The Astros have reached full maturity as a franchise. From full rebuild before 2015, to contenders, to youthful champions, to continued excellence as a veteran team, and coming soon, a slow decline. The youthful champions of 2017 are ready to get fully paid, and the Astros can’t afford to keep all of them.
Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve, half the Astros Core Four, are signed to long-term contracts. That leaves George Springer and Carlos Correa left to be re-signed. Springer becomes a free agent after this season. Correa enters free agency after 2021.
It is highly unlikely that the Astros can afford to re-sign both. True, after 2021 Zack Greinke and Justin Verlander come off the Astros’ books, but that just means they’ll need to spend money on some pitching.
It’s as likely that neither are re-signed than both, but the working assumption is that the Astros can afford either Springer or Correa. Who should they pick?
George Springer enters free agency at age 31. Carlos Correa will enter free-agency at age 26. Both play premium defensive positions, Correa SS, Springer CF. But as Springer continues into his thirties his continued utility at a speed position has to be questioned.
On the other hand, skeptics have always questioned whether Correa was too tall for shortstop. For now, he remains as quick as a cat, his size means plus range, and he has a gun for an arm. I say, when Correa says, “put me in coach, I’m ready to play, today,” he’ll be scribbled in at shortstop for a long time.
Plus, the Astros farm system doesn’t seem to have a viable replacement, although some still haven’t lost hope in Abraham Toro at third, moving Bregman to short. Early returns say that leaves a big whole in the lineup.
On the other hand, the Astros lose not only Springer in the outfield this year, but every other starting outfielder, All-Star Michael Brantley and Josh Reddick. The Astros system seems to have only one starting caliber replacement, Kyle Tucker, of course.
So the Astros don’t seem to have clear replacements for either player.
So it comes down to who’s the better player, who has the better projections, and, of course, price.
So who’s been more valuable?
In 6+ years George Springer has accumulated 25.2 fWAR. Divided by six that’s 4.2 wins above replacement per year. Spread across 771 regular season games that’s .0326 wins per game added.
In 5+ seasons Carlos Correa has added 19.4 fWAR. That’s 3.9 wins above replacement per year. But per game played Correa has a slight edge on Springer. His WAR per game for 580 games is 0.334.
Let’s break it down.
This chart compares their stats.
Springer, Correa career hitting averages
Damn. It’s really hard to find two players whose statistical averages are more evenly matched! You’d have to give the edge to Springer but by such a small margin as to be almost statistically insignificant. Springer has a tiny edge in power, getting a homer every 21 PAs. Correa, every 23.7.
But Correa grades higher defensively, having a career def rating by Fangraphs of 11.4. Springer comes in at -10.2. Considering his new contract will start at his age 31 season, his defense only figures to decline. But if Correa signs a five year contract starting in his age 26 year, he’ll still only be 30 when the contract ends, still near the top of his game.
So who do you pick?
Of course, money is an issue. The market figures to be red hot for Springer. A year from now for Correa? Who knows. The world is changing fast in every way, including economically. Since the market is unknowable, I’ll leave that out of the discussion. But if you re-sign Correa you still get a large chunk of his peak years. But that surely factors into the price.
Some say Correa is injury prone. To a lesser extent so is Springer. Personally I think being prone to injury is often a matter of chance, and if Correa has missed a lot of games in his early years, that’s not much different than a temporary batting slump. Some said signing Michael Brantley was a mistake because he was injury prone. But he had a mostly injury free and highly productive season for the Astros last year. However, on this injury issue, others may disagree.
How about intangibles... like how they contribute to team chemistry? Both have great character and professionalism. Both expect the most out of themselves and their teammates. Both clearly love the game and their teammates. But in my opinion there’s something just a little more special about George Springer, his smile, his joy, his energy. He’s become the face of the Astros. He almost brings to the Astros in terms of chemistry what Willie Mays brought to the Giants.
That’s not to take away from Carlos, whose presence in the clubhouse would also be sorely missed.
Truth is, the Astros we have come to love have a core; Jose Altuve, George Springer, Carlos Correa, and Alex Bregman. Almost every great TV sitcom had four main characters, and the chemistry wouldn’t have been the same without each of them. I mean, if you had to cut a character from Seinfeld, who would it be? So it is with the Astros. Each of the Core Four bring something unique and invaluable to the team, and it doesn’t seem like it’s the same team without all of them.
But they can’t all stay forever. So, if it must be Sophie’s choice, who goes? See poll below.
If the Astros can only re-sign one of George Springer or Carlos Correa, who do they pick?
This poll is closed