George Springer contract: TCB writers react to the story

Because it's one of the best Photoshops Ryan has done. - Ryan Dunsmore

Another crazy-long email thread as the Springer news breaks late Wednesday night.

The TCB writer email list may be the best part of being on staff and it may be the worst. I'm not sure which. Last night, when the story about George Springer's contract broke, it started a pretty lengthy discussion by the staff. Here it is, in all its glory and emotion.

Chris:

http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/story/system-discourages-teams-like-astros-from-promoting-top-prospects-to-majors-031914

wtf?

"Yet last September, the Astros offered him a seven-year, $23 million contract, according to major-league sources.
Springer, 24, rejected the offer, sources said, declining to give up three years of arbitration and one year of free agency."

Wait, seriously?

Irish Pete:

Wow

Anthony:

lol

Tim:

That seems really low considering the deals players have previously gotten.

I think that might say something about what the Astros feel his future will be.

Irish Pete:

But is this an unprecedented contract extension considering he has not registered an MLB plate appearance.

Kel:

Drellich says story is leaked bc Springer is pissed off he's not a big leaguer. This is a concern.

Tim:

I would be too, if I was in his position.

Clack:

He might try hitting in spring training if he wants to be a big leaguer.

Kel:

He very well might be pressing.

Alex:

Probably not, seeing as he's making an extra effort to draw walks. Probably trying to tell the regime he can do whatever they ask him, and if they want him to walk, he's prepared and can adjust accordingly. Basically, he's saying the minors don't have anything left to teach him.

Chris:

Sounds like complete speculation to me. More likely, story was leaked BC somebody else is pissed he's not a major leaguer.

Kel:

http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2014/03/19/the-astros-are-playing-dirty-pool-with-a-top-prospect/

Luhnow taking serious heat.

Sean:

Brutal! I thought this would be the year that fans started to turn on this front office.

"GM Jeff Luhnow lied through his teeth in November, saying Springer wasn't called up because of 40-man roster issues."

Brooks:

This backlash is ridiculous.

It's literally the exact same thing the rays did. Except it worked out for the rays and longoria signed. Had springer accepted luhnow would have been praised.

Longoria was up for six days when he signed. If you think the rays figured it out in six days you're full of it. Longoria gave verbal agreement and they put together the official contract. And the Astros offered a higher annual salary than the rays.

Be pissed at the system not luhnow.

I imagine this happens more than we know.

Tim:

From the business side it's fine and even smart, but from a fan and player perspective it sucks. It really sucks.

Brooks:

I don't disagree.

But there's only one precedent for this situation, and it's longoria. This is a slightly better offer than that. So how is it insulting? How is that shameful?

Tim:

I think an argument can be made that it's insulting the player and I think an argument can be made that it's shameful to the game of baseball.

I don't know that I'll make those arguments, but I do feel a little robbed that I haven't seen what Springer can do at the major league level.

Sean:

I can't blame Springer for not taking this low ball offer.

It's a gamble that the Astros made and lost.

At the same time he's not really making this a hard decision for the Astros. The fans are, but he's not helping his case this spring.

Javier Baez on the other hand is going to make this a really hard decision for the Cubs. If I'm the Cubs I promote this guy right now. He's a beast.

Ashitaka:

I'm with Brooks that the backlash to this is ludicrous. Springer has real issues with strikeouts, and they were going to guarantee him more money before he's even seen MLB pitching than most people make in their lifetimes? Boo hoo. Boo hoo.

If he wanted to be a Major Leaguer, he had his chance and passed on it. His decision. He should be happy that they were willing to take such a risk on him; I categorically would not. They could have never even made the offer and just held him back as is usual, as is logical.

Springer didn't earn anything. He signed a contract, as an intelligent adult, and it's his job to play his best so long as he's under contract. Period. Leave it to Rosenthal and the like to get all hot and bothered over this; they've been weeping and moaning for several years now because we've been "disgracing" the game of baseball. The real disgrace is that systems like this are even in place. Like Brooks said, hate the system, not the one doing what they have to in order to survive in said system. The Yankees and their nearly quarter of a billion dollar payroll is a far bigger disgrace to baseball in my eyes. Even the playing field for the other teams before you want to rail against a team drowning in losses, debt, network failure and a blackmailed move to the American League that try to be fiscally responsible.

I'm sorry, this is harsh and I want to make it clear that I'm not directing this anger at any of you, just in case there was any misunderstanding. People acting entitled or who defend people who are acting entitled really boils me. There are people dying, starving, being imprisoned and persecuted all over the world. Those people have it rough. George Springer is entitled only what the contract he chose to sign guarantees him. Don't expect me to weep for a young, healthy, happy guy living in the most free land in the world who was offered $23 million in advance of any actual performance and turned it down; I have no tears to shed for that.

