With the ever on-going discussion of Bryce Harper’s contract, I started thinking about George Springer and what an extension would look like and if it would make sense for the Astros to pursue it.
So let’s start with who George Spinger is:
Springer, 29, is a 6’3 215lb outfielder, drafted 11th overall in the 2011 draft due to a combination of spectacular athleticism and easy power. Here are two exerts that TCB writers had in their article when profiling him in this article at the time of his draft:
At 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, Springer has a skill set rarely seen among college players. He generates plus raw power with explosive bat speed. He has a plus arm and is a plus runner, and he’s a smooth defender in center field. – Baseball America
Springer is a superior athlete. He’s an above-average runner with a plus arm and raw power, and has the type of body you rarely see on college position players because guys who look like this are signed out of high school. He has tremendous bat speed, can turn on good velocity and has a history of running deep counts, although he lacks a two-strike approach. – Keith Law
And in 2014, prior to being called up, this is what John Sickels had written about him:
“2) George Springer, OF, Grade A-: Borderline B+. I love this guy too. He makes the game fun to watch with his power, speed, and defensive ability. He’ll draw walks too. He will also strike out quite a bit and may never be a .280 hitter, but even with a so-so average his broad range of skills and tools will make him a highly productive regular at the least and possibly an All-Star.”
I know, I know, almost everyone on this board is familiar with his performance in the majors since it’s been 100% with the Astros. In his first 4 full years as an Astro, Springer has had the following statline:
From an fWAR perspective, Springer has been worth 16.3 WAR across those 4 seasons. That would rank at 9th best in baseball (out of 115 qualified outfielders).
Offensively, Springer continues to be a dominant force, owning a 129 wRC+ for his career, and he has been remarkably consistent with his triple slash ranging between .261-.283/.346-.367/.434-.522, with a notable drop in his strikeout rate.
Defensively, he is ranked slightly above average in RF in UZR, and slightly below in CF. He has received positive marks throughout his career for his arm.
Springer possesses above average speed (27.7 fps / 4.32 seconds to 1st), but is not elite like it once was. There is a concerning drop in his speed over the last few years (28.8 fps in 2015, 28.4 fps in 2016, 28.0 fps in 2017, and 27.7 in 2018), which may be why he has gathered a negative BsR score over the past 3 years and has led the league in Caught Stealing.
What would it take?
At the end of his current deal, Springer will be 31, which tends to be a precarious age for signing of longer term deals. The Astros have not been too risk averse in this sense if their signings of Reddick (30), and Brantley (31) are any indication.
Truthfully, the recent Charlie Blackmon extension seems to be the most ideal candidate for comparison, signing a 6 year $108 million dollar extension during his last year under club control (originally negotiated to be $14 Mil) at the age of 31. In the 4 years prior to his extension, Blackmon produced a nearly identical 16 WAR to Springers, but the spread was significantly different, (1.3, 2.5, 4.7, 6.5 vs 3.9, 4.9, 4.6, 2.9), it’s tough for me to argue if the higher peak – especially when trending upwards vs the lower peak but consistency has more value. Springer is 2 years younger, but also has 2 years of club control remaining.
If the Astros were to extend Springer now, they would be buying out 1 year at $12 Million, and his last year of arbitration (let’s assume $15 Million). He would be 2 years younger at the time of signing his deal, which would add a significant amount of value to his deal.
For another comparison, Justin Upton signed a $132.8M / 6 year free agent contract in 2016 (was restructured/extended in 2018 to be a 5 year $106 Mil – adding 1 year but back loading the contract). Upton was the same age as Springer currently is, with a longer track record of success. With that said, Upton was a Free Agent which obviously drives up the price.
So what do I think it would take? Honestly, a 6 year, $114 Million dollar contract seems to be close. It would allow us to buy out his current year, ($12M) and last year of Arbitration ($15M?) – meaning we would essentially be signing him for 4/$87.
I think we will continue to see somewhat of a downward trend with Springer’s speed, which may spell a shift from CF where he’s already a slightly below average defensively. There are challenges associated with our roster construction if you take that into consideration, but he should be able to slide into Right Field once Reddick’s contract has expired (or been moved).
$114 Million dollar signing is nothing to scoff at, and from an analytics approach, I’m honestly not sure it’s the right decision. But I’ll fully admit that I am more torn about keeping Springer than Correa or even Bregman. Don’t get me wrong, I think both are better players, but there seems to be something contagious about his personality and excitement. I would love for him to spend his career as an Astro.
Let me know your thoughts, is the price too high? Too low? Would you do it?
What do you think of the 6 year $114 million extension?
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