It’s been a slow-moving market for all of the game’s top free agents, but ESPN’s Jeff Passan shines some light on where things stand with George Springer, reporting that the Blue Jays and Mets are generally viewed as the two strongest possibilities for the longtime Astros slugger.
Newly hired Mets general manager Jared Porter plainly acknowledged in an appearance on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM last week that Springer is “going to be part of the process” as they evaluate options on the high end of both the free-agent and trade markets (Twitter link, with audio). As one would expect, Porter didn’t tip his hand as to anything more specific, but MLB.com’s Jon Morosi did write recently that the Mets are “focused” on Springer at the moment.
In some ways, it’s not particularly surprising to see. The Mets and Jays are widely seen as the two teams most willing to spend this winter, and both could use an impact center fielder. Other teams who are seen as potentially active clubs have reason not to aggressively pursue Springer.
Giants president of baseball ops Farhan Zaidi has suggested his team will focus on pitching and look at more “complementary” hitters. The Yankees are focused on DJ LeMahieu, and their outfield is crowded as is. The Red Sox’ most pressing need is in the rotation, given the uncertainty around the health of their veteran starters. The Twins are focused on Nelson Cruz and their pitching staff. The Braves have eschewed this type of long-term deal under GM Alex Anthopoulos and may be more apt to retain Marcell Ozuna if they do make an uncharacteristic outfield splash. The White Sox have already signed Adam Eaton. Houston is an obvious fit, but an extension between the two sides never came together and the price surely hasn’t come down now that Springer has the benefit of open-market bidding for his services.
Free agency is an ever-fluid situation, as various factors can rapidly change a player’s market. A team could trade a current outfielder or lose someone to injury. An owner not expected to spend lavishly could have a change of heart or be swayed by a direct meeting with Springer’s representatives. However, Passan writes that as things stand right now, executives from other clubs view the Springer market as a two-horse race between the Jays and Mets.
The Mets have already been aggressive early, signing James McCann (four years, $40.6MM) and Trevor May (two years, $15.5MM) to early deals that bolster the club while still leaving Porter and president Sandy Alderson ample payroll space. The Mets currently owe just shy of $95MM to a combined 10 players, though they have just as many yet-unsigned arbitration-eligible players to whom they tendered contracts. Michael Conforto, Noah Syndergaard and Edwin Diaz headline that group, but most of the group is in line for relatively small-scale salaries. It’s be a surprise if, after their arb work was completed, the current iteration of the Mets roster exceeded a $150MM payroll by much.
The financial outlook in Toronto is even cleaner. Toronto owes about $57.5MM to seven players in addition to forthcoming arbitration raises for two players: Ross Stripling and Teoscar Hernandez. They only have $35MM in guaranteed salaries on the 2022 books, with Tanner Roark, Robbie Ray, Shun Yamaguchi and Rafael Dolis set to come off the books. Signing Springer would likely necessitate a move sending Randal Grichuk elsewhere, and while his remaining three years and $28MM is an overpay, it’s not so glaring that the Jays couldn’t reasonably expect to find a creative solution.