David:

Here's the thing. Springer has contact issues. We know this. We've talked about this for six or seven months now. We've talked about why his strikeout rate matters and why it doesn't matter. But, the fact is that even with his ridiculous contact problems, he still hit really, really, really ridiculously well last season. If Jon Singleton slashed .311/.425/.626 in Triple-A last season, he'd be starting at first base.

Springer didn't prove he could play in the majors this spring? Well, he absolutely proved he deserved a shot last year and the team held him down for money. That is a legitimate complaint about this front office. As I said a couple days ago in another thread, there's not a thing we can learn from Springer going back to Triple-A for two or three months. I can understand him starting there for service time issues, but keeping him down there until July only sets back his development.

Also, I'm not going to get mad about him wanting to maximize his earning potential. Sure, there'd be some security to signing for $23 million. But, if his agents are telling him he can make $30 million in arbitration alone, can you blame him for turning the deal down? He's going to play baseball for maybe 10-12 years. Why not try and make as much money as he can?

By the way, this also explains why we won't see Springer up anywhere near that mid-April deadline to give him another year of service time. With this out in the public arena, I have no doubt Springer would win any appeal on service time shenanigans, which means the Astros have to keep him down for silly reasons. Did you see Luhnow said he had to "learn how to play right field?" That's ludicrous. That's a delaying tactic and not even a very good one.

This whole thing really bums me out when I was already at a low point about the upcoming season.

Chris:

I'm with Brooks and Brian, with one exception. It seems we've accepted as fact that Springer or his people are complicit in leaking this story, and that he is in fact "upset that he's not a big-leaguer". I cry bullcrap. Here's yesterday's Springer quote, courtesy of Peter Gammons:

"This game is a about learning, and learning to make adjustments," says Springer. "I am still learning about going deeper in counts, in walking more, but there may come a point where (as Trout has said) I have to go back and be more aggressive in counts. I feel I have learned a lot this spring, because I'm facing major league pitchers. This is an educational process. I've worked hard at at-bats, at seeing pitches, in being disciplined."

That doesn't sound like a guy who's going to get all publicly hot and bothered about not being a big-leaguer. Everything I've read about him is about how gosh-darn reasonable he is. His dad's a prominent attorney - likely a guy who understands that MLB is a business and would impart that understanding to his son (a little presumption here...but I have more faith in this than I do in somebody who creates SB Nation accounts, and blasts bloggers for hating on their son, of having any sort of reasonable perspective on that son's career). Again, all sources seemed (before yesterday) to agree that Springer is a hard worker and enthusiastic teammate.

I think the Astros probably made the offer. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that they make some sort of offer to ALL of their future-MLB prospects, even the lower ones if they think they'll make it to the Show, recognizing that the gamble of an up-front payday is maybe friendlier to the team than the gamble of arbitration. I also think somebody leaked this for personal reasons, perhaps an aunt or uncle, or somebody who works for Springer's agent, out of the same misguided sense of "unfairness" that some media members spout. Hell, it could easily have been somebody within the Astros!

Pouliot, who wrote the CBS article, is bat-crap-stupid to call the Astros' contract offer "extortion." How the living crap is it extortion to OFFER TO PAY SOMEBODY 23 MILLION DOLLARS? Did the Astros say, "Take our 23 million, or we'll break your kneecaps?"

"Sources told Rosenthal that the Astros offered Springer a seven-year, $23 million contract last September. The obvious, obvious implication being "you sign this and we'll give you your callup." After all, once the Astros have Springer signed to the bargain deal, there's no longer any reason to play games with his service time."

That is so damned stupid that it's making me swear more than I like to in an email. The Astros offered him a contract and gave him an ultimatum? NEWS FLASH, Pouliot: That is extortion, and it's a criminal offense. If the Astros had done such a thing, Springer's agent would lawyer up so fast it would make Jeff Luhnow's head spin. Just a ridiculous, ridiculous assumption.

I don't see a club looking to extort a player. I see a club willing to invest $23 million dollars for the next seven years on a guy who has had absolutely no playing time in the major leagues. That tells me they think he will be a significant contributor over the next seven years. Pop Quiz: How many minor league baseball players make the major leagues, stay in it for seven years, and earn $23 million dollars or more in that time? I don't know either, but I'm pretty sure the number is close to zero percent. The Astros are gambling that Springer will be worth more than $23 mil over that time, and wants to potentially save cash. Springer is gambling that he will be worth more than $23 mil and so declined the offer. Both perspectives speak highly of George Springer, and I don't see a problem with any of this.

