8:55pm: The “sense” is that Toronto is “gaining some momentum” in its attempt to sign Springer, Heytman tweets. The Blue Jays appear to be the front-runners to reel in Springer, who Heyman notes could get upward of $125MM on his contract, but the Mets aren’t out yet.
9:58am: The Blue Jays are believed to be “making a push” to bring free-agent outfielder George Springer into the fold, Ben Nicholson-Smith and Shi Davidi of Sportsnet report. The two sides were expected to reconnect early this week, per the report. In a related note, MLB.com’s Jon Morosi tweeted yesterday that Springer “could” make a decision by the end of the week. While that’s certainly not the most concrete phrasing, its juxtaposition with the Sportsnet update seems to suggest that Springer’s market is heating up with under a month until Spring Training is set to begin.
Earlier this month, SNY’s Jim Duquette said in a television segment that the Jays had offered Springer a five-year deal that checked in south of his $150MM asking price. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman pegged the offer in the $115MM range yesterday (video link), noting that the Mets’ best offer has been believed to be in that same ballpark.
The Springer market has been characterized as a two-horse race for weeks now, and Toronto’s primary competition in Queens has already spent aggressively to acquire Francisco Lindor, Carlos Carrasco, James McCann and Trevor May (in addition to retaining Marcus Stroman via qualifying offer). Whether the Mets would cross the luxury-tax barrier in order to sign Springer remains to be seen. Multiple reports over the past few weeks have suggested that Springer’s preference is to play close to his home in New Britain, Conn., but Davidi and Nicholson-Smith write that Springer’s interest in the Jays is “genuine,” with geography posing a minimal obstacle.
In terms of payroll capacity, the Jays have a relatively clean slate moving forward. Toronto has just shy of $68MM committed to 10 players for the 2021 season, and they’ll of course need to round out their roster with pre-arbitration players earning somewhere in the vicinity of the league minimum. The club has just $35MM in guaranteed contracts on the books in 2022 and $36MM in 2023, with zero dollars in guarantees beginning in 2024.
The Blue Jays’ front office has spoken openly about its desire to add top-tier talent this winter as the organization continues a shift from a rebuilding mode to a win-now mindset. Last year’s signing of Hyun Jin Ryu set a precedent for acquiring high-end talent, and the Jays are known to have had interest in virtually every top free agent and trade candidate on this year’s market.
Thus far, that hasn’t resulted in much actual talent acquisition. Toronto has signed rebound candidates Robbie Ray and Tyler Chatwood, and they’re reportedly meeting with right-hander Kirby Yates today as the two sides inch closer to a potential agreement. But the Jays have also finished as a runner-up on several notable targets, including DJ LeMahieu and Lindor.
At this point, Springer appears to be the team’s priority among the market’s remaining big fish, though if he spurns their interest and lands with the Mets or an unexpected suitor, the Jays could intensify their pursuit of J.T. Realmuto and/or Trevor Bauer.