Ranking the Chances for Every MLB Team to Land George Springer in Free Agency
In a top-heavy free-agent market thin on superstar talent, a case can be made that George Springer is the most complete all-around player available this winter.
While a number of big names in the Houston Astros lineup struggled, he was his usual dynamic self atop the lineup, hitting .265/.359/.540 for a 140 OPS+ with 14 home runs and 32 RBI in 51 games. He hit four more home runs in the postseason, bringing his career total to an impressive 19 long balls in the playoffs.
The 31-year-old is also a solid defensive center fielder, tallying six DRS and passing the eye test on a regular basis.
After earning $21 million in his final year of arbitration, an annual salary of $25 million or higher seems likely, and a number of teams figure to chase him even at that high cost.
With free agency underway, let's look at how all 30 teams stack up as landing spots for Springer based on their financial flexibility, roster needs and status as contenders.
Not a Chance
30. Pittsburgh Pirates
The only reason the Pirates are on this list is because we are including all 30 teams. As they embark on what is likely to be a long rebuild and an equally long stay in the NL Central cellar, they will spend their offseason bargain-hunting in the free-agency scrap pile.
29. Arizona Diamondbacks
If the Madison Bumgarner signing last offseason was an indication the D-backs were pushing to contend, the decision to trade Starling Marte at the deadline was them waving the white flag. A fire sale is unlikely since they don't have many moveable veteran pieces, but it looks like they're going to take a step back and commit to developing their young talent.
28. Baltimore Orioles
With a deep farm system and some intriguing young pieces like Ryan Mountcastle, Anthony Santander and Keegan Akin, the Orioles are headed in the right direction. They aren't ready to spend quite yet, but once Chris Davis finally comes off the books following the 2022 season, look out.
27. Tampa Bay Rays
If the Rays decide to spend, it will likely be on a starting pitcher to replace Charlie Morton in the rotation. With Randy Arozarena, Austin Meadows, Kevin Kiermaier, Manny Margot, Hunter Renfroe and Brett Phillips all vying for time, the outfield is far from a pressing need.
26. Kansas City Royals
The Royals have a void to fill in the outfield and in the clubhouse after Alex Gordon called it quits after 14 seasons, eight Gold Glove awards and 35.0 career WAR. However, they are not one flashy signing away from contending, so for now, it makes sense to stay the course and embrace the youth movement.
25. Oakland Athletics
The six-year, $66 million extension that Eric Chavez signed back in 2004 still stands as the largest contract in Athletics franchise history. MLB Trade Rumors is projecting a five-year, $125 million contract for Springer this offseason. The numbers just don't add up.
24. Cleveland Indians
It's impossible to justify trading Francisco Lindor for budgetary reasons, only to turn around and sign Springer or any other free agent to a lucrative long-term contract. With that said, Springer would fill perhaps the most glaring void on a roster projected to use Josh Naylor, Delino DeShields and Tyler Naquin as its starting outfield.
No Clear Fit
23. Los Angeles Angels
With Mike Trout locked into one spot, Justin Upton still owed $51 million over the next two years, and up-and-comers Jo Adell and Brandon Marsh both vying for playing time, the outfield is not a clear area of need for an Angels team with a long shopping list.
22. Colorado Rockies
The Rockies ranked 28th in the majors with an 80 OPS+ as a team in 2020, so despite the perennial need for pitching help, the offense will also need to be addressed this winter. With Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon already locked up, it's fair to question how many more long-term deals the front office wants on the books, especially if they intend to extend shortstop Trevor Story before he reaches free agency next offseason.
21. Los Angeles Dodgers
Even with Joc Pederson potentially departing, the Dodgers still have A.J. Pollock, Cody Bellinger and Mookie Betts penciled into starting spots in the outfield, along with slugger DJ Peters as an option on the 40-man roster. There's a good chance they will be in the market for an outfielder, but more for a platoon or fourth outfielder type.
20. New York Yankees
The Yankees have Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, Clint Frazier and Mike Tauchman as their four MLB outfielders, along with Giancarlo Stanton, who played 23 games in the outfield in 2020 in the DH role. On top of that, there's also a good chance they'll bring Brett Gardner back for another year. Even with all of their injuries in recent seasons, outfield depth has rarely been an issue.
19. Atlanta Braves
Even if Marcell Ozuna and Nick Markakis both depart, the Braves still have Ronald Acuna Jr., Adam Duvall, Ender Inciarte, Cristian Pache and Drew Waters as options in the outfield. Ozuna made a great impression in the clubhouse, so if they are going to spend big on an outfielder, he's the obvious target.
18. Minnesota Twins
Left fielder Eddie Rosario has been mentioned often as a non-tender candidate this offseason. That move would free up some money, but it would likely be directed toward shoring up the starting rotation behind Kenta Maeda, Jose Berrios and Michael Pineda, with the vacant left field job going to top prospect Alex Kirilloff after he made his MLB debut in the playoffs.
