The recent discussions about a possible extension for George Springer obviously lead to the questions – how much and how long? All sorts of thoughts go through your head in trying to figure out Springer’s value.
- Baseball-reference.com shows similar batters to Springer as Tony Conigliaro, Yaseil Puig, Yoenis Cespedes and Richard Hidalgo. Conigliaro and Hidalgo are obviously from a different time period. Puig was valued when he was a younger productive head case, but now that he is an older declining head case he currently has no off-season offers as a free agent. Cespedes signed a 4 year / $110 MM contract with the Mets at the age of 31 back in 2016 and has been dogged with injury problems ever since.
- The financial commitments changed a lot since Cespedes signed the second-highest contract for a position player on an annual average basis in 2016. If you want to look at recent free agents who you might consider as similar to Springer, you could look at the last couple free agent signing cycles to try and glean some similarities.
- In 2018-2019 someone like Bryce Harper was also a free agent multi-tool OF, but his 27 y.o. age raised his value (13 yrs/$330 MM) far beyond what anything Springer could expect. AJ Pollock (4 yrs / $55 MM) signed at 31 y.o., but his value was depressed by 3 seasons of 12, 112 and 113 games played at a mediocre level. Andrew McCutchen (3yrs / $50 MM) signed at 32 y.o., but is not near the OF he was in his prime years. Closer to home, Michael Brantley (2 yrs/ $32 MM) signed at 31 y.o. with the Astros. While a better pure hitter than Springer, he lacks George’s power and his fielding ability.
- In the 2019-2020 signing cycle, Nick Castellanos (4 yrs / $64 MM) is a very solid hitter and much younger than Springer (just turned 28 y.o.), but is considered a huge question mark in the field as a poor fielding 3B and a low range corner OF. Some folks may think Anthony Rendon (7 yrs/$245 MM) though a 3B is a closer comp to Springer. Rendon is basically a year younger than Springer and just came off 3 very strong seasons in a row where he slashed (.309 BA/.397 OBP/ .934 OPS). Springer in a very similar number of ABs slashed (.279 BA/.365 OBP/.879 OPS). Springer was very good while Rendon was elite.
- There are other considerations for Springer. While not as fragile as a Carlos Correa, he usually misses some time during the season, the only exception being the 162 games he clocked in 2016. Other than that his seasons have had injury holes, 102, 140, 140 and 122 games in 2015, 2017 thru 2019. He strikes out more than the top hitters normally would (an average of 163 over 162 games) and you would only consider his 2019 season (.292 BA/.383 OBP/.974 OPS/ 39 HR/ 96 RBIs) to be really elite.
- On the other hand, when you look at intangibles, Springer has them in spades. He is probably the heart of this team that has been so very good the last few seasons. He seems like the perfect teammate, always supportive of the other players and the center of their success.
- Obviously, another factor in pricing Springer is how he may perform in 2020, if and when that occurs. Is he the near MVP performer he was in 2019 or is he the more mediocre and injured version of himself that he was in 2018?
- A question always will be how much Springer faults the organization for artificially keeping him down in the minors when he could have been brought up as early as 2013. Does this drive him to want a little extra in this first real shot at free agency?
- A couple wild cards here are the cheating scandal and the COVID-19 crisis. Do other teams believe that Springer benefited significantly from the cheating? Do they think it reflects on his character? On the other hand, does owner Jim Crane believe that he needs to build up good will with the fans and re-sign one of their favorite players? The COVID side of this is that no one knows how the teams losing a 1/2 season or more of income will affect how they value free agents. Will this suppress the market? Will this make players like Springer more likely to sign extensions rather than wait things out and perhaps have an unpleasant surprise in free agency?
In general, teams are not as excited about signing players on the other side of 30 years old. Springer will be hitting free agency before the 2021 season, a season where he will turn 32 by September. How does the stew of issues above affect the length and size of his contract? Totally unscientific guesstimate at his contract….. 5years / $110 MM. What do you think?