George Springer Deal Impact On Free Agent Market (www.mlb.com)

The Blue Jays had their sights set on George Springer from the beginning of this offseason, and it paid off when the coveted outfielder came to an agreement on a six-year deal with the club on Tuesday night, according to reports.
The 31-year-old gives Toronto another playoff-tested veteran, as Hyun

The Blue Jays had their sights set on George Springer from the beginning of this offseason, and it paid off when the coveted outfielder

, according to reports.

The 31-year-old gives Toronto another playoff-tested veteran, as Hyun Jin Ryu did when the Jays signed him to a four-year, $80 million deal in December 2019.

Springer’s deal with the Blue Jays will likely also have a ripple effect on the rest of the free-agent market. Here’s a look at the potential impact of the move.

Another potential Realmuto suitor drops out

The Blue Jays have been connected to a number of big names in addition to Springer this offseason, including free-agent catcher J.T. Realmuto. The club is presumably done shopping at the top of the free-agent market, making the Jays the latest potential Realmuto suitor to drop out of the mix.

The Mets and Angels were seen as two possible competitors for Realmuto, but they opted for less expensive options in James McCann and Kurt Suzuki, respectively.

The Yankees, meanwhile, retained catcher Gary Sánchez and will be close to the Competitive Balance Tax threshold of $210 million once they finalize deals with DJ LeMahieu and Corey Kluber.

The Athletic’s Jayson Stark (subscription required) recently reported that the Phillies had extended a five-year offer worth more than $100 million to Realmuto. With the Blue Jays no longer a viable destination, Realmuto may be more likely to jump on Philadelphia’s offer.

Bauer to Angels becomes more likely

The Springer-Blue Jays union further shrinks the market for free-agent righty Trevor Bauer as well, perhaps setting up the Angels to pounce.

Many of the clubs that seemed like possible fits for Bauer at the beginning of the offseason have added other starting pitchers and/or expended resources on other expensive targets. This includes the Padres, White Sox, Mets, Giants, Braves and Yankees.

With the Blue Jays presumably no longer in the running, the Angels are the contender most motivated to add an elite starting pitcher, with the Twins a possible dark horse. They did come to a one-year agreement with lefty José Quintana on Tuesday night, a source told MLB.com, but could still use a frontline arm like Bauer.

The Halos’ inability to construct a consistently reliable rotation is the main reason the team has made only one postseason appearance during Mike Trout‘s stellar career. It’s not for a lack of trying, however.

In the past three offseasons, the Angels have scooped Shohei Ohtani, Trevor Cahill, Matt Harvey and Julio Teheran off the free-agent market and traded for Dylan Bundy. Only Bundy has worked out as hoped.

The Halos also tried to land Gerrit Cole before the righty signed a nine-year, $324 million contract with the Yankees in December 2019. Their offer reportedly came in just shy of $300 million.

Fixing the rotation wasn’t the team’s only priority this offseason, but the Angels addressed their other needs by trading for shortstop José Iglesias and closer Raisel Iglesias and signing Kurt Suzuki. Those three players are owed just $14.1 million in 2021, leaving room for a big-money addition such as Bauer.

Attention turns to JBJ, trade options

There were essentially two everyday-caliber center-field options to choose from among free agents: Springer and Jackie Bradley Jr.

It made sense for Bradley to exercise patience to see how Springer’s situation played out. Now that Springer has found a new home, we could see Bradley quickly follow.

Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom has said that the team is interested in a reunion with Bradley, and the Astros were known to be eyeing him earlier this offseason as a replacement for Springer. The Phillies and Cubs were also linked to Bradley in mid-December.

Bradley has spent the past eight years with Boston, building a strong defensive reputation and at times providing above-average production at the plate. In 2020, the 30-year-old posted a 118 OPS+, his highest since his lone All-Star season in ’16.

Once Bradley signs, the trade market for center fielders could pick up, with the Rays’ Kevin Kiermaier a leading candidate to be dealt.

Kiermaier has struggled with the bat over the past three years (82 OPS+), but he has continued to make his presence known in center field. Buoyed by his glove work, he recorded 6.2 wins above replacement (per Baseball-Reference) from 2018-20, averaging 4.1 WAR per 650 plate appearances in that time. The 30-year-old tied for fifth in MLB with 10 defensive runs saved and sixth among outfielders with +5 outs above average in 2020.

Kiermaier has two years and $23.5 million left on his deal, plus a $13 million club option for ’23 with a $2.5 million buyout, so Tampa Bay likely would need to attach some cash to move him.

What about Starling Marte? It’s possible the Marlins could make the 32-year-old available, as he can become a free agent next offseason. He’s due to earn $12.5 million in 2021 after Miami picked up his club option.

The Marlins reached the postseason in 2020, but it could be difficult to do it again with a reduced playoff field, especially in a hyper-competitive National League East. FanGraphs’ Depth Charts projections gives Miami’s roster one of the lowest projected WAR totals in MLB.

How would Mets respond?

The Mets were a finalist for Springer, offering him a deal in the $120-125 million range over six years, sources told MLB.com. Since Springer opted not to take that offer, it will be interesting to see what New York does next.

In their first offseason under new owner Steve Cohen, the Mets have added Francisco Lindor, Carlos Carrasco, James McCann, Trevor May and Joey Lucchesi, and they brought back Marcus Stroman with the $18.9 million qualifying offer.

Still, they are roughly $27 million below the first CBT threshold, according to Cot’s Contracts, leaving plenty of wiggle room — even if some of that space goes toward signing Lindor to an extension.

The club has reportedly been talking to free-agent reliever Brad Hand, and a deal with the left-hander seems more likely now.

But what about center field? With Springer off the market, will the Mets pursue other options? Or will they stick with Brandon Nimmo? Could they seek additional rotation upgrades? Or a new third baseman? Anything is possible with Cohen and his deep pockets leading the way.

Thomas Harrigan is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @HarriganMLB.



Source link