Lukewarm Stove: Who Gets the Conforto Lottery Ticket? Short-Term LAD Deal for Freeman? Projecting FA Hitters, More

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Lukewarm Stove: Who Gets the Conforto Lottery Ticket? Short-Term LAD Deal for Freeman? Projecting FA Hitters, More

Chicago Cubs

Michael Conforto just wrapped up what was effectively his worst offensive season as an everyday player in MLB (.232/.344/.384, 106 wRC+), and unfortunately, it’s going to cost him.

Had the 28-year-old free agent outfielder posted something closer to one of his better offensive seasons (something between 127 to 158 wRC+) or even just closer to his career average (124 wRC+), he would have been a lock for a deal north of $100M this winter. Instead, the down year and attachment to draft pick compensation have people wondering if he’ll be forced to take a one-year deal to reestablish some value, or something cheaper than expected over four or five years.

Brett and I have been really high on the potential value there for the Cubs (especially on a four-year deal, where the “cost” of the draft pick compensation can be spread out over multiple seasons), and maybe we’re not alone:

A little recruiting there from Marcus Stroman, maybe? We know he’s into it!

For what it’s worth, the Cubs have plenty of space in their outfield and a particular need for some extra left-handed offense next season (ZiPS projects: .252/.356/.431; 119 wRC+). And it certainly feels like Conforto, 28, could be the sort of guy you target to help out multiple years down the line, not just in 2022. Wherever he lands, if it’s for more than one year, I think Conforto’s next team might just be buying low on a really solid overall player. I hope the Cubs are able to take advantage of what seems to be a general undervaluation on the market.

For what it’s worth, the New York Post is parsing the words of Mets manager Buck Showalter, who may have slipped, indicating that the Mets could still add a free agent outfielder, and Conforto seemed to be on his mind. Remember, the “cost” of re-signing a qualified free agent like Conforto will be less to the Mets than anywhere else. If he’s set on seeking a one-year deal, NY could be the place to be. And, hey, Buster Olney just told us “the Mets will spend more money,” after the lockout.

Speaking of which …

Buster Olney’s Rumor Dump

At ESPN, Buster Olney pulled on his sources within the industry to see what’s expected on the transaction side immediately out of the lockout, and there’s plenty to address. Among the highlights …

•   Evidently, the industry believes Freddie Freeman will (1) sign very quickly out of the break and (2) potentially not with Atlanta: “…there is a growing belief that Freeman will land somewhere outside of Atlanta because of the standoff in his negotiations. The Braves offered $135 million over five years, sources say, and Freeman is looking for a six-year deal.” As far as I can recall, that’s the strongest language yet on Freeman’s potential exit. I still believe the Braves should cave and offer him that sixth year, but if the Yankees or Dodgers really do move quickly out of the gate, there might not be a chance for Atlanta to think about it.

•   But here’s a new wrinkle: While the Dodgers have long been connected to Freeman, there was a belief that President Andrew Friedman wouldn’t hand out a six-year year deal to an older first baseman. So the new rumor? The Dodger-special: “‘But a shorter term deal that’s really lucrative – I could see that,’ said one agent, positing a four-year, $140 million contract as more workable for L.A.” Not a bad alternative to the Braves’ offer if they hold firm!

•   No surprises here, but just to confirm: Olney believes that the A’s likely have trade offers on the table for Matt Olson and Matt Chapman, and will complete those deals quickly.

•   Updated medical reports on Carlos Correa (back) and Trevor Story (arm) are of the utmost interest to big spenders around the league. It seems teams will rely heavily on the latest news to make an informed decision on those offers, and that makes me feel like we might not see a Correa deal *right* away. The lockout switch to Scott Boras aligns with that thinking.

•   Hop over to Olney’s post for details on Clayton Kershaw, the top relievers on the market (free agents and trade candidates), Jose Ramirez’s availability, Nick Castellanos attractiveness, and a lot more.

FA Hitter Projections: Performance and Contract

Dan Szymborski has your must-read of the day over at FanGraphs. It’s a very fun, very useful read, wherein he uses his ZiPS projection system to forecast the next X number of years for each of the biggest remaining free agent hitters in terms of expected performance and price tag. He even takes some guesses at the destination for each player.

In the post: Carlos Correa (Angels), Freddie Freeman (Padres), Trevor Story (Yankees), Michael Conforto (Phillies), Kyle Schwarber (Brewers), and Kris Bryant (Blue Jays).

First thing’s first, that’s not the first time I’ve seen Schwarber speculated to the NL Central (he’s been connected to both the Brewers and Cardinals this winter), and I really just hate that. I don’t want to root against him. I really don’t.

But more importantly, I see some real value and intrigue here. For example, Szymborski has Correa going to the Angels for “just” $240 million over seven years. The Cubs were reportedly trying to convince Correa to take a seven-year deal before the lockout, so that immediately caught my attention. For reference, ZiPS projects the actual value of Correa’s performance at $216M, though he’s a virtual lock to get much more than that if the medicals are good enough (heck, the Tigers offered him a 10-year, $275M deal already this offseason).

I also look at Conforto’s projected deal (two-years, $35M) with some interest, and wonder if the Blue Jays are getting a steal for Kris Bryant at less than $100M.

Given that most Major League teams can peg a players value with surprising consistency across the league, I tend to take exercises like this pretty seriously. There’s a chance your favorite front office has very similar internal numbers in mind – not in terms of an offer, per se, but in terms of the actual valuation.

Braves Notes

At The Athletic, David O’Brien drops some thoughts on the Braves plans immediately out of the break, and most of it is as expected: The league still generally expects the Braves to eventually step up on Freddie Freeman. HOWEVER, Freeman should have legitimate alternatives, so it’s not entirely within their hands. Meanwhile, trading for Matt Olson and signing Anthony Rizzo are realistic alternatives. Again, mostly stuff we already knew.

The reason I’m sharing that article today, however, is because O’Brien has made what I believe to be the first mention of even the possibility of the Braves pursuing Carlos Correa, whom he believes is seeking a deal in the $300M range (that’s like two new rumors right there). He doesn’t see it as likely – if they’re going to spend twice the money, they should just pay Freeman, in my opinion) – but it’s out there.

O’Brien also suggests that the Braves and World Series MVP Jorge Soler could reunite when the lockout ends. That is interesting all on its own, of course, but it caught my eye, because Soler has had so few rumors out there on him this offseason. I think this is among the first I’ve seen. Other good stuff in O’Brien’s story: Trading William Contreras, plans for the rotation, bullpen outlook, more.

Odds and Ends

•   The Nationals will reportedly seek a first baseman to pair with Josh Bell out of the break, but their efforts are not expected to reach up to the Anthony Rizzo/Freddie Freeman level. I presume that means Matt Olson is also off the table.

•   Meanwhile, if you recall, the Rays were reportedly looking to add a right-handed first baseman via trade this offseason, and one of their former right-handed hitters – and current free agent – Tommy Pham just suggested he’s open to the position.

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Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami