Alongside the likes of Trevor Bauer and J.T. Realmuto, outfielder George Springer remains one of the top free-agents still on the market.
The 31-year-old is coming off a 2020 season with the Astros in which he posted a .265/.359/.540 slash to go along with 14 home runs and 32 RBI over 51 games played, which was enough to finish 13th in American League MVP voting.
While there have not been too many definitive rumblings as to where Springer could land this offseason, it is apparent that the Blue Jays and the Mets are pursuing the three-time All-Star the hardest.
That being the case because according to The Athletic’s Jayson Stark, “indications are [Toronto’s] No. 1 free-agent priority is still center fielder George Springer.”
MLB Network’s Jon Paul Morosi, meanwhile, notes that Springer “has drawn the most significant interest from the Blue Jays and Mets” and “the 31-year-old is said to have a preference to play near his home state of Connecticut.”
Given that reported preference, Springer — a UCONN product — would seem more likely to lean towards signing with the Mets, although New York might be limited in what they can do now in order to stay under the $210 million luxury tax threshold.
As SNY’s Andy Martino wrote on Friday, “Once the Mets traded for Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco last week, their pursuit of Springer downshifted significantly, according to people involved in the talks.”
Martino also reports that Springer, who does not turn 32 until September, has a five-year deal on the table from the Blue Jays worth anywhere from $115 million to $125 million.
Assuming what has already been reported is true, it does not seem like the two-time Silver Slugger will remain on the open market for too much longer.
That being said, the possibility still remains that Springer could remain unsigned going into the start of spring training, as has been the case with past coveted free-agents such as Bryce Harper and Manny Machado in 2019.
In that scenario, it might not be too crazy for a team that has not been seriously linked to the right-handed hitting, 6-foot-3, 221 lb. outfielder to this point, like the Red Sox for instance, to explore a potential deal there.
Of course, any team outside of the Astros that signs Springer would have to forfeit a second-round draft pick as well as $500,000 in international signing bonus pool money due to the fact that Houston extended a qualifying offer, which was later rejected, to its former first-round draft pick in November.
Even with that caveat in mind, though, the Sox could at least consider negotiating with Springer if he is still a free agent come mid to late-February.
MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo discussed that possibility with MLB.com’s Ian Browne and The Boston Sports Journal’s Sean McAdam on the latest installment of the Fenway Rundown podcast.
“I think if the bottom falls out of this George Springer market, and he is unsigned into spring training, which it feels like the Mets aren’t going there, the Blue Jays are a lot of talk and not a lot of action like another team we know… If the bottom really falls out of that, I think [the Red Sox] will legitimately consider whether it’s worth giving up a second-round pick for him. He might be the one exception to that rule there,” Cotillo said.
“He has the talent of somebody you would give up a second-round pick for. That would justify cheaping out on some of these other guys if they go out and get George Springer,” Browne added.
“He solves a ton of problems. He gives you an above-average defender in center — I don’t think he’s equal to [Jackie Bradley Jr.] but he’s good — but more importantly…he’s a terrific leadoff option. So you don’t have to worry about, in the event that [Andrew] Benintendi somehow stayed, putting [Benintendi] there since he’s not crazy about it. [Alex] Verdugo, I think, has made it well known that while he’ll do it, he’d prefer to hit lower. So it takes care of your leadoff guy.
“And as we know, Springer has shown himself to be a fabulous October player. He’s had a ton of experience on the big stage with Houston the last four years. So, presumably, if someone can do that in the big moment in October, then playing in Boston with expectations would not be anything that would rattle him. Of course, he’s got a New England background having gone to UCONN,” said McAdam.
“And Alex Cora. There are some damaged relationships from all the fallout of the Astros’ scandal. That’s not one of them. Alex has said that he communicates with Springer pretty frequently, so that won’t be an issue,” concluded Cotillo.
So, even though Queens may be slightly closer to New Britain, Conn. — Springer’s hometown — than Boston, it’s probably fair to say that the Red Sox, with chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom at the helm, cannot be ruled out of the Springer sweepstakes at this point in time.
If push were to come to shove within the next few weeks, then perhaps former UCONN right-hander turned Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes, who was teammates with Springer on the Huskies baseball team from 2009-2011, would be willing to do some recruiting as well.
(Picture of George Springer: Rob Tringali/SportsChrome/Getty Images)