To sum up:
1) I think this is blown out of proportion
2) I really doubt the claim that Springer feels he is owed something, or that the Astros are treating him poorly
3) Just because the story was leaked, it doesn't automatically mean that it came from somebody in "Springer's Camp"
4) I have no problem with the Astros offering early contracts to players
5) The story is only interesting because of the 23-million offer and it's comp to Longoria.

I think a compilation post of our reactions on this subject would make a great article on this story.

Ashitaka:

I guess I'm the only one, but I wouldn't be surprised in the least if he busts completely still. He's going to play for a decade and make $30+ million before even hitting free agency? That seems optimistic to me, to say the least.

I just can never complain about a team holding someone back for an extra month or two for money, not when the game is so slanted to the players already. Guys are making $20 million per year in free agency routinely now because the MLBPA has so much power. I'm a capitalist too, but there has to be a balance between that and what's good for the health of the game. If the NFL didn't coddle QBs so much, there would be unparalleled competitive balance in that league, and a large part of the reason why is that the hard salary cap makes it possible for every team to retain certain players and impossible for any team to snatch up every good free agent. As long as the MLBPA wants to insist on no salary cap, I'm perfectly fine with teams being smart and playing the rules that have been slanted towards the player's favor for the last 20 years now.

Chris:

From Pouliot:

"Springer, though, was denied a September callup as Brandon Barnes and Trevor Crowe (both now departed) finished up the season in center. GM Jeff Luhnow lied through his teeth in November, saying Springer wasn't called up because of 40-man roster issues."

This Pouliot guys is an idiot. The whole premise of his article is on his own assumption that the Astros extorted Springer. Last time I checked, there WERE 40-man roster issues, and dozens of potential Rule 5 guys to protect, that we all talked about ad-nauseum. I hate revisionist history just to back up some writer's drama-riddled conspiracy theories.

Ashitaka:

After I sent the email, I became worried that, in the heat of the moment, I would come off as seeming like I was blaming Springer for having a bad attitude or him directly for leaking the story. I should clarify that I'm not convinced that that's true and I don't want to be blaming him for this. It would seem to go against everything we've heard previously about him being a high character guy.

Now one of his agents or something....

Ashitaka:

This. I remember the 40-man issues very well, and even with the finagling, we still weren't able to protect everyone.

Let's be honest; do we think Pouliot was actually following the Astros closely enough to know the state of the 40-man roster and the Rule 5 implications they were dealing with? Of course not. He's labeling him a liar in print based on his own assumptions. That's horrible journalism.

Chris:

David, where's the quote about Springer needing to learn RF? It's not in any of the articles related to the contract offer. Is it just a quote taken out of context somewhere? He does need to learn right field. Whether he does that here or there or in North Korea might be irrelevant to the context of the quote. Unless Luhnow said, "The only reason he's still in the minor leagues is because he needs to learn how to play right field," then I refuse to believe it's a delaying tactic. More likely, it has to do with right field, 40-man roster issues, saving money until Super-Two or whatever, Springer's K-rate, wanting to see a bit more of Hoes and Grossman to see if they have something there, giving Springer MiLB playoff experience, and any number of issues. Nothing's that simple.

David:

Oh, no, I completely agree with you that Springer has a very high bust rate. But, I can also understand where he's coming from. He believes he's going to be good. He sees the team offering him a seven-year deal and thinks that means the team believes he can be that good. Why wouldn't he then assume he's going to have a 10-year career? Of course it makes sense then for him to go after all the money he can.

We are fans of a team, so we immediately support the team being fiscally responsible. But, I just can't blame a player for wanting to maximize his financial return.

Chris, the quotes about Springer weren't from the contract talk. It was from this piece by Jerry Crasnick on the Astros future. It wan't a direct quote from Luhnow, but it seemed to come from him.

"Luhnow characterized Springer and Singleton as "close," and expects both of them to arrive in Houston at some point this summer. Springer's biggest challenge at the moment is adjusting to right field to accommodate Fowler in center field."

That is patently absurd. That's like saying his biggest challenge is opening a box of cereal in the morning. If that's his biggest challenge, he should be starting Opening Day.

Chris:

That quote is ambiguous. Did the "Springer's biggest challenge" part come from Luhnow or from Crasnick? If Luhnow, it's also GM-speak. What's he going to say, "We're waiting to delay his arbitration clock because it could cost us as much as $20 million down the road, and we're having financial difficulties and have no idea if we'll even be on TV by the time he hits arbitration."?

Brooks:

I think you are under selling the differences of playing RF vs CF.

I used to think there wasn't much difference too. But I had this discussion with a friend of mine who played all 3 at Ohio St.

Even at that level, there are lots of differences in how you read the ball off the bat. It takes some getting used to. Not to say he isn't familiar with it already, but there is an adjustment to doing it on a par with a MLers on a daily basis.

Chris:

I know it sounds like I'm towing the company line here or something, but this whole story has been rife with quotes of dubious context and assumptions from people that have nothing to do with Springer or his contract. Just saying, I find stories like this frustrating, because they're sensationalist, based on very little facts, and are full of hearsay and group-think. And really...I see no issue with the Astros' offer, or with Springer declining it.

Ashitaka:

Okay, we're in agreement then. I don't blame Springer for turning them down at all; if he wants to take the risk and try to make more, that's his decision and I have no problem with it. It's the people who then whine that he's not in the Majors and they're being unfair that I have a problem with; unless he's the one doing the whining or leaking, I have no problem with him.

And I have a particular problem with the national writers who don't pay any attention to us unless they see an opportunity to blast us for something they don't like. Where was their outrage when MLB trampled on the wishes of the fan base, ownership and our 50 years of history in the NL to essentially blackmail Crane into agreeing to the move? The national writers can stuff it.

illinibob:

Chris, I hear you loud and clear but I take issue with one point. If Springer had indeed signed the contract, he would indeed be starting in the outfield on opening day against the Yankees. Because there would indeed be no reason for him not to.

I have no problem with them making the offer and I have no problem with him turning it down. Risks on both sides.

Chris:

Understood, but again, that's based on the assumption that the Astros don't think he has actual developmental reasons to start in AAA. I think he could be a ML starter this year. I also very easily could be persuaded that his AAA performance was a small sample in a hitter-friendly league, and that he needs a little more time to face advanced pitching before the Astros make the wrong decision and stunt his growth by putting him in a situation that's over his head.

David:

But, Springer does have 18 games experience playing right field in the minors. That may not prepare him to play every day in the minors, but all his time in right field this spring combined with that time in the minors should make it a relatively easy transition. It's not like he's learning a completely new position.

Chris, the statement wasn't attributed to anyone, but a writer like Crasnick isn't going to make assumptions or give his opinion there. He's writing what he heard from the coaches or GM. I'm assuming it was Luhnow, since that's who he leads the paragraph off with. But, he also had a quote from Porter and it could just have easily come from him.

I don't have a problem with the Astros offer. I even supported such a move last summer. I don't have a problem with Springer turning it down. He should make as much money as he feels he deserves, and deal with the consequences if he busts or gets hurt.

What I have a problem with is the fact that he's still in the minors now for dubious reasons. He should have been up last season and he should be starting this season in right field. Delaying him for any significant length of time now, after this story is out there, makes it seem like one or both sides are being petulant. That may not be the reality, but did we really need something like this hanging over the season? All we want is to see the first wave of prospects get to the majors. Now, we're dealing with this, Singleton's demons, Folty's elbow issues and Correa getting hit in the hand.

Chris:

I guess where we disagree is that I don't consider the financial implications on the Astros down the road, his strikeout/contact problems, and wanting to see a bit more of Hoes and Grossman as dubious reasons. But I do understand your argument.

I do agree that the Astros' drama is making me nauseous. But I guess minor leaguers have crap like this all the time, but people don't usually notice because they're paying attention to the big-league club instead. We don't have that luxury. :(

Ashitaka:

In regards to that last part, what should they do now then? Call him up, blowing their plan to be smart about the financial aspect, just to avoid a bad look? Or should they just come out and say "yeah, we're keeping him down for financial reasons," instead of the talk about learning RF and all? Not to mention that if they give in now after this, then the person that leaked the story got exactly what they wanted; sets a pretty bad precedent.

illinibob:

That may be very true, but you're not suggesting that if he HAD signed a 7 year 23 million dollar deal, he might be collecting it in Oklahoma City? He would be announced as the starting right fielder inside of 20 seconds, and he would have been somewhere in this past offseason,either AFL or winter ball, learning right field.

Chris:

I think you're right. But that doesn't mean the Astros were extorting Springer. If the financial burden of arbitration/FA were removed, there's less incentive for the Astros to keep him in the minors. But with him rejecting their offer, that future cost is very real. The whole thing has more to do with the Astros' money than it does about holding an axe over Springer's neck. I think that's a damn shame, but I can't say I have a problem with what the Astros supposedly did here. If the problem is the system, it's silly to blame the people who use it.

