As expected, George Springer will decline the $18.9 million qualifying offer, bringing him one step closer to leaving the Astros in free agency.
The Houston Astros extended an $18.9 million qualifying offer to outfielder George Springer with the expectation that he would not accept it. The move was procedural and mainly due diligence to recoup a draft pick when/if he leaves in free agency. As expected, Springer is going to decline it and remain a free agent, according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman.
Springer, 31, is likely to land a nine-figure contract in free agency. He is reportedly already drawing interest from teams such as the New York Mets, Toronto Blue Jays and others. The Astros remain interested, but it is much more likely that they keep one of their other in-house free agents – Michael Brantley or Josh Reddick – than Springer.
The Astros have already begun exploring options to potentially replace Springer. They are in ongoing talks with Brantley and the interest is reportedly mutual. They are among the many teams with interest in free-agent outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., who teams see as the clear best center field option in free agency behind Springer.
If Springer leaves, as expected, the Astros will have to find ways to find production in the lineup. They have strong internal options such as Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve to carry the load, but will need to find player(s) who can ease the potential loss of Springer, both in the lineup and in the outfield, considering that he is regarded as one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball.
But his offensive game should not be undersold. Springer hit .265/.359/.540 with 14 home runs and 32 RBI in 51 games this season, which is slightly above his career numbers of .270/.361/.491 with 174 home runs and 458 RBI. Finding ways to adequately replace that production in an offseason where most teams are hampered with financial constraints will be general manager James Click’s biggest challenge.
It is no guarantee that Springer leaves the Astros, but by declining the qualifying offer, it brought him one step closer to a future outside of Houston.