Outfielders Michael Conforto and Cody Bellinger are each dangerous bets with large payoff potential and it appears the Cubs are inquisitive about placing some cash down there. Jon Heyman of The New York Submit connects the Cubs to each of them and likewise provides the Astros to the prolonged checklist 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 residence runs throughout that sturdy interval, producing an general 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+ reveals 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 may discover a larger payday regardless of the down season. Sadly, he injured his shoulder throughout the lockout, requiring surgical procedure that worn out his 2022 fully.
After one down yr and a misplaced marketing campaign, it’s tough to know what to anticipate from Conforto going ahead. That uncertainty will put a damper on his market however he’ll certainly discover groups inquisitive about taking a shot, hoping he can return to the sort of hitter he was just a few years in the past. He’s already been linked to the Yankees and Mets this offseason and has linked 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 residence runs and slashed .273/.364/.547 for a wRC+ of 137. Nevertheless, 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 the next flooring than Conforto as his pace and protection could make him worthwhile even when his bat doesn’t rebound. FanGraphs calculated him to be value 1.7 wins above alternative this yr, even with the tepid offensive manufacturing. Conforto, nevertheless, doesn’t price out as properly in these departments and actually wants to supply on the plate in an effort to be helpful.
For the Cubs, it’s not stunning 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 needs to be the on a regular basis possibility however he is only one yr away from reaching free company. In middle subject, the Cubs used a handful of various choices in 2022 with nobody securing the job. Additionally they don’t have an apparent designated hitter in the mean time, making it straightforward to fit one other potent bat into their lineup.
After rebuilding lately, the Cubs have been rumored to be contemplating extra aggressive spending in an effort to assist push again to competition. 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 latest struggles. Bellinger is reportedly in search of a one-year deal in an effort to hopefully return to free company with a stronger platform season. Conforto is seemingly in search of a deal considerably just like what Carlos Rodón bought from the Giants, a two-year assure that enables him to choose out if he has a powerful displaying in yr one.
The Cubs ought to have a lot of payroll room to work with, as they’re at present pegged at about $127MM, per Roster Useful 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 attainable that they find yourself shedding out to golf equipment which might be extra firmly in win-now mode. Whether or not they achieve 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 changing 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 not too long ago reported that they’re concentrating on left-handed hitting outfielders. That is partly on account of 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 stability the lineup however, as talked about, there’s uncertainty in what sort of manufacturing he’s possible to offer. The Astros have prevented prolonged commitments lately, 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 actually suits their M.O., and his defensive prowess would afford the membership alternatives. Alvarez bought into 56 video games in left subject this yr, a private excessive for him. It’s attainable he continues pushing that quantity however he’s nonetheless prone to spend at the very least a while because the designated hitter. Chas McCormick is a powerful defender in middle subject however he hits from the proper aspect, which means he and Bellinger may 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 sphere subsequent to Tucker may give the membership a really sturdy defensive trio.
Houston’s payroll is definitely not far off from final yr’s, as Roster Useful 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 possible require would get them nearer to or over final yr’s quantity, nevertheless it wouldn’t be shocking in the event that they push their spending up on the heels of a World Collection victory.
Heyman says that there are 11 groups within the Bellinger sweepstakes, which additionally contains identified suitors within the Yankees, Giants, Rockies and Blue Jays.