Over the coming days, I am discussing some of the higher profile upcoming arbitration cases. So far, we’ve previewed Josh Bell, Cody Bellinger, Francisco Lindor, Trevor Bauer, Mike Clevinger and Jonathan Villar. For these pieces, I rely partly on my arbitration model developed exclusively for MLB Trade Rumors, but will also break out some interesting comparables and determine where the model might be wrong. 2020 projections are available right here.
George Springer enters his final year of arbitration eligibility after playing out a two-year, $24MM deal that covered his 2018-19 seasons. Springer only played in 122 games last season due to a hamstring strain, but he still managed to belt 39 home runs and knock in 96 runs despite consistently batting in the leadoff spot — all while hitting .292. While being limited to 556 plate appearances could hurt an otherwise strong arbitration case, his impressive counting stats should get him a hefty raise.
Players outside their first year of arbitration eligibility are generally awarded raises on top of their prior salary and only based on the prior year of production. In general, Springer would not expect to receive different compensation than he would have based on his .265/22/71 performance in 620 plate appearances in 2018. However, cases like Springer’s can sometimes be considered as “re-slot” cases where they are paid based on career performance or at least on the two prior years that were covered under a multi-year deal.
Further complicating matters is that the salary on which Springer’s raise will be based is not all that clear. Springer received $24MM for his two-year pact, in matching installments of $12MM per season. However, he would never have earned $12MM in arbitration in 2018 (in fact, he filed for $10.5MM), and he was obviously compensated under the assumption that he would have received more than $12MM in 2019 had he gone year to year.
In cases like this, in which the player and team have both filed at the time the multi-year deal was reached, I usually assume the first year of the deal was valued at the midpoint of the team’s and player’s filing. In this case, that’d put year one of Springer’s two-year deal at $9.5MM, since the Astros filed at $8.5MM. The 2019 base salary, then, would be be treated as $14.5MM.
Based on his performance, my model estimates a $6.9MM raise, which would take Springer to $21.4MM if we use that theoretical $14.5MM sum as his base. If we look for useful comps, this seems somewhat plausible. Unfortunately, two of the players who have similar power numbers and service time both played half their games at Coors Field, inflating their statistics. Charlie Blackmon hit 37 home runs with 104 runs batted in in 2017, although his case was stronger than Springer’s in some ways because he hit .331 and racked up 725 plate appearances. That all earned him a $6.7MM raise. The following year, Nolan Arenado got an $8.25MM raise after his 38 HR and 110 RBI, while hitting .297 in 673 plate appearances.
Neither Blackmon nor Arenado looks exactly right. Arenado plays third base. Blackmon hit for higher average. Both had more plate appearances. Additionally, Blackmon was only eligible for arbitration for the third time, unlike Arenado and Springer, who had four arb-eligible years due to their status as Super Two players. Also, Blackmon and Arenado further differ because both received raises after one-year deals. We know Springer’s case to be less common, as he’s coming off a two-year contract.
Springer’s case is very arguably most similar to Josh Donaldson’s case two years ago. Donaldson put up a .270/33/78 season in 496 plate appearances and, crucially, was coming off a two-year deal in which he was paid $28.65MM. That sum was neatly allocated as $11.65MM (roughly the midpoint of his and the Blue Jays’ arbitration filings) in the first year, and $17MM the second year. Donaldson got an even $6MM raise to $23MM in his final year of arbitration. With Springer topping Donaldson in batting average, homers and RBIs at .292/39/96 in 556 plate appearances, it stands to reason that Donaldson would likely get a larger raise. Perhaps that would be similar to his $6.9MM projected raise.
On the other hand, the first year of Donaldson’s two-year pact was better than year one of Springer’s deal. Donaldson hit .284/37/99 in 700 plate appearances, compared to Springer’s .265/22/71 in 620 plate appearances. If that’s part of what is being considered, we’re comparing Donaldson’s combined .270/70/177 performance in 1196 trips to the plate against Springer’s .278/61/167 performance in 1176 plate appearances. In that case, Springer isn’t necessarily a lock to top Donaldson’s $6MM raise.