17. Seattle Mariners
With outfielders Julio Rodriguez, Jarred Kelenic and deadline addition Taylor Trammell headlining one of the deepest farm systems in baseball, along with 2020 AL Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis, the future looks extremely bright in the Seattle outfield. The Mariners have the financial flexibility to make a splash, but Springer isn't the most logical target.
16. Milwaukee Brewers
Could the Brewers view Springer as a long-term replacement for Lorenzo Cain? It isn't out of the question, especially given the dearth of high-ceiling position-player talent in the Milwaukee farm system. With that said, it's hard to ignore the fact that the only nine-figure deal the team has ever handed out was a five-year, $105 million extension to Ryan Braun. The Brewers rarely dive into the deep end of free agency.
15. Cincinnati Reds
The Reds gave matching four-year, $64 million contracts to Nick Castellanos and Mike Moustakas last offseason, yet the offense still proved to be their undoing. Shogo Akiyama flopped in his stateside debut after starring in Japan, which does leave a hole in center field, but signing Springer would be a serious all-in move by a Reds team that is more than one big piece away from contending for a title.
14. Texas Rangers
The Rangers have used 35 different Opening Day center fielders over the course of their 60-year history, with no one appearing on that list more than four times. That could finally be solved with the addition of Springer, but after a 22-38 season and with the front office talking about trimming payroll, the outlook here is murky at best.
13. Miami Marlins
The Marlins swung a big move to acquire Starling Marte at the trade deadline, and he's under contract for another year and is slated to be the starting center fielder. That doesn't automatically exclude them from the Springer conversation, especially considering both players have spent plenty of time at corner spots. A splashy signing would signal a clear shift from rebuilding to contending for a team that snuck into the expanded playoffs with a 31-29 record, and the front office may not be ready to flip that switch just yet.
12. Detroit Tigers
If the Tigers are going to make a major move, it would make sense to do it on the position-player side of things with so much young pitching talent rising the ranks in their farm system. The outfield in particular is a major question mark long-term, and shedding Jordan Zimmermann's $25 million salary gives them plenty of financial wiggle room. The big question here is whether Springer would be willing to sign on to a rebuild that could still be a few years away from coming to fruition.
11. Chicago Cubs
A shake-up is coming this offseason on the North Side of Chicago, and it's still unclear what exactly that means. Cutting ties with all-or-nothing slugger Kyle Schwarber and trading Kris Bryant would free up a ton of payroll space, and it would clear a path for Springer to join Ian Happ and Jason Heyward in the outfield. Michael Brantley would be a better target, but don't rule out a run at Springer as part of a busy winter.
10. San Francisco Giants
The Giants are finally rebuilding the right way under Farhan Zaidi. While they may still be a few years away, they are clearly trending in the right direction and should be major players on the free-agent market in a few years when their overpaid veterans come off the books. If they view Springer as the perfect fit in their outfield, jumping the gun and making a big move now is not outside the realm of possibility.
9. Philadelphia Phillies
The biggest priority for the Phillies this offseason should be retaining J.T. Realmuto, followed closely by finding a quality starting pitcher to slot alongside Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler in the rotation. But with Roman Quinn, Adam Haseley and Mickey Moniak currently the leading in-house candidates for the center field job, they could use an upgrade there as well. This is probably a Realmuto or Springer situation, not both.
8. San Diego Padres
As long as A.J. Preller is calling the shots in the San Diego front office, it's hard to rule anything out, especially for a team seemingly on the cusp of something special. The outfield looks set as things currently stand, but if they decide to non-tender Tommy Pham and his $8 million projected salary, that would change things. An outfield of Springer, Wil Myers and Trent Grisham would potentially be among the most productive in baseball.
7. St. Louis Cardinals
The St. Louis Cardinals made the postseason in spite of an offense that sputtered for most of the season, finishing tied for 21st in the majors with a 90 OPS+ and averaging 4.14 runs per game.
The grind of playing 53 games in 44 days following a COVID outbreak undoubtedly played a part in their middling production at the plate, but they could stand to add another big bat alongside Paul Goldschmidt and rising star Dylan Carlson.
Their potential pursuit of Springer will be directly tied to whether they bring back Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright. If they retain that duo, speculatively for a figure in the $25-30 million range combined, it's hard to see the front office further expanding the payroll enough to meet Springer's asking price.
One way or another, the Cardinals need to do something to upgrade the offense. Perhaps the decision to decline their option on Kolten Wong and the potential departures of Molina and Wainwright will pave the way financially for a run at signing Springer.
