Brian Todd starts the week with a gut-check — some might consider controversial — question regarding George Springer and other rookies-to-be. It’s certainly a question that Jeff Luhnow will consider and one that the players themselves could decide with a great or average spring.
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If the world was a fair world, there would be no doubt. George Springer would be standing in centerfield on Opening Day waiting for that first fly ball from some damned Yankee (spit) hitter.
But the world isn’t fair, and the MLB collective bargaining agreement includes something called “Super Two.” According to Wikipedia (OK, I’m a cheater), a player has Super Two status if “he has at least two years of major league service but less than three, AND is among the top 22 percent for cumulative playing time in the majors in this class of players (and ties), AND was on an active major-league roster for at least 86 days in the previous season.”
If Springer starts the season in centerfield, none of that matters, His Major League clock starts. If he spends April and May and maybe part of June in Oklahoma City, well, now Springer isn’t so super.
For 2014, in the grand scheme of things, whether Springer plays all season in centerfield or not doesn’t really matter. Two extra months of George Springer, no matter how good he is, won’t put the Astros in the playoff hunt. They might not even pick up any extra wins, though they probably would. But even a couple of extra wins, well, what does it matter?
If he starts in centerfield on Opening Day or gets Super Two status, Springer becomes arbitration eligible in 2017 and is a free agent by 2020. If his Major League start is delayed a couple of months, just a couple of months in what is bound to be a crummy year anyway, then George Springer isn’t arbitration eligible until 2018. He won’t be a free agent until 2021.
You can make the same argument for Mark Appel. I know he’s not going to start the season on the 25-man roster, but if he starts the season in Corpus, is it possible if there are some injuries or ineffective starters that Appel finds his way to Houston by the end of May?
What about Jonathan Singleton? Last year in limited spring training action, he slugged the cover off the ball. What if he does the same this year, and Wallace and The Whiff King stink it up? What if Singleton goes to OKC, hits .290 and slugs the ball like, well, like he’s George Springer or something? Then Wallace starts the season hitting so badly he dreams of the Mendoza Line. Do you bring Singleton up on, say, May 15?
I could play this game all day. Alex Sogard is working on his control and consistency in the AFL right now. Jonas Dufek has struck out 12 and walked 2 in 9.1 AFL innings. And his WHIP is 1.02. Domingo Santana has a .952 OPS in the Dominican Winter League.
But keep them down, and they are hitting arbitration during the first club-option year of Altuve’s long term deal.
More importantly, they are cost controlled just that much longer while we wait for Correa and Ruiz. If all goes as planned (ha ha), Correa gets called up some time after Super Two in 2015. Maybe he doesn’t make the team until 2016. Ruiz is 2016 at the earliest. So we get those two through their rookie years and have one more year of Springer, etc. without having to spend an arm and a leg. Maybe we used that saved money in 2017 to get some bullpen help or an extra needed bat.
Maybe that cost control is the difference between a good team and a great one. Maybe, if 2017 s the year, it can be what puts Houston in the playoffs. Or maybe keeping Springer in OKC to start 2014 gets Houston to make it through the playoffs in 2017.
So, should Houston hold Springer down on the farm?
Is the $3 million or $4 million in 2017 worth it? What about the extra year of arbitration, keeping Springer from becoming a free agent until 2021? And keep in mind, if more than one rookie starts his Major League clock on Opening Day or gets Super Two status, you can multiply those numbers by each player.
If our other first basemen can’t provide the offense Houston needs at the corner, do we bring a smoke-free Singleton up before June?
Do we pick start Springer but hold the line on Singleton no matter what? Or, since we have a decent center fielder already (Barnes), do we bring up Singleton at first where we need him and delay Springer’s start?
Do you all hate me now for even suggesting all this?
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“Brian Todd lives in Rochester, Minnesota where his friends would make fun of him for being an Astros’ fan if the Twins didn’t suck too.”