I’m not gonna say Michael Conforto makes ZERO sense for the Chicago Cubs, but as Michael explored this morning in relation to the report that the Cubs are in on Conforto, the fit is pretty darn hard to see. I don’t see Conforto wanting to be a reserve outfielder when he’s trying to show teams he’s healthy and good to go, which means on the Cubs he’d HAVE to be the center fielder, where he hasn’t played in over three years.
Maybe you could say a lot of that was the presence of Brandon Nimmo in center field for the Mets, and that Conforto still has the center field ability? Of course, even if that’s true, teams haven’t seen him play since a disappointing 2021 season. I don’t know, man. It’s hard to see.
I guess it’s good to have options, though, since we know the Cubs absolutely, positively, must add a center fielder to the roster.
One of the most obvious options out there for the Cubs in an otherwise thin market is Cody Bellinger, who is an above-average defensive center fielder, and a lefty bat with power. Sure, I tend to think it’s more likely than not that the bat doesn’t even get back to average (let alone his previous MVP-level heights), but (1) the chance is worth it on a one-year deal, and (2) the defense creates a nice floor where even slightly-below-average offensive output can be playable in center field.
Of course, because of that, Bellinger makes sense for a whole lot of teams, even as the Dodgers non-tendered him rather than commit $18+ million in arbitration for 2023.
Jon Heyman reports that, yes, the Cubs are among the teams in on Bellinger, so there’s a little national confirmation of the interest. HOWEVER, the Cubs are just one of ELEVEN teams that are interested in Bellinger. A lot of teams would like to take the one-year shot on a bounce-back. Understandable.
The only teams Heyman mentions by name are the Cubs, Astros, and Giants, and maybe you could read that as suggesting they are the most serious teams. But there are at least eight other teams with some level of interest, and even if that’s just a check-in, we aren’t talking about a nine-figure contract here. A lot of teams with a mere passing, check-in-level interest might ultimately decide, oh, just one year and $17 million (or whatever), ok, pfft, sure, we would totally do that.
Heck, for all we know, that’s why Conforto’s name is getting back out there, attached to a team known to be pursuing center fielders. Maybe that’s one side or both trying to create the perception of back-up options. Because here’s the tricky thing: both Conforto and Bellinger are represented by Scott Boras, who is not going to want to see the market for one cannibalizing the other. It’ll be in Boras’s STRONG interest to steer Bellinger to a team that ISN’T otherwise interested in Conforto, and vice versa. And to be sure, that could be in the players’ best interests, too, since it could maximize their markets.
What does that mean for the Cubs, specifically? Eh, I’d be cautious about getting too conspiratorial, but it’s notable that both reports of the Cubs’ involvement – on Bellinger and Conforto – are in different sections of the same Jon Heyman article. So it’s at least conceivable that he got this information from the Boras side of things. Maybe Boras would prefer Conforto went to the Cubs, and Bellinger went to one of the many other teams courting him?