Outfielders Michael Comfort and Cody Bellinger are each dangerous bets with big payoff potential and it appears the Cubs are enthusiastic about placing some cash down there. Jon Heyman of The New York Post connects the Cubs to each of them and in addition provides the Astros to the lengthy record of Bellinger suitors.
Conforto, 30 in March, is an actual wild card since he had a wonderful run of play from 2017 to 2020 however has had a irritating time since then. He hit 97 dwelling runs throughout that sturdy interval, producing an total batting line of .265/.369/.496. That manufacturing was 33% higher than the league common hitter, as evidenced by his 133 wRC+.
He slumped in 2021 by hitting simply 14 homers and slashing .232/.344/.384. His 106 wRC+ exhibits that he was nonetheless a bit above common, nevertheless it was a noticeable drop from his earlier output. He acquired and rejected a qualifying provide from the Mets, nonetheless believing he might discover a larger payday regardless of the down season. Unfortunately, he injured his shoulder throughout the lockout, requiring surgical procedure that worn out his 2022 completely.
After one down yr and a misplaced marketing campaign, it is troublesome to know what to anticipate from Conforto going ahead. That uncertainty will put a damper on his market however he’ll absolutely discover groups enthusiastic about taking a shot, hoping he can return to the type of hitter he was just a few years in the past. He’s already been related to the Yankees and Mets this offseason and has related to the Blue Jays previous to that.
Bellinger, 27, is a considerably comparable case, as he additionally had a powerful four-year run from 2017 to 2020, together with an MVP season in 2019. Over that stretch, Bellinger hit 123 dwelling runs and slashed .273/.364/. 547 for a wRC+ of 137. However, he injured his shoulder throughout the 2020 postseason on an ill-advised celebration and hasn’t been himself since. He hit a dismal .165/.240/.302 in 2021 and rebounded barely to .210/.265/.389 in 2022, however that latter line was nonetheless properly beneath common.
Bellinger comes with a better flooring than Conforto as his pace and protection could make him invaluable even when his bat would not rebound. FanGraphs calculated him to be value 1.7 wins above substitute this yr, even with the tepid offensive manufacturing. Conforto, nevertheless, would not price out as properly in these departments and actually wants to provide on the plate to be able to be helpful.
For the Cubs, it isn’t surprising to see that they’re contemplating including an outfielder with their lack of readability on the grass. Seiya Suzuki is the one long-term piece in place proper now, as he has 4 years remaining on his contract and may have proper subject locked down. In left subject, Ian Happ must be the on a regular basis possibility however he is only one yr away from reaching free company. In heart subject, the Cubs used a handful of various choices in 2022 with nobody securing the job. They additionally do not have an apparent designated hitter for the time being, making it simple to fit one other potent bat into their lineup.
After rebuilding in recent times, the Cubs have been rumored to be contemplating extra aggressive spending to be able to assist push again to rivalry. They delivered on that final yr to a level, giving multi-year offers to Suzuki and Marcus Stroman, along with a batch of one-year contracts. Neither Bellinger nor Conforto would require top-of-the-market offers, given their current struggles. Bellinger is reportedly searching for a one-year deal to be able to hopefully return to free company with a stronger platform season. Conforto is seemingly searching for a deal considerably just like what Carlos Rodón obtained from the Giants, a two-year assure that permits him to decide out if he has a powerful exhibiting in yr one.
The Cubs ought to have a number of payroll room to work with, as they’re at present pegged at about $127MM, per Roster Resource. That’s properly shy of 2022’s $143MM Opening Day determine and their franchise excessive of $203MM from 2019, with figures from Cot’s Baseball Contracts. They’ve been rumored to be available in the market for the highest free agent shortstops, nevertheless it’s doable that they find yourself dropping out to golf equipment which can be extra firmly in win-now mode. Whether they reach that space or not, turning a 74-win crew right into a contender in a single offseason is a problem. Taking short-term fliers on bounceback candidates like Conforto and Bellinger makes loads of sense, as they’ve the potential to each bolster the membership’s possibilities in 2023 whereas additionally probably turning into commerce candidates at subsequent yr’s deadline in the event that they fall again within the standings once more.
As for the Astros, it was just lately reported that they’re focusing on left-handed hitting outfielders. This is partially resulting from the truth that Michael Brantley is now a free agent, leaving them with Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker as the one left-handers locked into the lineup. Bellinger would assist steadiness the lineup however, as talked about, there’s uncertainty in what sort of manufacturing he is doubtless to supply. The Astros have prevented prolonged commitments in recent times, because the final free agent they signed to a deal longer than two years was Josh Reddick again in 2016.
Bellinger’s need for a one-year deal definitely matches their MO, and his defensive prowess would afford the membership alternatives. Alvarez obtained into 56 video games in left subject this yr, a private excessive for him. It’s doable he continues pushing that quantity however he is nonetheless more likely to spend no less than a while because the designated hitter. Chas McCormick is a powerful defender in heart subject however he hits from the proper facet, that means he and Bellinger might probably be deployed in a platoon. McCormick hit .340/.409/.563 towards lefties final yr has a profession 125 wRC+ versus righties however only a 99 towards southpaws. On days when Alvarez is the DH, McCormick and Bellinger taking the sector subsequent to Tucker might give the membership a really sturdy defensive trio.
Houston’s payroll is definitely not far off from final yr’s, as Roster Resource at present has them round $164MM. That’s simply $11MM shy of final yr’s $175MM Opening Day determine, per Cot’s. Even a modest deal that Bellinger will doubtless require would get them nearer to or over final yr’s quantity, nevertheless it would not be stunning in the event that they push their spending up on the heels of a World Series victory.
Heyman says that there are 11 groups within the Bellinger sweepstakes, which additionally consists of identified suitors within the Yankees, Giants, Rockies and Blue Jays.