Although pessimism has been brewing in the north for the last couple of weeks, there is still hope the Chicago Cubs can manage to field a competitive product in 2023. Outside of the obvious need for Dansby Swanson, the Cubs still need another bat to insert into the lineup to add an extra jolt to their projected runs per game total. The Cubs have been transparent that they prefer short-term deals this winter, evidenced by the one-year signing of Cody Bellinger and the four-year contract of Jameson Taillon. A freshly-healthy Michael Conforto enters the mix with extreme potential to further jump-start the Cubs' offense next season.
"The Marlins, Cubs and Astros are linked to Michael Conforto. Though if he proves healthy, a return for Michael Brantley may work for Houston. …"- Jon Heyman, New York Post
After missing 2022 with a shoulder injury, super agent Scott Bores stated that Conforto is fully healthy and looking for a pillow contract, including an opt-out. Where the Cubs may lose interest is that opt-out because they won't want to keep him for another year if he does poorly. On the other hand, if Conforto returns to his normal self next season, he will more than likely be traded at the deadline if the Cubs aren't in contention. However, the fact that we're having to address the Cubs potentially being bad next season is ludicrous. Given the resources at their disposal, there are absolutely zero acceptable reasons why they should be having to worry about the technicalities of pillow contracts next season right now.
For his career, Conforto has slashed .255/.356/.468, but before the pandemic season registered three seasons in a row with 27 or more home runs from 2017-2019. Though he never went on the IL with a shoulder issue in 2021, there's no saying if he was 100% down the stretch. Split-wise, it's no surprise Conforto is better against righties with a slash of .265/.371/.502, ISO of .237, and wRC+ of 136. Especially if the Cubs drop the ball on signing Swanson, there is virtually no risk in signing Conforto because their odds of actually competing will be slim to none.
Defensively, Conforto's ability to man all three outfield spots is valuable to a team that could use an extra depth piece to give guys a day off. This approach allows for two righties in the lineup and at least two lefties at all times, given Ian Happ's switch-hitting ability. Placing all three of Conforto, Happ, and Bellinger in a lineup is quite formidable for the team that needs better power numbers at the plate—adding Suzuki and Hoerner to the mix is the start of something relatively solid. On top of a possible addition of Swanson? The Cubs may be able to put something interesting together.
With how much the Cubs have missed on specific offensive upgrade targets this winter, it's understandable to view the idea of getting not one but two bats as unrealistic. However, that is how close the Cubs are to a potential winning season in 2023. We've seen Wild Card teams make it to the World Series two years in a row, one of which won the whole thing. It just shows that anything can happen if you make the playoffs. Conforto is one of many bats still on the market that move the needle in the right direction for the Chicago Cubs.