Springer awestruck by Toronto's young core

January 27th, 2021

TORONTO -- is used to winning. He's used to 100-win seasons, postseason runs and the hot glare of the World Series spotlight.

That experience is part of the elite package that Springer brings to the Blue Jays, an organization that has played in as many postseason games in their history (63) as the 31-year-old Springer has in his career.

Coming to the Blue Jays on a six-year, $150 million deal, Springer sees a team capable of experiencing what he has over the first seven years of his career. There's a young core, led by Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Nate Pearson, and the front office seems committed to spending as this trajectory continues. It's starting to sound like the same story in a new city for Springer.

"I had the privilege to play with some very, very talented guys. This lineup reminds me a lot of them," Springer said Wednesday. "I think it is a young lineup, but it's a very talented and advanced younger lineup. From everything that I've heard and everything that I've seen, they're very, very ambitious. They want to win. They work hard. That's awesome."

This time, though, Springer will be the veteran. After debuting in 2014 as a 24-year-old, Springer leaned on the advice and example of many of Houston's more established players, but those roles will be reversed for him with the Blue Jays.

"It's different. I see myself as a normal guy that's going to show up every day to the park and play as hard as I possibly can," Springer said. "I will try my best to mentor to my ability, which I think is just to go out and play as hard as I can every day."

The Blue Jays' young core isn't going anywhere any time soon, and with the ink still drying on his six-year deal, neither is Springer. The club is clearly in win-now mode but, given its roster construction, it's easy to envision Toronto's competitive window stretching through Springer's entire contract.

At 31, this contract will take Springer through his age-36 season. He's still very much in his prime, and while a move off center field could enter the conversation later in his deal, general manager Ross Atkins is confident that Springer is built to buck the trend of players entering their mid-30s and provide full value throughout his entire deal.

"What he's done, his athleticism, his character, his resilience and his perseverance," Atkins said. "He will overcome challenges and we believe that he's going to be a very, very good player, not just for the beginning of his contract but for the duration."

Now that the Blue Jays have added Springer's experience and talents to their lineup, it's about taking that next step. The ballclub is good, but there's a hurdle between good and great teams that it stills need to clear.

Springer believes that the Blue Jays' young core is almost there on their own, and that some added guidance is all that's needed. He'll be part of that, of course, and so will other veterans, like Marcus Semien, who Toronto has reportedly agreed to a one-year, $18 million pact. The club hasn't confirmed the deal.

It's likely that the Blue Jays add a piece to their rotation prior to the season, but whether it comes in a week or six months from now just prior to the Trade Deadline, they will need to continue to add to this group. That's one of the last remaining steps in Springer's eyes, thinking back to his days in Houston, with another coming off the field.

"It takes adding a guy or two. It takes a lot of camaraderie," Springer said. "There's something special when a locker room clicks, when guys understand each other and unite for one goal, which is ultimately to win and bring a World Series back to a country. It's when that happens, when a team can gel in the locker room and really learn to trust each other on and off the field, that's something special."

Springer, and eventually Semien, are joining a lineup powered by the young core but also Teoscar Hernández, the breakout star of 2020 who won his first American League Silver Slugger Award. Then there's Rowdy Tellez, the country-strong designated hitter who posted an .886 OPS in 35 games last season. And behind the plate, the Blue Jays have upside in both Danny Jansen and Alejandro Kirk. For opposing pitchers, there's no chance to stop and catch your breath.

That's what made those Astros lineups so good, with offense from one to nine. When manager Charlie Montoyo pins his first lineup to the board on Opening Day on April 1 at Yankee Stadium, the talent should look awfully familiar to the new face of the franchise.