4 teams with most to gain by adding Springer

January 12th, 2021

is no stranger to the big moment, with a World Series MVP Award and 19 career playoff homers on his résumé. And while we’re a long way from the 2021 postseason, the free-agent center fielder could play a big part in deciding which team wins a title this fall.

Virtually every club would benefit from signing the 31-year-old, a career .270/.361/.491 hitter and three-time All-Star. But when it comes specifically to the 2021 World Series crown, these are the clubs with whom Springer would have the greatest impact, ranked in order based on how close to title contention the veteran slugger would put them.

1) Mets

The Mets made the biggest splash of the Hot Stove season last week, acquiring shortstop and starting pitcher from Cleveland for four players. New York previously re-signed starter and added reliever and catcher . Even if the Mets don’t make another notable addition, this offseason is going to go down as a major success.

But New York shouldn’t stop now. According to FanGraphs’ Depth Charts projections, the Mets are expected to have the best pitching staff in the game but are still a bit behind the Dodgers and Padres overall.

MLB projected team WAR totals (via FanGraphs)
Dodgers: 44.0
Padres: 43.6
Mets: 41.5
Yankees: 40.1
Astros: 38.8

Springer, who is projected for nearly 4.0 WAR in 2021, would not only give the Mets a bona fide starting center fielder but also improve their left-field situation, as would shift from center to left.

In his career, Nimmo has posted -14 Defensive Runs Saved as a center fielder and +5 DRS as a left fielder. His Outs Above Average total in left field since 2017 is +5, compared to -1 in center. Springer has recorded +3 OAA in center (+4 OAA in RF) in that same time frame, and he has amassed +8 DRS as a center fielder in his career.

As it stands, the Mets don’t have a starting left fielder, with taking over at second base for the suspended . has played there in the past, but Mets president Sandy Alderson made it clear that he’s not comfortable with the slugger starting regularly in left. The Mets are holding out hope that the NL will ultimately have the designated-hitter spot in 2021.

With at first base, there’s some concern that bringing in an everyday outfielder would further limit Smith’s playing time, assuming there’s no DH spot. But if the Mets aren’t committed to Smith as their starting left fielder, his situation shouldn’t impact their pursuit of Springer.

2) White Sox

MLB.com’s Matt Kelly made the case last month for why Chicago needs to pursue Springer, noting that the AL Central was essentially a dead heat between the White Sox, Twins and Indians. Now that Cleveland has traded Lindor and Carrasco, it could be a two-team race.

But the White Sox shouldn’t just be looking to win a division title. The addition of Springer would arguably make them the favorite in the entire American League.

While the NL has two elite clubs in the Dodgers and Padres, the AL is wide open. Just look at some of the players these 2020 AL playoff teams have subtracted this offseason (assuming those who haven't moved already don't re-sign).

The White Sox, meanwhile, lost to free agency but have added , and, per a source, .

Signing Springer would lessen the team’s reliance on , who won a Gold Glove Award in center field but had a .409 OPS and a 34% strikeout rate in September, and 2019 No. 3 overall Draft pick , who hasn’t played above Class A Advanced. It would also make a bounceback season from Eaton (.669 OPS in 2020) less imperative and allow (-14 OAA in ’19-20) to see more time at DH.

3) Braves

The Braves have won the NL East in each of the past two seasons, and they were one game from the World Series in 2020, taking a 3-1 lead over the Dodgers in the NL Championship Series.

Their rotation should be much improved in 2021. will be back after missing most of last year with a torn left Achilles tendon, and is ready for his first full season. and are now in the fold, too.

On offense, the Braves are led by reigning NL MVP and , with , and serving as a solid supporting cast.

Yet, Atlanta’s projected fWAR total of 34.8 places the team well behind the Dodgers, Padres and Mets in the NL.

Part of the problem is that the Braves haven’t replaced their top two home run hitters from last season, and , who combined for 34 round-trippers.

Ozuna in particular is a huge loss, as he hit .338/.431/.636 in 60 games. He’s still available, but Atlanta may be hesitant to re-sign him with no guarantee that there will be a universal designated hitter in 2021. Ozuna made 39 of his 60 starts as the Braves’ DH in 2020.

Springer doesn’t come with the same defensive concerns as Ozuna, and he could fill the offensive void. Here's how similar Steamer projects the two to be on offense in 2021.

Springer: .270/.363/.503, 126 wRC+
Ozuna: .277/.357/.514, 125 wRC+

4) Blue Jays

The Blue Jays are a team on the upswing, with a collection of highly touted young players and a farm system that could continue to bear fruit.

The club is reportedly willing to increase payroll after making the postseason in 2020, and it has been connected to Springer throughout the offseason. Toronto arguably needs him more than any team on this list.

The Blue Jays actually had one of the game’s most productive outfields last season, as and both improved, but FanGraphs doesn’t expect the team to get 2.0 WAR from any outfield spot in 2021.

Springer would give the club’s lineup a battle-tested veteran star, much like was for the pitching staff last season.

So why don't they rank higher? Mainly because the other teams on this list are closer to being finished products.

The Jays have a bunch of question marks in their rotation and bullpen, and they need more production from They're also part of the AL East, and the Rays and Yankees aren't going away.

Still, a Springer signing could go a long way toward helping the Blue Jays establish themselves as an AL power in 2021.