It’s official: George Springer won’t return to the Astros. The 31-year-old centerfielder agreed to a six-year, $150M deal to play for the Toronto Blue Jays, who are building up a scary lineup that not only includes Springer but also Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Teoscar Hernández, Cavan Biggio, and Bo Bichette.
But now that Springer is officially gone —painfully to a rival from the American League— and the Astros still need a centerfielder for 2021 and beyond, what’s next for them?
It’s obvious they need to turn their head to the other ballplayers that remain looking for a job in free agency. They just brought international prospect Pedro León aboard on the first day of the int’l signing period, but he’s not ready for the big leagues yet.
And let’s face it. There’s no one that can come from the minors to replace Springer. Heck, there’s probably not even anyone that could replace Michael Brantley if he signs with another team.
We’ve seen players such as Springer, Robbie Grossman, Kyle Schwarber, and Adam Eaton getting new contracts, but luckily the biggest portion of free-agent outfielders remains unsigned and there are still available several options for the Astros:
- Michael Brantley
- Marcell Ozuna
- Jackie Bradley Jr.
- Jonathan Villar
- Eddie Rosario
- Joc Pederson
- Nomar Mazara
- Kevin Pillar
- Yasiel Puig
- Danny Santana
All these and more are still free agents up for grabs, even when we’re almost a month away from spring training. So there’s still hope for the Astros to come up with at least two good pieces for the outfield after losing Springer.
They can put all their effort to re-sign Brantley, who seems to never get old offensively and had a pretty good stint with the team (.309/.370/.497 across 194 games between 2019 and 2020). That should be a must for James Click now: bringing back the 33-year-old to the puzzle on what could be a two-year contract.
There’s also a second big name the Astros have been linked to: Jackie Bradley Jr. Alongside Pillar, he’s the best defensive centerfielder available, but signing him will likely require a large contract, on the order of three or four seasons. I don’t know whether the team is seeking that at this point.
As far as Pillar goes, he certainly makes sense for Houston. He’s a veteran presence, a beloved guy, very durable, and represents security in center. He’s also coming off a respectable offensive campaign between the Red Sox and the Giants in which he hit for a .288/.336/.462 slash line across 54 games.
Some of the names on that list I don’t see them going after, for example, Marcell Ozuna or Joc Pederson. Considering the Astros’ current circumstances and the fact that they still have other needs to address, these players are likely not on their radar.
Finally, we shouldn’t close the door to trade possibilities, but Houston’s farm system is not that green anymore. Except for a case in which they consider packaging Forrest Whitley, which I don’t see happening either, they’re not in a position to acquire anything substantial.
What’s left of January and the entire following month will be a very interesting and hopefully active month for the Astros. They’ve already seen one of their horses leave and it’s time for them, I insist, to make substantial moves to complete their lineup for 2021.