Poll: Did The Astros Promote George Springer At The Right Time?

USATSI_7873385When the Astros promoted top prospect George Springer earlier this week, it ended a mini-drama that cut to the heart of Major League Baseball's rules concerning Super Two status and free-agency eligibility. MLB, of course, allows players to become free agents after six full years of service. By waiting two weeks after the start of the season to promote Springer, the Astros ensured that they could control his rights through 2020. But by promoting him before June, they also gave him the chance to become a Super Two player. That meant he could be eligible for arbitration following the 2016 season, and go to arbitration four times instead of three, potentially making several million more dollars than he would have made had the Astros waited just two more months to promote him.

The circumstances surrounding Springer's promotion are complex. The Astros offered Springer a seven-year, $23MM deal last September, a deal that would have allowed the Astros to have Springer break camp with the team this spring without concern about Super Two status or the timing of his free-agency eligibility. Springer turned the contract down, and the Astros decided to send him to Triple-A Oklahoma City to start the season, reportedly leading the MLBPA and Springer's agent, Greg Genske, to consider the possibility of a grievance against the Astros.

It isn't clear, of course, whether Springer's service time was the primary consideration in the Astros' decision to send Springer to the minors, or even whether it was a consideration, period. Springer began the season with only 266 (admittedly brilliant) career plate appearances in Triple-A, so it wouldn't have been outlandish for an organization to make the somewhat conservative decision to have him get more seasoning at that level before promoting him.

But many fans and commentators couldn't help wondering about how Springer's status had been affected by MLB's rules. "If Springer was good enough to be offered $23 million, why isn't he good enough to crack the 25-man roster of a team that has finished with the worst record in the majors in each of the past three seasons?" wrote FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal. "Some on the players' side have long felt that clubs act in bad faith when they keep major-league-ready players in the minors for financial reasons."

The timing of Springer's promotion in mid-April thus feels like a compromise. By keeping Springer in the minors for two more weeks, the Astros received an extra year of control, preventing Springer from becoming eligible for free agency after the 2019 season. But they will likely pay Springer more through 2020 than they would have if they had waited a bit longer. Of course, the Astros were within their rights not to compromise — they could have just kept Springer in the minors until June. And again, there may have been developmental considerations at work, too.

The service-time issue is hard to ignore, however, as the Houston Chronicle's Evan Drellich explains in a good piece about why not everyone agrees with the Astros' timing. Drellich quotes analyst and former MLB pitcher C.J. Nitkowski (via Twitter): "It's about the culture & the message you're sending to players/fan[s]: We don't promote on merit, winning is secondary to FA status [seven years] away."

It also appears that the Astros' decision may have been at least somewhat spontaneous. As Drellich points out, the Astros had Springer travel to Colorado Springs for one game with Oklahoma City, only to then join the big-league team in Houston. A planned promotion might well have had Springer play his first big-league game on the road, in order to limit the pressure on Springer. Maybe, Drellich suggests, the Astros intended to wait until June to him, thus avoiding Super Two status, but the Astros offense's awful performance to that point made them change their minds.

From the perspectives of Springer and the Astros, the precise timing of Springer's promotion may not matter much in the long run. If Springer is upset right now (and aside from the talk of a grievance, there's no indication that he is), the Astros will have almost seven years to make it up to him. Regardless, there are likely to be episodes similar to Springer's until or unless MLB and the MLBPA address the service-time issue — and even if they do, it's hard to imagine what solution they might come up with that would allow teams to promote players as soon as they deem them ready, without fear of paying them piles of extra money or worrying about them leaving a year early.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

14 Responses to Poll: Did The Astros Promote George Springer At The Right Time? Leave a Reply

  1. BostonMA 1 year ago

    He hits worse than Billy Hamilton

    • tmengd 1 year ago

      not even close and to suggest that is silly, what did Billy Hamilton ever do in the minors? Springer almost went 40/40 with a .320 average. Hamilton had a .308 OBP last year at AAA compared to Springers .399 and .600 slugging? Hamiltons steals bases and that is all he will ever do and his defesnse is :/ Springer could be a legit 4 tools guys with amazing defense.

  2. LazerTown 1 year ago

    Right time. There was no need to start him opening day, they lose the year of control, and they aren’t competing at all.

  3. Derpy 1 year ago

    I haven’t seen to much of him, but from what I have seen has made me feel he could have used that extra month or two in AAA. But maybe he was just nervous.

    • rouscher 1 year ago

      There’s a lot of pressure on him, kid will be a great player, he just needs to relax a little, the media has put a lot of pressure on him because of him being one of the more top prospects coming out of the organization, once singleton, and appel and correa are here it’ll start to simmer down for him and he’ll have Trout-like seasons

      • KJ4realz 1 year ago

        I have hopes for Springer but it’s not even safe to say Mike Trout will have trout-like seasons.

  4. Victoria Roberts 1 year ago

    If they aren’t going to win now, there was no reason top promote him now. Wait till after the summer and you get an entire extra year of control. If he’s really that much of a stud, you’re going to want the extra year. Especially if you’re pinching pennies the way the Astros seem to be.

    • LazerTown 1 year ago

      They already set him back enough to get that extra year of team control, he will simply qualify for arbitration 4 times, instead of the normal 3.

  5. rikersbeard 1 year ago

    Controlling your assets is part of fielding a winning team. It just takes into consideration a larger time frame.

  6. ziggy13 1 year ago

    Don’t get the argument saying delaying his promotion is showing you’re not dedicated to winning. If anything, getting that extra year shows that you’re willing to put off immediate gratification in order to be better off down the road

  7. Hills of Glenallen 1 year ago

    He’s good, but he’s no Mike Trout. He wasn’t going to turn them into a winner no matter when they called him up. Why play for the now when they might be better down the road when they could use him for that extra year?

  8. Brandon 1 year ago

    I think it could be argued that they DID wait (last year) but then instead of calling him up in the last half of the year, they (basically) called him up at the beginning of this one and got an extra year of control out of it. I understand that they could have waited til June to save another arbitration year, but if you feel like he’s maybe already been down a little too long, it’s not worth stretching it out even more just to save his super 2 status at the cost of stunting his growth.

  9. Jeffy25 1 year ago

    They should have improved their 7 year offer enough to get him to sign it and have him play the whole season in the majors.

    But since he didn’t sign, keep that super 2 away because they aren’t a competitive enough team.

    Sorry that it’s soo financially motivated, but that’s the reality of the situation.

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