George Springer and the Super Two Myth
The home crowd at Minute Maid Park in Houston had plenty to cheer about Wednesday, watching the Major League-debut of outfielder George Springer. Evaluators would agree Springer is one of the three best outfielders in the organization and should have opened the season in Houston if talent was the determining factor. Still, the move comes as a bit of a surprise- more so the Astros’ roster management than any critique of Springer’s talent. What caused the Astros to make the call for Springer’s lift-off in Houston now versus later in the year?
After disappointing seasons in Houston, the Astros’ massive rebuild is on the cusp of fruition. Along with Springer, key prospects are showing why there’s plenty to be excited about in 2014 and beyond. Carlos Correa and Jonathan Singleton are off to hot starts and Mark Appel is demonstrating why he was selected #1 overall last June. The challenge facing GM Jeff Luhnow is how to manage a barrage of incoming super-prospects over a two-year window knowing how salaries jump once arbitration eligible.
George Springer is the first of these prospects to earn the call. Springer advanced to Triple-A Oklahoma City last season and just missed becoming the first 40/40-player in minor league history. The Astros were rumored to have offered Springer a seven-year extension in 2013, covering all six years of team control and one year of free agency. The deal would have locked in Springer’s salaries past 2020 and also freed the Astros of any service clock considerations, including Super Two status. He declined. But since Houston isn’t expecting much success this season, it wasn’t much of a surprise to see Springer begin the year back in the minors.
The timing of Springer’s recall is likely a compromise between team and player. Assuming he performs and stays with the big league club, Springer is a lock to be a Super Two. For the Astros, the mid-April transaction guaranteed the team another year of team control since Springer will not accrue a full year of Major League service this season. The crux is the extension. The framework for the proposed extension was $23 million, which implies the Astros projected three years of arbitration rather than four. As a result the Astros will now effectively recognize Springer as a Super Two in extension negotiations.
I’d expect the total compensation to jump past $30 million before all is said and done, depending on the added year(s) of team control. For a reasonable comparison, Hunter Pence made almost $35 million over his four “Super Two” years. If the Astros tack on additional team control, $35 million would be a bargain for a top-of-the-order, up-the-middle bat. Critics will argue the Astros cost themselves money by promoting George Springer now versus July, but there are a couple important factors in play.
George Springer: Super Two in Theory Only
If locking up young talent is the goal, the Astros have plenty of work to do. Jose Altuve was extended and Matt Dominguez, Jason Castro, and Robbie Grossman are all candidates for extensions. On the horizon are Correa, Singleton, Appel, and potentially Jarred Cosart. The last thing Houston needs is for any issues getting Springer’s contract done. After he was optioned to Triple-A this March, speculation grew that a grievance may be filed on account of service time manipulation. Signs of good faith only work so much in baseball though- it’s likely George Springer’s extension is nearly ready to be announced. As a result, future players will have more confidence in the team to take care of them financially.
The Astros administration has given baseball operations room to rebuild the organization. So far, so good- the Astros have the best farm system in baseball and will be competitive again soon. But that patience comes with occasional “asks.” The bosses understand service clocks and Super Twos, but a recent 0.0 rating might have prompted a trip to the baseball offices to authorize Springer’s promotion. Whether or not people believe the Astros would keep Springer in Triple-A until July is relevant, but the more important deadline is extending an extra year of team control, which has come and gone. (And if Houston doesn’t get more production at first base, Singleton might not be far behind.) Astros fans should expect George Springer to make a run at 20-20 this season and take comfort knowing the young outfielder will be officially locked up soon.
18 Apr 2014 / Ben Flajole /
Categories: MLB Analysis
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