Hey, they had the money. After the sensational unfinished saga that ended with the signing of Carlos Correa with the New York Mets, the Giants spent the rest of the week signing two of the best remaining free agents in the market. They added Michael Conforto on a two-year, $36 million deal that includes an opt-out after the first year, then signed Taylor Rogers to a three-year, $33 million deal thereafter.
I ranked Rogers 19th among this winter’s free agent roster, so let’s start with him. To me, he’s one of the best relievers in the game. I think it was a great pick-up for the Giants – and would have been a great pick-up for any baseball team given the contract he got. . Rogers spent the first six years of his major league career with the Twins and has been reliably excellent, racking up a 3.15 cumulative ERA and 3.01 FIP. It earned him a spot on AJ Preller’s must-have list; the Padres acquired him last offseason to lead a tighter committee situation in San Diego.
He split his time between the Padres and Twins last year — he was traded as part of the Josh Hader deal at the deadline — and had his worst season as a pro. He posted a 4.76 ERA, easily his worst rating and in a year when the league-wide offense has declined markedly. It mostly sounds like bad luck to me, though; he still posted a 3.31 FIP, but was widely BABIP (.327) and sequenced (63.5% LOB, compared to a league average rating of 72.6%) at death. He hit over 30% of opposing batters while walking just under 7% and gave up home runs at about the same clip he always had. The biggest cause for concern, in my eyes, is that he gave up a series of hard contacts in Milwaukee, but considering he only pitched 23 innings there, I’d put him in the underdog. a sample material bucket.
Rogers relies on a simple plan: He throws sinkers and sliders about half the time each. His slider is a big sweeping pitch in the low 80s. His lead sits at 93-95 mph and complements the slider well, with arm side travel and plenty of sink. He used to throw a curveball, largely against right-handers, but he’s ditched that in favor of sliders in recent years. In fact, 2022 represents the highest slider percentage of his career.
As you would expect of a sinker/sweeper, he led large platoon divisions during his career; he was simply good against right-handers and unbeatable against left-handers. This trend continued in 2022; the seven home runs he allowed came against right-handers. Think of it this way: He has a career FIP of 2.01 against left-handed hitters, which is baseball’s best reliever territory. Against right-handers, it registers at a relatively modest 3.57, still solid but not dominant. The combination works quite well; Steamer projects it for a 3.28 ERA next year, better than any other giant.
I think there’s room for more, which is why I liked Rogers second among all relievers in the free agency market, behind only Edwin Díaz. His arsenal screams flat for a cutter. Rogers is so good with his sinker/slider combo that he can get away with throwing it at right-handers, but that’s no way to live. Cursors and sweep sinkers both display large platoon divisions. Driveline’s standard move for pitchers with good sweeping breaking balls is to add a cutter to pitch against opposite-handed hitters. Rogers has already eliminated 28.3% of the right-handers he faced in 2022 with the wrong tools for the job. If he adds ground that helps him manage contact or rack up more strikeouts, his results against right-handers could improve quickly and dramatically.
This combination of current value (he’s 14th in both FIP and WAR among relievers over the past three years) and upside (he could be one cut away from bettering that mark) makes him a contender. easy for the Giants. They’ve done a good job playing matchups with their bullpen the past few years, and Rogers is one of the very few best pitchers against lefties even if he doesn’t change anything about his game. solid for a lift, especially if there is also an accessible ceiling.
It’s also a pleasure that Rogers shares a bullpen with his twin brother Tyler, a right-handed submariner. I can’t wait to see the Rogers-Rogers innings, even if Taylor projects to be comfortably better than Tyler. We placed Taylor in the setup role ahead of Camilo Doval, but I think the Giants will use him selectively against southpaws and in high leverage spots in general.
Still, no bullpen upgrade will replace Correa, so the Giants went shopping in the batting alley as well. Conforto has spent all of 2022 recovering from shoulder surgery. His market and projections were therefore extremely uncertain, but he was a borderline star for most of his career with the Mets.
