Just the worst possible set of turns for former New York Mets outfielder Michael Conforto. After hitting .259/.358/.484 (128 wRC+) through his first six partial seasons in the big leagues, with generally improving peripherals over time, Conforto had a really down 2021 in his walk year before free agency. There was likely some bad luck baked in, but then being attached to draft pick compensation made teams leery of giving him a short-term pillow contract, but also without enough confidence to make him a significant multi-year offer.
Then, having not signed before December, the lockout hit. Conforto, about to turn 29, would have to wait to sign whenever things opened back up. But while training during the lockout, he injured his throwing shoulder. Of course we didn’t know that until multiple weeks of the new signing period went by, which seemed odd. But then, his agent suggested, Conforto was good to go. “Fully healthy.”
Maybe he was, but even then, Conforto still didn’t sign. It got to the point where, because of the injury and the draft pick compensation, it was very hard to imagine the right deal for Conforto with any team, and signing after the draft – when draft pick compensation would go away – seemed very likely. Just terrible timing all the way around for a guy who was, prior to 2021, clearly looking at a nine-figure deal in an extension or free agency.
Well, the timing and the story got even worse:
Last week Michael Confordo underwent successful shoulder surgery by Dr Neil ELATTRACHE. He is expected to make a full recovery and return to play in spring training 2023. @nypostsports
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) April 24, 2022
Per Michael Confoto’s agent, Scott Boras: “Last week Michael Conforto underwent successful shoulder surgery by Dr. Neil ElAttrache. He is expected to make a full recovery and return to play in spring training 2023.”
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) April 24, 2022
So, apparently contrary to the statements last month on Conforto’s shoulder, it was not fully good to go. And now having had surgery (what exactly was the injury? some shoulder surgeries would give you more long-term concern than others), there is no chance of him returning this season.
At least draft pick compensation is no longer a concern?
Conforto will hit free agency as a lottery ticket. He will be heading into his age 30 season having not played in a year and a half, and coming off (major?) surgery on his throwing shoulder. Yes, he’ll be able to work out for teams and show them that he’s recovered, but how much can he really expect on a deal? It’ll almost certainly have to be a one-year prove-it deal (maybe a one year, one option type), when he can try to get a bigger contract thereafter at age 31/32. I feel bad for the guy! It could have been so very different if not for the down 2021 season or if not for the lockout or if not for the injury. Heck, with all the injuries and need in the White Sox outfield, he could’ve signed with them by now on a really good deal …
We’ll see where Conforto is come next offseason, and whether he could make sense on a short-term, roll-the-dice deal for the Cubs. If Ian Happ – who would then be in his final year before free agency – is still around and hitting well enough to lock down left field, though, it’s hard to see the obvious fit for Conforto as an everyday starter, since I’m not sure he’ll be able to play center field coming off shoulder surgery.