Astros Offseason

What Astros arbitration means for the future of George Springer

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images, Composite by Brandon Strange

Ahead of Friday night's arbitration deadline, the Astros reached 1-year agreements with four players: Carlos Correa ($8 million), Roberto Osuna ($10 million), Chris Devenski ($2 million), and Brad Peacock ($3.9 million) per ESPN's Jeff Passan.

The biggest news came from their failure to reach an agreement with outfielder George Springer. According to MLB.com's Mark Feinsand, Springer is seeking $22.5 million, which is $10.5 million more than his salary last year and $5 million more than the $17.5 million offered by the Astros. It's the biggest gap of all of this year's arbitration cases across MLB. The parties now appear to be headed to a hearing in February to determine Springer's salary in what is his final year of team control.



Houston also failed to reach an agreement with infielder Aledmys Diaz. The gap is not as big with Diaz ($600k difference) and more importantly, the stakes aren't as high as they are with Springer.

Springer, in a sense, should be a free agent this offseason. Back at the start of the 2014 season, though, George declined an extremely team-friendly contract. After failing to lock Springer into a multi-year deal, the Astros responded by manipulating his service time. By tethering him to the minor leagues just a few days into the season, the team was able to maintain control of his contract for an additional year. Dissatisfied by the move, Springer and his (then) representation explored filing a grievance through the MLBPA.

It's worth noting a couple things. First, this is standard practice in MLB. Second, it was a shrewd, bad-faith, punitive move by a cunning front office.

Springer and the Astros went on to achieve the sort of on-field success that helps rinse away the bitter taste of business. Both sides avoided arbitration in 2018 by agreeing to a 2-year, $24 million contract. The deal seemed to be a sign that the two parties were back on the same page.

This time around, the parties aren't close.

It begs the question: will George Springer have a future with the Astros beyond 2020? It's hard to imagine the current iteration of the Astros without their fan-favorite centerfielder. From the iconic 2014 Sports Illustrated cover, to his eventual World Series MVP in 2017, Springer is a cornerstone of Houston's success. But the business doesn't much account for nostalgia, fandom, or loyalty. Houston does not have unlimited resources and already carries a top-10 payroll.




The Astros unapologetically made the best business decision for themselves in 2014. George Springer will be in a position to do the same in 2021. For the record, the Astros haven't won an arbitration hearing since 2016. Springer has a reasonable shot at getting his asking price. There's also a fair chance this is the last time the Astros pay it. Each a victim of their own success, Springer and the Astros are nearing the point at which they can no longer afford the other.

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