Are the Red Sox out of the mix for free-agent George Springer?
New England native George Springer has been linked to the Boston Red Sox in the rumor mill since he hit the open market but their chances of landing the prized free-agent outfielder appear to be slipping away.
A return to the Houston Astros is looking highly unlikely, opening the door for other teams to try luring Springer with a lucrative offer. As one of the top free-agent bats in this class who provides solid defense at a premium position, Springer is going to demand a hefty salary.
Several clubs have shown an interest in Springer but according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, two have emerged as the most serious suitors. One of those teams resides in the AL East – but it’s not the Red Sox.
"“Springer might be the most fascinating of all because of the teams vying for his services: the New York Mets and Toronto Blue Jays,” Passan wrote. “There are others, too, but executives believe this is a two-team race between the duo seen as the likely biggest spenders this winter.”"
The Red Sox have a vacancy in center field with Jackie Bradley Jr. hitting free agency and Springer is by far the top option on the market to fill that void. The three-time All-Star owns a .278/.364/.515 slash line over the last four seasons and has twice topped 30 homers in that span, including a career-high 39 home runs in 2019.
A player of Springer’s caliber undoubtedly would make the Red Sox better next season. The question is whether or not he’s worth the price when they have so many other needs to address, particularly with the pitching staff. MLB Trade Rumors predicted Springer would get a 5-year, $125 million deal. Anything close to that would eat up a significant chunk of Boston’s available budget, leaving them with less to spend on a starting pitcher and reinforcements for the bullpen.
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Springer isn’t nearly the Gold Glove caliber defender that Bradley Jr. is but he’s still well above-average, producing six defensive runs saved as a center fielder this year. He’s 31 years old though and there are questions about if he can stick at the position for the duration of his next contract. Springer is worth $25 million per year if he remains productive at the plate and in the field but he would be vastly overpaid if forced to switch positions. Corner outfielders with 30+ home run upside and a decent batting average aren’t difficult to find for half the price.
Money isn’t the only factor since Springer declined a qualifying offer from Houston, meaning it will cost the Red Sox their second-round draft pick in order to sign him. That’s a relatively steep price for a team picking early in each round, especially when you consider the Red Sox were docked a second-round pick in the 2020 draft as punishment stemming from the sign-stealing investigation. Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom is determined to restock Boston’s depleted farm system and sacrificing that draft pick would be detrimental to those efforts..
Toronto has a talented young core to build around and their payroll isn’t burdened by expensive contracts. After making the leap to the postseason a Wild Card last season, the Blue Jays appear poised to invest in a difference-maker that helps launch them into the mix of contenders. The Mets are expected to be ready to spend under new ownership. These teams are better positioned to spurge on a high-priced free-agent.
Signing Springer would be the big splash the Red Sox need to excite their fan base but it’s not the best long-term move. He would hep Boston climb out of the basement but this team isn’t a true contender until they are certain that Chris Sale and Eduardo Rodriguez can return to form following lost seasons. Without their co-aces in vintage form, this team isn’t winning anything regardless of who they sign in free agency.