Free agent season is upon us! It will be unlike any other, which makes sense, following a season unlike any other. You can’t expect things to start getting normal now.
For the next few weeks, we’ll be taking regular looks at the top free agents, their top suitors … and ranking ‘em. There are plenty of teams who want the top-tier options, the platinum plan, the Glengarry leads. But who’s most likely to sign them? That’s the goal of the Free Agency Power Rankings: To give you our best guess.
Today, we look at George Springer. Springer is the 2017 World Series MVP, though it is undeniable that the team he won that MVP for, and the circumstances surrounding that team, have changed dramatically since that happened. Fortunately for Springer, it’s difficult to argue he should have any sort of shadow hanging over him: His best two seasons have been the past two, and he has become a legitimate 30-plus-homers-a-year hitter. He also strikes out far below the league average, he’s a smart, fast baserunner, and he can still play a splendid center field. Who wouldn’t want George Springer on their team?
But which team will get him? Let’s rank the likelihood of some Springer predictions.
To be fair, if you’re asking me to pick between the Astros and The Field, I’d absolutely pick The Field. The Astros have plenty of outfield holes and it’s not like there’s this overwhelming sense that the team is trying to reassure its fans that it’s not going to lose its longtime star. The best guess is still “other team.” However, the market for Springer is a fascinating one, one that is surely going to take a long time to develop. After all, he might be the best overall player on the market, he’s not that old, and he’s going to want a long-term deal. Even in a pandemic, a team is going to give that to him.
But even acknowledging all of those things working against Houston, it does have one thing working in its favor: an existing relationship. The longer this free agency courtship goes on -- and it seems to be shaping up to be quite the long haul -- the more teams may settle up their rosters and thus drop out of the bidding, and then the more likely it is the Astros (again, a team that obviously needs him) can hang in. The guess here is that he probably leaves. But the guess here also is that, with no obvious team leaping out at him above the others, the Astros can hang in the mix for a while. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
This was my colleague Mike Petriello’s pick, and it’s not difficult to see why. They are, after all, a team with a new owner, seem to have money to spend, and Springer is a game-changer of a free agent. The question is where the Mets should focus that money, considering the clear fits of both Trevor Bauer and J.T. Realmuto, and the less-clear fit of Springer in a semi-crowded outfield. But you want to improve the Mets immediately? Signing George Springer is an excellent way to do that.
3. Red Sox
If Jackie Bradley Jr. leaves, as is expected, the Red Sox have an opening in center field. They should have the money to spend and plenty of desire to upgrade their roster, and there’s no quicker way to do it than by bringing in Springer. He can’t pitch, which is a downer, but he’d be an immediate hit in Boston (which is only a state over from Connecticut, where he grew up, to top all of that). And if they can get J.D. Martinez going again as well, that upgraded offense would be a nightmare to face.
4. White Sox
All those young players, reigning MVP José Abreu and George Springer for the next 4-6 years? Clearly the White Sox are a team to take seriously, but if they do this, they probably pass the Twins for best team in the division, right? And don’t dismiss this out of hand. Remember, they were close on Manny Machado, and Springer won’t be as expensive and won’t require as much of a long-term deal.
This is contingent on them not being able to re-sign Marcell Ozuna, but Springer is a better all-around player and would be absolutely incredible next to Ronald Acuña Jr. for the next five years. If Springer wants to make sure he’s on a contender every year for the next half-decade, this is the spot.
The fit for the Cardinals is obvious. They need a center fielder -- Dexter Fowler is too old to play there, Harrison Bader hasn’t proven he can hit and they’d rather play Dylan Carlson in left -- and, even more than that, they need a big bat in the lineup. But if they’re not willing to pay $11.5 million for Kolten Wong to play second base for one year, it’s difficult to imagine them paying Springer potentially twice that for four or five times as long.
They have an outfield spot open, and they’re in need of a Juan Soto running mate. And with the Braves having passed them and the Mets willing to spend (and the Phillies not exactly idle either, and the Marlins having made the playoffs last year), it feels like it might be time to do something.
Angels: Rather than trying to stop the other team from scoring, just run it up on ‘em.
Blue Jays: There’s always a chance they go big on a veteran to supplement the youngsters.
Brewers: Maybe? If Springer’s market collapses for some reason, the Brewers have shown an ability to be creative.
Cubs: If they clear out some spots and money through trades, this would be a way to ensure the future.
D-backs: Everyone’s waiting to see what direction the D-backs go next.
Indians: If they clear out Francisco Lindor and are feeling out-of-character aggressive?
Giants: Hey, they did almost make the playoffs last year.
Phillies: The rest of the division is in danger of lapping the Phillies.
Rangers: Stealing from the cross-state division rivals might be fun, but they’re pretty far from contending.
Tigers: He’d have his old manager back, and he’d be a definitive building block for them. But would he really want to do this?
Yankees: Well, you always have to include them.