The only other remotely similar case was Todd Frazier three years ago. He was coming off a two-year deal that effectively paid him $7.5MM. He got a $4.5MM raise after hitting just .225 but with 40 HR, 98 RBI and 15 stolen bases in 666 turns at the plate. This would probably establish $4.5MM as a floor if Donaldson is not already serving as a floor at $6MM.
Overall, it seems pretty clear that the best comp for Springer is Donaldson. Springer should get somewhere in the neighborhood of the $21.4MM that my model has projected him for, albeit perhaps for reasons very different from those the model considered in his case.
Steven St Croix
Houston should sign him for 5/125 and trade Correa after the season. Redick will be up and that should be enough money. You are gonna have to pay some tax but it’s worth it if you are consistently one of the best teams in the AL.
Why would Springer do that? He will get twice as much.
See how well he hits all year without stealing signs
Pay him as much as their cheating camera cost. That’s all his 39 singers are worth
Stealing signs has been a thing in baseball for as long as there have been signs. Don’t know why people are so surprised and upset when it is evolving as technology does. Bending the rules to find a competitive advantage is basically a foundation of baseball
man I wish there were down votes … standing on 2nd base and learning the sequence , sure that’s part of the game. 100% fine . using cameras in the outfield and going under the clubhouse to a monitor and relaying back, that’s not “bending” that’s flat out BREAKING! or how about using a smartwatch ? same thing!
just take all tech out of the dugout and that will solve a lot !
You know what this is called? Intimidation.
Reminder Angels killed a guy.
What new technology did the Astros use, John? They had a camera in CF and literally banged on a plastic garbage can with a stick. This could have been done in 1940. This is not an evolution in technology, it’s an evolution in brazen impunity.
The camera in question was one already in place for TV broadcast not specifically installed for sign stealing. Houston not the only one in this sign stealing drama, as we know Boston is under investigation now for similar infraction. I bet you there are more teams involved.; can wait till Yankees get caught.
Houston with all the lost of top players is still 3rd on power list to go to WS in 2020. We will see how it plays out in 2020.
I do enjoy this site, and I do get that the Astros will be convicted of cheating for three months during the 2017 regular season… But every fan of every single MLB team would take George Springer with a smile on your face. So just stop with the soap box nonsense. That guy isn’t good because of a trash can, he’s a remarkable talent – if he can stay healthy – and a good person, if you believe what you all will selectively read anyway.
The point is that the Astros tanked for years and years (which was no fun to watch) so they could stockpile draft picks and trade equity…. and get guys like Springer. Then it’s no fun for any of the other AL West teams that have to try and compete with a tanking/cheating team. It’s bad for the game. I’m very glad they are gonna get spanked and also having to start paying all the guys they drafted through tanking. They aren’t genius team builders….just cheaters who disrespect the game. I look forward to seeing the team fall apart.
All fair, we’ll mostly… except for the one big thing. You’re not going to see the team fall apart. I’m sorry to dash that wet dream for everyone. The trash cans aren’t why those players are good, as much as you want to believe it. That’s a fierce roster and one that’s still among the Vegas favorites to go back to the playoffs in 2020. Just be real. You can be sad, but just be real.
Hey, pc01, stop using common sense. You know that’s not allowed when it comes to this topic.
The long slow process of the Houston Tankers falling apart has already begun. They lost Cole, Miley, Harris, Chirinos and Hector Rendon….and picked up light-hitting Maldonado and Joe Smith. And that’s before they get slapped by the MLB for cheating. They also lost their best hitting coach, Mr. Trashcan. They’ve been spending prospects like a drunk sailor spends money in port. and much of their ill-gotten roster is going to want real money soon. You can be arrogant, but just be real.
You know what this is called? Intimidation.
You almost had me convinced but then you just went on this blathering rant about them and it’s clear you’re just another hater, give it up dude.
Oh, lots of fan around the MLB have become haters of the Houston Astros. I guess their tanking and cheating have given a lot of people the impression that they don’t respect baseball. Go figure.
George Springer will get a multiply year deal with Houston. He not going anywhere. Houston will win the west again and be in the AL championship against Yankees or Rays. Rays will be challenge for NY in 2020. Tampa has made moves to be better. Cole can win only one of five games.
– Bang !!