Biggest Winners and Losers from George Springer Signing $150M Blue Jays Contract
The biggest free-agency news of the offseason broke late Tuesday night when outfielder George Springer agreed to a reported six-year, $150 million contract with the Toronto Blue Jays, per the MLB Network's Jon Heyman.
The 31-year-old posted a 140 OPS+ with 14 home runs and 32 RBI to finish 13th in AL MVP voting in 2020, and his 21.3 WAR over the past five seasons trail only Mike Trout (37.4), Mookie Betts (37.0) and Christian Yelich (23.3) among all outfielders.
He has been one of the game's marquee players, and he's a significant addition to a Blue Jays team on the rise.
However, the news has widespread implications beyond his impact in Toronto.
There's a shift of power at play in both the AL East and AL West and a depth chart to be sorted out in Toronto. The outfield market could also be set to take off as the other teams that were in the hunt to sign him turn their attention elsewhere.
With all of that in mind, we've run down the signing's biggest winners and losers.
Loser: Randal Grichuk? Rowdy Tellez? Alejandro Kirk?
The Blue Jays became a better team with Springer's addition, but the outfield was not their most glaring need.
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (224 PA, 138 OPS+, 11 HR, 33 RBI) and Teoscar Hernandez (207 PA, 146 OPS+, 16 HR, 34 RBI) are both coming off breakout offensive seasons from the corner spots, while veteran Randal Grichuk will earn another $31 million over the next three years.
Someone is the odd man out with Springer ticketed for the everyday center field job.
Assuming the ousted outfielder slides into the starting DH role, that could mean Rowdy Tellez serves as the starting first baseman and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. gets his wish of shifting back to third base.
In that scenario, prospect Alejandro Kirk, who went 9-for-24 with three extra-base hits in his debut, sees his path to playing time blocked.
However, the Blue Jays could add Justin Turner to play third base or one of the market's available second basemen so that Cavan Biggio could slide to the hot corner. In that case, Tellez would seem to draw the short straw despite his significant power potential.
One way or another, someone just lost playing time in Toronto.
Winner: The Remaining Outfield Market
The outfield salary bar is set, so other players might see their markets take shape.
Longtime Boston Red Sox standout Jackie Bradley Jr. is the biggest consolation prize among available center fielders. He would be a logical replacement for Springer in Houston, though a bevy of other teams make sense as well.
Joc Pederson, Adam Duvall, Eddie Rosario and Yasiel Puig are among the top corner outfielders looking for a new home.
Michael Brantley is also waiting out the slow-moving market, and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported the potential for an "NBA-style package deal" involving him and Springer, who are close friends. Maybe the Blue Jays are not finished adding to their crowded outfield mix.
Even further down the free-agent pecking order, veterans such as Kevin Pillar, Cameron Maybin and Delino DeShields could also see movement before spring training begins in February, now that one of the biggest names has signed.
Loser: The City of Houston
Ask Houston sports fans to make a list of the best athletes in their city going into 2020, and the trio of James Harden, Deshaun Watson and George Springer likely would have been near the top.
Harden moved to the Brooklyn Nets after requesting a trade.
Springer made it clear he didn't want to return to Houston.
And the writing is on the wall that Watson will be the next superstar out the door amid mounting frustrations with the Texans front office.
That's a tough sports year for a city, especially considering the Astros, Rockets and Texans were all playoff teams in 2019. It certainly didn't seem like the city's title-contention window would slam shut so quickly across all three sports.
Winner: The Rest of the AL West
The Astros entered the AL West in 2013 as the division's doormat, losing a franchise-record 111 games amid a full-scale rebuild. They followed that with a 92-loss season but quickly climbed the standings from there.
After snagging a surprise wild-card berth in 2015, they rattled off three straight division titles in 2017, 2018 and 2019, and even with a sub-.500 record this past season, they slid into the postseason and advanced to Game 7 of the ALCS.
In a bubble, losing Springer doesn't make them a noncontender, but it's only the beginning.
Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke and Lance McCullers Jr. will be free agents after the 2021 season, as will shortstop Carlos Correa, who is headed for a huge payday and might be ready to abandon ship with no signs of an imminent extension.
Kyle Tucker and Yordan Alvarez give the team an exciting young one-two punch offensively, and infield stalwarts Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve are both under contract through 2024. But this roster won't be the juggernaut it was a few seasons ago.
That bodes well for the Oakland Athletics, who won the AL West last year before the Astros ousted them in the ALDS. It's also good news for a Los Angeles Angels team desperate to contend, a Seattle Mariners squad nearing the turning point of a long rebuild and even a Texas Rangers team embarking on a rebuild of its own.
The division is up for grabs.
Loser: New York Mets
Not a good 24 hours for the New York Mets.
First, they fired new general manager Jared Porter on Tuesday morning for sending explicit, unsolicited pictures to a female reporter in 2016, which included an image of a naked penis, during his time with the Chicago Cubs.
Then, in a less serious situation from a real-life perspective but still a blow from an on-field one, a team on a mission to make a major splash this offseason lost one of its top free-agent targets a matter of hours later.
The Mets were my choice as Springer's most likely landing spot in November, and their interest had been no secret dating back to the start of the offseason.
They came in with an offer of six years in the $120 million to $125 million range, according to Mark Feinsand of MLB.com, leaving them well short of the Blue Jays' terms.
The Mets will be fine with Dominic Smith, Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto penciled in across the outfield, but it's not a promising start to their newfound spending power under billionaire owner Steve Cohen.
Winner: Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays have handed out a few big contracts to retain their in-house talent, most notably the seven-year, $126 million extension Vernon Wells signed in December 2006 that had been the largest contract in franchise history before the Springer deal.
However, they have rarely attracted top-tier free-agent talent.
Here's a quick look at the 10 largest free-agency deals in franchise history, courtesy of the chart that Andrew Stoeten of The Athletic put together, excluding re-signings:
- Russell Martin: five years, $82 million
- Hyun Jin Ryu: four years, $80 million
- A.J. Burnett: five years, $55 million (opt-out after three years)
- B.J. Ryan: five years, $47 million
- J.A. Happ: three years, $36 million
- Kendrys Morales: three years, $33 million
- Roger Clemens: three years, $24.75 million
- Tanner Roark: two years, $24 million
- Frank Thomas: two years, $18 million
- Randy Myers: three years, $18 million
That's not exactly a long history of reeling in top free agents, which is why the Springer signing and last year's Hyun Jin Ryu deal are so important in paving the way for future negotiations.
With the Blue Jays' exciting young core, few teams have a brighter long-term outlook. Their ability to plug roster holes with outside additions could be the determining factor in whether they can make a title push.
Winner: George Springer
In a slow-moving market that was starting to look like it might not yield a significant multiyear payday for any of the top free agents, Springer has emerged as one of the offseason's clear winners.
MLB Trade Rumors predicted a five-year, $125 million contract, and he hit that annual value while securing an extra year.
His reported $25 million average annual value trails only those of Mike Trout ($37.1 million) and Bryce Harper ($27.5 million) among all outfielders, and it's tied with Joey Votto for the 20th-highest salary in the majors.
Leaving the only team he has known and the "hitter-friendly" environment of Minute Maid Park might seem like a drawback, but he has performed better on the road during his career:
- Home: .259/.358/.461, 79 HR
- Road: .279/.364/.520, 95 HR
Taking that one step further, he has raked in Toronto with a .358/.453/.604 line and three home runs at Rogers Center in the small sample size of 65 plate appearances.
Joining an exciting young team on the rise whose window of contention is just opening, Springer finds himself in an ideal situation after nabbing a best-case scenario payday.