George Springer is a divisive issue. That might be an understatement.
He should have been in the major leagues last season, and that sentiment did not go away over the winter. In fact, you could say that it intensified. And rightfully so.
There is a lot to say about this issue, and there will be more to come in this space. But for now, let’s just focus on one thing that was reported by Ken Rosenthal.
Yet last September, the Astros offered him a seven-year, $23 million contract, according to major-league sources.
Springer, 24, rejected the offer, sources said, declining to give up three years of arbitration and one year of free agency.
At first glance, it took me by surprise. It is shocking. And unexpected.
Or is it?
Jeff Luhnow and the Astros thought so highly of Springer that they offered him $23 million before he ever played a major league game, but they also did not promote him to Houston after he declined the offer.
You don’t have to be cynical to find holes in that story. There is a direct correlation here.
Had Springer accepted the deal, I would venture to guess that he would have taken the field in Minute Maid Park as an Astro in 2013. But can you blame him for turning the deal down?
A rival agent estimated that if Springer fulfills his potential, he will earn more than $30 million in his three arbitration years alone.
However, you also cannot blame the Astros for offering their prized prospect the contract. By hitting just .161 so far in Spring Training, Springer is doing Houston a favor. Had he had success this spring and was still sent to the minor leagues, then it would be a public relations nightmare. And it would be well deserved.
Yes, there are some flaws to a system that allows the Astros to save a great deal of money by keeping a player in the minor leagues for a few extra months, but there is something bigger at play here. Of course $23 million and the security it brings with it is nothing to sneeze at, but it is clearly below his future earning potential. At the same time, there was some risk here from the Astros’ end as well.
What kind of message does this send to Springer, other Astros prospects, fans, and just about anyone else? Certainly not a good one as I am having a hard time drawing a different conclusion here. What incentive does Mark Appel, Carlos Correa, and other prospects have? This cannot be a good thing in establishing goodwill for future negotiations with Springer or other players.
Springer was good enough to merit a $23 million offer, but he’s not good enough to play in the majors.