Before his injury, Conforto did everything well but nothing spectacular. He walked more than average, had a good feel for the sweetspot, and hit for power with a line-drive focused swing. He topped 33 home runs in the 2019 season, but generally looked like someone who would give you 25 home runs and about that many doubles while putting himself on the base a ton.
If he’s the same player after his injury, the Giants get a lot in 2023 at $18 million. The former Conforto averaged around four wins per 600 board appearances. But in 2021, he posted a disappointing 106 wRC+ and hit free agency as something of a wild card. He then suffered a shoulder injury while training during lockdown and, when his deal failed to materialize afterwards, decided to undergo end-of-season surgery and focus on 2023.
I don’t see the future and the error bars around Conforto’s performance are huge. If his surgically repaired shoulder is as good as new, he could be the best hitter for the Giants, who are light on impact bats. He will likely spin around outside corners and DH while playing most days. If I had to guess, I’d say he’ll play good ground when Joc Pederson DH and get plenty of reps at DH when Pederson is on the bench. His defense is even more unknown than his bat; he was a solid defender in New York, but that was a while ago and he just had throwing shoulder surgery.
I think it’s a good bet for the Giants given what they were working with, but Conforto and agent Scott Boras really held on to that deal. This is a great deal for Conforto. $18 million isn’t much if Conforto is back to his old self, but if he is, he can retire after a year and return to free agency with an impressive track record. If he puts up a 130 wRC+ and plays at his previous level, there will be a strong market for him. If his shoulder hasn’t healed, or if it’s taking a long time to get rid of the rust from missing an entire season, he’ll get an $18 million second year by not retiring.
FanGraphs’ crowdsourced projection for his contract was one year and $12 million, which is a pretty standard proof deal. Instead, Conforto proves it for 50% more, and if he fails, he gets another $18 million the following season. The Giants messed up Correa’s situation badly, and it put them in a tight spot for 2023. They had set up their team to add a star hitter — preferably Aaron Judge, it seems. It made sense both from a budgetary and programming point of view. If they didn’t get Conforto, the next best option was either Jean Segura or Trey Mancini, neither of whom have the same advantage.
I don’t think the Giants had a choice in the matter; the NL West is going to be tough next year, and if they wanted to compete for a playoff spot, last year’s roster wasn’t going to cut it. Mitch Haniger, their other top free agency acquisition, was a good start, and Conforto is another step in the right direction. I think they will miss again, but I also think they have no choice but to try. Given that they’re clearly on the hunt for a superstar — they’ve offered Judge $360 million and Correa $350 million — short-term budget commitments are best. They will surely offer Shohei Ohtani a gargantuan deal in the upcoming offseason; signing Conforto and Rogers does not prevent them from doing so.
In the case of Rogers, I think the Giants secured his services by offering a bit more than everyone else, but I think it’s still a good deal – the market is low on Rogers, in my opinion. If you’re going to spend $11 million improving a team filled with solid but unspectacular hitters and plenty of speculative starting pitchers, the bullpen is an obvious place to look. If my opinion of Rogers is good, it will be a good deal for San Francisco. Even if I’m wrong, it’s a solid signing.
In Conforto’s case, though, I think the Giants paid because they had to. I really like the cut; I think given their options, Conforto was above anyone they could sign in terms of the impact it might have on their chances of making the playoffs. It won’t reflect in our playoff odds, but his range of results is huge, and that’s the kind of bet they should be making. When your 50th percentile result is below the mark, it’s a good idea to add some variance. But because he was the only one who really suited them, and because they put themselves in a corner after they walked out of Correa’s deal, Boras secured great terms for his client.
It’s been an offseason of huge contracts, but this deal with Conforto might be the most surprising to me, largely because of the player option. Generally speaking, players trying to rebuild their value accept a discounted one-year deal or let the team signing them have a second-year option. Get a contract that values him as an above average player and has a safety net if it turns out that this will not be the case next year? It’s the best case scenario for him. I bet he sends Boras a really nice holiday gift.