David:

All of those reasons are fine. I get them (except about seeing more of Hoes over Springe right). I also don't think his contact issues are small, but as I've said, I don't know that more Triple-A time will tell us much there.

But, once the extension story is out there, it paints everything in a different light. So, the Astros are okay with Springer being an Opening Day right fielder if he signs, but once he turns it down, he has to stay down until July?

The reason this whole story bums me out is that they can't say they're holding him down for financial reasons. His agent would file a grievance so fast, and he'd probably win. So, they have to imply he needs to work on playing right field and that they need to see him make better contact. That he needs to get in an offensive groove after a "disappointing" spring. It's what they have to do to make sure they get their financial benefit.

But, for those of us hoping to see some improvement on the field in 2014, this is a bad, bad thing. Springer could have become a big part of this lineup, both offensively and defensively, even with his contact issues. Now, all we can hope is that he has a Wil Myers-type impact in the middle of the season.

Aaand now he's back down to Minor League Camp.

Chris:

And once he's called up, we'll all forget about this, just like the Rays fan (or two) who actually pay attention to baseball.

Idrees:

Count me in with the crowd that doesn't see what all of the commotion is about. There is nothing wrong that the Astros did, and nothing wrong that Springer's camp did. In fact, I think they both made the right decision. The biggest thing I got out of the article is that the Astros front office is particularly high on Springer. So high, in fact, that they already project him to get quite expensive if they were simply to go year-by-year with him through the arbitration process. So, in order to help mitigate that risk of paying Springer some big amounts in the next 3-4 years, they offered him up front money now. There is a reason these types of deals are called team-friendly deals. This wouldn't be the first time, and certainly won't be the last. Springer, on the other hand, has 2 options; either take the deal now and the financial security that comes with it, or if he believes in his ability as much as the Astros, simply say no thank you, and understand that he very well could make more. Nothing wrong, unethical, or dubious about any of this from any of the parties. This is similar to when Appel didn't sign with the Pirates because he felt like he deserved to get more than what he was offered. I do admit that has to take fortitude to believe in your talent so much that would lead you to turn down that much guaranteed money. And he got blasted for doing so. But a year later what happened? He proved all of his critics wrong, and signed for more money, which was closer to what he thought he was worth.

Key takeaways for me are:
1.) Astros are high on Springer and think he will be very good.
2.) Given the current system, all teams are given different options on how to deal with their prospects. Offering this type of contract is just one option. A financially prudent one at that.
3.) Springer and his camp have every right to reject the deal, and they did so because they feel he will produce highly at the major league level, and earn more over the span of those 7 years than what was offered. Good for them.
4.) If everyone understands that sports is a business, then why does everyone throw a fit when it is run like a business? This is simply another instance of the national media seeing the Astros as an easy target. Sensationalism at its finest, these guys have to find something to write about I guess.
5.) I don't blame the Astros for making the offer, and I don't blame Springer for rejecting it.

Chris:

A-Men!

Idrees:

David, I understand your criticism, but I'd like to address your question, "But, once the extension story is out there, it paints everything in a different light. So, the Astros are okay with Springer being an Opening Day right fielder if he signs, but once he turns it down, he has to stay down until July?"

I think this is absolutely what happened, but I don't see anything wrong with it from the Astros' perspective. If he signs, then there are no financial savings associated with his start time. So they have the freedom and flexibility to call him up any time after that. If it would not have been last year, he probably would have a starting spot come Opening Day, even with his current spring.

But, since he did not sign, the financial implications are still there, so now they have to be more cognizant on when they decide to start his clock. I think the Astros' front office fully understands what situation the team is currently in, and that starting Springer's career 6 or 9 months early has little reward (winning 5 more games) over a big cost (let's assume $15M over the next few years). Doing a risk/reward analysis, their conclusion was to save the money. This will have future ramifications, as I am sure they envisioned and considered. Just as they save the money, one of their top prospects loses out on that money, so he will naturally not be happy about it. That means you can probably throw any future "hometown discounts" out the door, and be prepared for him and his agent to play hardball in any and all future dealings with you.

In theory, I see the service time issue with Springer akin to an employer that has 2 employees - one on salary, and one getting paid hourly. They can ask the one on salary to work any sorts of hours, 50-60 hours a week, and it doesn't matter to the employer, they don't pay a single dime more. However, they very much will plan and scrutinize the hourly employee's hours, if they want to avoid paying overtime. I don't see that as inherently evil or dubious or unfair, I just see it as prudent financial planning.

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