These are days of deep insecurity in baseball, with all of the sport, on the advice of the commissioner’s office, pointing to an uncomfortable opening of spring training camps in about four weeks – but with the NBA’s recent experiences providing a sobering reminder of the difficulty a season in the middle of end a pandemic exponentially worse than it was in the fall, when baseball staggered to the end of the World Series.
This uncertainty, coupled with immeasurable economic repercussions, contributed to a slower-than-usual market for free agents this winter – but which appears to be entering a final, breakneck period.
Big hits that haven’t gotten into position include pitcher Trevor Bauer, catcher JT Realmuto, and batsman / outfielder designate Marcell Ozuna – and the Yankees and Blue Jays have now got their off-season signatures and a dwindling number Left by suitors These negotiations, ready to go to these levels, could soon find a solution.
That Springer, considered by some to be the best free agent in the entire market, would end up in Toronto in many ways, makes perfect sense. The Blue Jays are a classic up and coming franchise – they’re in a big media market, have a playoff appearance behind them in 2020, and are hungry to make the leap from good to great. The 31-year-old jumper fulfills his primary need: a center fielder / leadoff man with the production and veteran leadership to take a young, talented roster to the next level.
A three-time All-Star, Springer averaged 31 homers per season over the four full seasons between 2016 and 2019 with an adjusted OPS + of 132 – meaning he was 32 percent better than the average batsman. He’s also one of the great postseason performers of this generation: he was named World Series MVP with the Astros in 2017 and has racked up 19 homers in 63 postseason games, seven of them in the World Series.
Springer is the first core member of this 2017 Astros range that the independent agency is testing. Given the dollar numbers of his new contract, the Blue Jays had little concern that Springer’s Houston production would be improved by his participation in the program. As evidence, they could point to Springer’s strong numbers in the 2020 season shortened by the pandemic, including 14 homers and 140 OPS + in 51 games.
However, talent assessors throughout the game have warned that 2020 stats, which make up roughly 37 percent of a normal 162-game season, are notoriously difficult to judge – and most of the other holdovers of 2017 in the Astros lineup for 2020 saw significant production declines in that regard last season. So the Blue Jays have a tremendous amount of confidence, not to mention dollars, in Springer’s continued production in his new home.
You’ll pay him like a superstar; Three-time MVP Mike Trout is the only baseball midfielder to earn an average annual salary higher than the $ 25 million a year the Blue Jays jumpers have promised.
With the agreement to work for six years with Springer, who will be 37 at the end of the contract, the Blue Jays expect its offensive production to remain high. Although he is considered an above-average defensive midfielder and his arrival will allow the team to keep rising star Teoscar Hernández in the right field for the next few years, it is widely believed that Springer will have to move to one of the corner fields in the outfield by the end of his contract .
The Blue Jays were hit more than most teams by the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, which was forced to play their home games at a minor league stadium in Buffalo by the Canadian government’s travel restrictions, and there were no signs for these restrictions to be lifted in 2021 – at least by the opening day on April 1st. For example, the NBA’s Toronto Raptors play their home games in Tampa this season.
Other large baseball market teams, far less exposed to uncertainties than the Blue Jays, have essentially chosen to expose this free agent market and, in some cases, actively cut payroll. Regardless of whether it’s opportunism or ambition, the Blue Jays should be commended for expanding to give their fans a title contender in 2021 and into the future.
But at a time when everything in life seems to involve some risk, and trying to start a new baseball season amid a raging pandemic feels like a tempting fate, the Blue Jays saw Springer as a risk that it did was worth entering and doing what they had to do to get it.