Houston Astros outfielder George Springer is surely paying attention to Mookie Betts’ new deal.
We have just a few months before the free agent frenzy takes off this winter, and Houston Astros outfielder George Springer is one of the best players who’ll be available. The market will now be missing its best player, however, as outfielder Mookie Betts has signed a monster extension with the Dodgers.
The extension begins next season and runs for 12 years, totaling $365 million, giving Betts the largest extension in baseball history, surpassing Mike Trout’s. With all the concern about the partially lost season depressing players’ earnings, this extension has to induce a sigh of relief from the Players Union.
With Betts off the market, that leaves Springer as the best outfielder available this winter. Every team that needs outfield help is going to at least consider the possibility of signing him, which could help his case while making things more difficult for the Astros.
Betts was always going to come away with a great deal more money than Springer. He’s three years younger, for one, and he’s also the more accomplished player. Betts has an MVP award, four Gold Gloves, a batting title and three additional Top-10 MVP finishes. Springer has just one Top-10 MVP finish to his name, and Betts strongly outpaces him in the WAR department as well.
Still, Springer should come away with a nice payday. He turns 31 in September, so he’s unlikely to sign for anything longer than seven years, and the average annual value he’ll command won’t be north of $30 million as is the case with Betts. But he should still do alright for himself thanks to the fact that his biggest competition is off the market. A contract in the neighborhood of $150 million is certainly possible.
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Of course the Astros will be heavily involved, and the amount that Springer ultimately gets will be dependent on who his other suitors are. The Dodgers and Yankees don’t appear to have needs for him, but neither can be completely counted out thanks to their seemingly endless resources. Joc Pederson will be a free agent and the Yanks have a club option on Brett Gardner, so they could make room for Springer if they have the desire.
The Red Sox, who’ll see Jackie Bradley Jr. hit free agency this offseason, could be involved on the Connecticut native. The Cardinals could get into the bidding with Marcell Ozuna hitting free agency, and the Braves could want a veteran slugger to pair with their young core. The Mets have Yoenis Cespedes coming off the books, while the Phillies could conceivably pivot to Springer if they can’t re-sign J.T. Realmuto.
In other words, there are plenty of teams who could get involved in the bidding. Some of them might prefer to go for a cheaper option, but for those who are wanting to make a big splash in the outfield and have the money to do it, Springer is the best available guy. If the Betts deal is any indication, the paydays for the top free agents may not take much of a hit from the shortened season.
Springer has been hitting everything in sight in these intrasquad and exhibition games, so he looks primed for a hot start to the season. If he can keep that going and put up some eye-popping numbers this year, he’ll cement his status as the offseason’s top free agent.
The Astros will have the payroll space to accommodate him, and owner Jim Crane has said the team plans to be aggressive this winter. Springer is an important part of this team and the front office is unlikely to forget that. Expect Houston to offer him a nice cushy payday.
The question is whether anyone will seriously outbid the Astros and whether Springer might prefer to go elsewhere, such as to Boston due to its proximity to his native Connecticut. He’s not going to give any major clues, of course, so this is going to be the biggest free agent watch for Houston since Carlos Beltran 16 years ago.
Betts’ departure from the free agent market means Springer isn’t likely to be anyone’s Plan B. He’ll be the clear prize and teams could pursue him accordingly. If you’re in Springer’s position, you’ve got to be pretty happy with these events.