Houston Astros, MLB Free Agency

5 potential free agent suitors for George Springer

George Springer is set to cash in on the free agent market this winter, and these 5 teams should be significant suitors

Houston Astros outfielder George Springer is set to hit the market as one of the top free agents this winter, and he’s really the top free agent bat. The proverbial plot has thickened now, with Patrick Creighton of ESPN 97.5 in Houston reporting Springer does not want to return to the Astros.

Before this season, Astros owner Jim Crane said re-signing Springer was a top priority. But apparently there hasn’t been any traction on that front. Springer’s camp letting it out that he doesn’t want to return to team could be seen as a negotiating ploy. For the Astros, even with a possible path to keeping both long-term, it may come to choosing between Springer and shortstop Carlos Correa. Correa will hit free agency after the 2021 season, and plays a more premium position.

Springer celebrated his 31st birthday in September. His batting average was down in a shortened 2020 season (.265), but he otherwise had a good offensive season with 14 home runs, 32 RBI, an .899 OPS and a OPS+ of 140. Over the last two seasons, he ranks seventh among qualified hitters in wRC + (153) and ninth in fWAR (8.4).

If only to avoid losing him for absolutely nothing, the Astros may extend a qualifying offer to Springer. He will also surely reject that one-year, $18.9 million deal, which will tie him to draft pick compensation for another team that signs him. So Astros can recoup a draft pick by putting a QO on Springer.

That said, the draft pick compensation should not scare teams off of Springer on its own. A five or six-year deal for a 31-year old is more of a potential concern, even if Springer doesn’t seem headed for a serious decline cliff anytime soon.

Here are five teams who could make a strong pursuit of Springer on the free agent market.

5. Boston Red Sox

Springer is a Connecticut native, and he grew up a Red Sox fan. Boston is coming off a rough 2020 campaign, but Jackie Bradley Jr. is on his way out in free agency. That would open up center field for Springer, and bolster the lineup.

John Tomase of NBC Sports Boston offered one elephant in the room for the Red Sox. If the Astros tender a qualifying offer to Springer, they would surrender the fourth pick in the second round of the 2021 draft to Houston. And that leaves out the cost of the deal to sign him. Mookie Betts was in line for and eventually got a much longer and bigger contract that Springer will get, and the Red Sox traded him to the Dodgers rather than embrace another payroll-busting contract.

The Red Sox seem more inclined to make smaller, cheaper free agent moves this offseason. But they should be somewhere in the conversation for Springer.

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