rankings Thursday. Conforto landed at No. 44, with the outlet projecting a one-year, $15 million payday for the 2017 All-Star.

Interestingly enough, Tim Dierkes and Steve Adams — two of four MLBTR writers who made predictions for where each of the top 50 free agents will sign –expect Conforto to land with Boston. (Anthony Franco and Darragh McDonald predicted the Texas Rangers and Cincinnati Reds, respectively.)

Obviously, there’s a ton of uncertainty surrounding Conforto, given both the layoff and his most recent performance with the Mets. The 2014 first-round pick slashed .232/.344/.384 with 14 home runs and 55 RBIs across 125 games (479 plate appearances) in 2021. But the upside is apparent, too, evident by a four-year stretch from 2017 to 2020 in which he posted a .265/.369/.495 line while averaging 34 home runs and 95 RBIs per 162 games.

Conforto also has experience in all three outfield spots. He’s historically been an average defender, and therefore could be counted on for adequate glove work in right field (where he’s played the most), with Verdugo and Hernández holding down left field and center field, respectively.

The Red Sox, of course, could choose to go big-game hunting, setting their sights on Aaron Judge (the best position player available in free agency) or Brandon Nimmo (the second-best outfielder available). But either player — especially Judge — would require a significant financial commitment, whereas Conforto sits in the next tier, with the potential to be a bargain if things break right.

Thumbnail photo via Scott Taetsch/USA TODAY Sports Images
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