George Springer rumors: Astros unlikely to retain the outfielder

George Springer is a free agent and it has become increasingly unlikely that he returns to the Houston Astros in 2021.

This offseason is critical for the Astros. Not only are Josh Reddick and Michael Brantley free agents, but they must address holes in the rotation, bullpen and potentially replace a franchise cornerstone in outfielder George Springer. And the odds of Springer returning to Houston appear to be decreasing by the day.

MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart believes that Springer will not return to the Astros, saying: “I’m not so sure he wants to stay in Houston. As you may know, the atmosphere here has not been great for the past year, though a surprising run to within a game of the World Series helped.”

Said MLB Network’s Jon Heyman: “I think he’s as good as gone.”

There is a lot to unpack here. The nugget from McTaggart is interesting, albeit not surprising, considering the fallout from the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal. The team has faced scrutiny and been under a microscope ever since. While their unlikely postseason run may have helped their chances of retaining Springer, it would not be surprising if he preferred to play elsewhere to separate himself from the scandal.

Of course, the increasing unlikelihood of Springer returning to Houston likely stems from the team not being able to meet the price tag it will take to keep him. MLB Trade Rumors projects Springer to land a five-year, $125 million deal in free agency and while the Astros have players coming off the books in 2021 (Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke, etc.), it is unlikely they will spend top dollar in this market with so much uncertainty remaining from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Springer, unsurprisingly, is drawing strong interest on the market. Teams such as the Toronto Blue Jays, New York Mets and many others have expressed a desire to add the 31-year-old in free agency. His market is expected to continue to grow, though it is unlikely he will sign any time soon.

If Springer does leave in free agency, it gives the Astros options. They could use the money saved to address the rotation. They could carry the money into next year to help extend Carlos Correa. They could do both. Either way, general manager James Click has his work cut out for him, and it appears that he will have to build his 2021 Astros team without one of his best players.