Astros Rumors: George Springer appears likely to leave

George Springer (4) against the Tampa Bay Rays during the eighth inning in game two of the 2020 ALCS at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports
George Springer (4) against the Tampa Bay Rays during the eighth inning in game two of the 2020 ALCS at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports /

It doesn’t look good for fans who want to see George Springer return to the Houston Astros.

It may be several weeks before we know where impending free agent George Springer will be playing baseball in 2021. Nothing is set in stone until pen is put to paper, of course, but from everything we’ve heard lately, it’s not looking likely that he will return to the Houston Astros next year.

Of course Houston fans want him back, and understandably so. He was the first big time prospect to come out of the franchise’s rebuild and has been one of the most important players in this team’s success since 2015. He’s an excellent hitter, strong defender and has a winning personality. He also has a World Series MVP trophy to his name, so fans would love nothing more than to see him play the next several years with the Astros.

Unfortunately, as things stand right now, that’s not looking likely to be the case. The most recent bit of news is this tweet which suggests Springer simply does not want to return to Houston, with a desire to be closer to home among the chief reasons. With the aftermath of the sign stealing scandal likely to hang like a dark cloud over this franchise for the foreseeable future, it’s understandable that he might want to move on to greener pastures.

As we’ve seen, players who leave the Astros somehow miraculously avoid the derision and scorn of so-called baseball fans. Marwin Gonzalez was one of the chief beneficiaries of the trash can scheme, and he’s enjoyed a largely hate-free couple of years in Minnesota. Springer would undoubtedly be welcomed by any fan base with open arms, with everyone happy to forgive his transgressions the second he puts on a different uniform.

Astros Seem Resigned

There’s more to it than just one tweet, though. GM James Click’s recent comments suggested that he wasn’t particularly optimistic about the team’s chances of retaining Springer. Whether that’s because he knows Springer wants to leave or whether he himself would rather use the payroll space on other players, Click didn’t sound like someone who was expecting the star outfielder to return.

From his perspective, it makes sense. We’ve long known that the Astros don’t have the money to retain both Springer and Michael Brantley, and Click has talked about the importance of having payroll flexibility. A huge long-term contract for Springer wouldn’t allow that flexibility, but a shorter and cheaper deal for Brantley would allow Click to bring on an additional outfielder to play center, someone like Kevin Pillar or maybe even Jackie Bradley Jr — two outfielders for the price of one.

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Springer has always stayed mum on his plans. Earlier in the year when asked about his offseason intentions, Springer never really answered, always saying he was focused on the season at hand. Meanwhile his teammate Yuli Gurriel was adamant about his desire to return to the Astros, and he in fact did end up signing a contract extension.

There may also be some lingering resentment over the fact that the Astros delayed Springer’s major league debut in 2014 in an effort to manipulate his service time and give them an extra year of club control. Houston wasn’t the only team to do this, of course, and it was within the rules, but that doesn’t mean players are happy about it. If the Astros had him on the Opening Day roster in 2014 instead of waiting until mid-April to call him up, he would’ve been a free agent last offseason and would have made more money than he has to date.

Regardless of the reasons, the bottom line is it doesn’t look good for fans who want Springer back in the orange and blue. He looks to have one foot out the door already, and several other teams are likely to have interest in him. At this point, it looks like the only way for Springer to re-sign with Houston is if owner Jim Crane were to step in and give him a blank check, but there’s no indication of whether that will happen.