6. Toronto Blue Jays
The Toronto Blue Jays can't go into the season with a rotation of Robbie Ray, Ross Stripling, Nate Pearson and Tanner Roark behind ace Hyun-Jin Ryu and expect to legitimately contend.
As such, pitching will be the focal point of their offseason pursuits, but that doesn't mean they should be ruled out of the Springer sweepstakes.
Case in point, the Los Angeles Angels clearly needed starting pitching help above all else last winter, but that didn't stop them from signing Anthony Rendon to a massive seven-year, $245 million contract.
The Blue Jays have Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Teoscar Hernandez slotted into the corner outfield spots for the foreseeable future, and Randal Grichuk is owed $31 million over the next three years, so there's no clear need in the outfield.
However, with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. set on returning to third base, Rowdy Tellez could shift to first base and one of those outfielders could move to DH if the front office is pursuing Springer.
5. Houston Astros
An isolated rumor from Patrick Creighton of ESPN 97.5 stating that Springer does not want to return to Houston is not reason enough to believe a reunion is entirely off the table at this point.
At 31 years old, Springer is never going to be in a better position to score a lucrative payday, and chasing the best contract available is a perfectly acceptable approach to free agency.
On the other end, Astros general manager James Click has already made it clear how much Springer means to the organization, albeit with some words of warning mixed in:
"He's one of the best players ever to wear an Astros uniform. He's a tremendous human being; he's a tremendous leader in the clubhouse. We wouldn't be doing our jobs if we didn't pursue players like that either from another organization or from here. But at the same time, we have to contend with the fact that there's tremendous uncertainty within our industry right now."
The Astros also have to worry about a potential extension for Carlos Correa, who is a free agent after the 2021 season. They may not be able to afford both him and Springer.
But until things go in another direction, Springer re-upping with the Astros remains a real possibility.
4. Boston Red Sox
For a Boston Red Sox team with multiple pitching needs, it's fair to question if the difference between Springer and Jackie Bradley Jr. would be worth the wide gap in what it will cost to sign them this offseason.
To that point, the Red Sox have already reached out to Bradley on a potential reunion, according to Rob Bradford of WEEI.
Still, in a thin starting pitching market and with external pressure to right the ship considering how much money is tied up in the current roster, Springer would be a huge addition and an undeniable upgrade over the defensive-minded Bradley.
The core of Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts and Alex Verdugo is rock-solid, but beyond that trio, there is no shortage of question marks offensively.
Now that they are under the luxury-tax threshold once again, the Red Sox could be the sleeping giant of the 2020-21 offseason.
3. Washington Nationals
The Washington Nationals had a busy start to the offseason, declining their club options on a number of players, including right fielder Adam Eaton.
Adding Springer to an outfield that already includes superstar Juan Soto and dynamic speedster Victor Robles would give the Nats' offense a much-needed shot in the arm.
After three solid seasons with the Nationals, Eaton hit only .226/.285/.384 for a 76 OPS+ last season. Springer would be a clear upgrade offensively for a team that sorely missed Anthony Rendon after he walked in free agency last winter.
With so much money already tied up in the trio of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin, investing on offense is the best use of the funds they freed up by trimming the fat from their roster.
2. Chicago White Sox
There's a good chance the Chicago White Sox will non-tender Nomar Mazara this offseason after he hit a dismal .228/.295/.294 with one home run in 149 plate appearances.
The 25-year-old former top prospect didn't benefit as hoped from a change of scenery after coming over in a trade with the Texas Rangers last offseason, and he's projected to earn $5.7 million in arbitration.
That move would clear the way for Springer to join Luis Robert and Eloy Jimenez, forming arguably the best outfield trio in baseball and making an already potent lineup that much scarier.
The White Sox have a few notable items on their offseason shopping list, namely re-signing or replacing closer Alex Colome and deciding if they're comfortable with Zack Collins replacing James McCann as the backup catcher.
MLB Trade Rumors predicted the White Sox would sign Springer to a five-year, $125 million contract, and that would be money well spent for a team on the cusp of title contention.
1. New York Mets
There isn't a more obvious fit for Springer than a New York Mets team gearing up for a busy offseason under new owner Steve Cohen.
The PED suspension of Robinson Cano frees up another $24 million in payroll flexibility, and it also means Jeff McNeil is likely to spend the bulk of his time at second base after playing 30 games in the outfield in 2020.
Brandon Nimmo is miscast as a center fielder (-5 DRS, -19.2 UZR/150) and the entire outfield defense would benefit greatly from the addition of Springer.
There would be the matter of finding at-bats for Dominic Smith if Nimmo and Michael Conforto were positioned at the outfield corners, but that's a good problem to have and one that often works itself out over the course of a season.
The Mets are going to kick the tires on most of the market's top names, but there might not be a better No. 1 target for their splashy offseason plans than Springer.