The Phillies’ chances of winning the NL East in 2021 have (not surprisingly) decreased over the past week. The Mets continue to show off their new owner’s money as they traded for SS Francisco Lindor and SP Carlos Carrasco. Meanwhile, the Nationals are making smaller, yet still pivotal, additions, having signed on OF Kyle Schwarber.
And the Phillies are still taking it slow. The good news is, the top free agents are still available this offseason. While it is unlikely that the Phillies will truly pursue SP Trevor Bauer, there is another target the Phillies could acquire without jeopardizing their chances at J.T. Realmuto…
31-year old OF George Springer has been a cornerstone piece of the Houston Astros’ lineup since arriving on the scene in 2014. The 2017 World Series MVP, Springer brings a powerful bat to the lineup along with surprising speed and range defensively.
The Elephant In the Room
But before we talk about why the Phillies should pursue the free agent, we have to address the elephant in the room. Or, in this case, the trash can in the dugout.
The Houston Astros have become persona non grata across Major League Baseball following their cheating scandal. George Springer was certainly involved in the sign-stealing shenanigans and definitely benefited from them as well. In fact, Springer received the second most “bangs” on the team during the 2017 season.
It would be great to sit here and say that Springer has done the time for his part in the scandal, but he hasn’t. Not a single player on the Astros was punished as a consequence of the “player-driven” scandal. So while pitchers have taken this into their own hands, Springer and his teammates got off free.
Why the Phillies Should Go After Springer
For Springer specifically, the trash can banging almost certainly helped him. But he is still a top-10 talent in the outfield. Over the past five years (cheating started in 2017 and alledgedly wrapped up in 2018), Springer consistently had an OPS+ of 114 or higher. Even at his worst the last few years, he’s been better than average.
It is highly unlikely that the Astros were cheating in any similar form in 2020. Combine the fact that the whole world knew what to look for with empty stadiums and less noise to hide behind, and it would be hard to do so again. Springer’s stats in the shortened 2020 season are right up there with his performance in 2017. Additionally, his 140 OPS+ would automatically make him the Phillies’ second-best hitter (behind Bryce Harper).
Throughout his career, Springer has averaged 35 home runs over the course of a 162-game season. He also is tied for the fourth most postseason home runs (19) in MLB history. And in a lineup with up-and-coming players like Alec Bohm, Scott Kingery, Mickey Moniak, and (eventually) Bryson Stott, the Phillies could use a consistent powerful bat.
Not only would Springer provide consistency at the plate, but in center field as well. The Phillies have not had a consistent center fielder in years. Springer boasts a .997 fielding percentage in CF, having only committed two errors in 300 games at the position.
How the Phillies Can Afford Him
Of course, a player this good is going to cost the Phillies some money. Springer reportedly wants a contract totalling $150 million. The Blue Jays and the Mets have both made offers short of this figure, with the Mets being dubbed the frontrunners, even after the Lindor trade. The Phillies acquring Springer would not only improve their lineup, but be a huge blow to the Mets as well.
In order to sign Springer, I would propose a five-year, $150 million contract to Springer. If Springer is willing to take extra years in order to keep the AAV down, the Phillies could change this to a seven-year, $175 million deal. Shifting the AAV from $30 million to $25 million per year would allow the Phillies to make additional moves as well. But the Phillies would need to perform two crucial steps before pulling this off:
Step #1: Sign J.T. Realmuto
Now, this may seem like a weird place to start, but it is quite necessary. Not only with bringing back Realmuto show Springer that the Phillies mean to compete, but doing so ensures that the Phillies get Realmuto (who is the priority) this offseason. If the Phillies were to give Springer the above contract before signing Realmuto, he would want a contract of equal value.
Given the Mets’ four-year, $40 million deal for James McCann, Realmuto is likely not to earn as high of a contract as he would like. Is this a bit shady? Yes. But outfielders historically get paid more than catchers and, while Realmuto is looking to change that, now is not the time for the Phillies.
Step #2: Trade Andrew McCutchen
This is a sad but essential step to acquiring Springer (and can be done after signing him if needed). Bringing on Springer would create a massive jam in left field as McCutchen, Haseley, Quinn, and Moniak would all be fighting for playing time. Given McCutchen’s age and the cheaper contracts of his teammates, Cutch would be the one to go.
Financially, the Phillies would need to move McCutchen as well. Cutch is set to make $20 million this upcoming season. Ideally, the Phillies would trade Cutch in a “salary dump” trade where, while they would not get much back, the opposing team would take on all of McCutchen’s contract.
While it would be sad to see Uncle Larry go, Springer is definitively a better player than McCutchen right now. Springer is also a light-hearted, hard-working player who would lead the clubhouse just like McCutchen.
Signing Springer in this way would greatly improve this Phillies team. Not only so, but it would allow the Phillies to re-sign Realmuto and would only cost the Phillies an extra $10 million maximum in luxury tax space this offseason. And in an offseason where penny-pinching is a part of the game, every penny counts.
Mandatory Photo Credit: Juan DeLeon/Icon Sportswire