In an attempt to gain cost certainty with one of their top prospects, the Astros offered outfielder George Springer a seven-year, $23MM contract last September, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports. Since Springer has yet to reach the Major Leagues, the deal would've covered his three pre-arbitration years, his three arbitration years and his first year of free agency.
As Rosenthal notes, Houston's offer resembles Evan Longoria's initial contract with the Rays, a six-year, $17.5MM deal (plus three more years of team options) that quickly became one of the most team-friendly deals in recent baseball history once Longoria blossomed into a superstar. Longoria accepted the deal, however, just a few days into his Major League career and thus assured himself of at least one big payday even if he faltered in the Show.
Springer and his representatives at the Legacy Sports Group turned down the offer, a sign that Springer presumes his performance will eventually merit much more than a $23MM deal. A rival agent tells Rosenthal that Springer's three arbitration years alone could earn him more than $30MM if he lives up to expectations as a consensus top prospect.
Springer, 24, was taken with the 11th overall pick of the 2011 amateur draft and has been dominant in the minors, hitting .299/.394/.558 with 62 homers over 1203 PA and stealing 81 bases in 97 attempts. The 2014 Baseball America Prospect Handbook ranks Springer as Houston's second-best prospect (behind Carlos Correa), and despite his strikeouts and some doubts about his ability to hit for average, "his arm, speed, power and defense all rate as at least plus tools." Baseball America ranks Springer as the 18th-best prospect in the game, while ESPN's Keith Law (19th) and MLB.com (21st) provide similar rankings.
Springer isn't going to make the Astros' Opening Day roster, which the team argues is due to his need for more minor league seasoning (and a poor Spring Training performance). As Rosenthal rhetorically asks, however, "why would the Astros offer a major-league contract to a player who lacks any semblance of leverage if they do not believe he is capable of playing in the majors?" The practice of keeping prospects in the minors long enough that they can't gain Super Two status is the larger focus of Rosenthal's piece, which he notes is frowned upon by fans, some players and MLBPA chief Tony Clark since it keeps teams from fielding their best possible talent.
The Astros signed second baseman Jose Altuve to a four-year, $12.5MM extension (with two option years) last summer, marking GM Jeff Luhnow's first move towards locking up one of his club's young building blocks. Other top prospects like Correa, Mark Appel, Mike Foltynewicz and more are all team-controlled through the rest of the decade, though one wonders if Luhnow would pursue a Springer-type extension with any of these young stars as well once they're a bit slower to the Major League level.