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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Boston's two grand slams in the first two innings were too much for Houston to overcome in ALCS Game 2. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

After a win in ALCS Game 1 that had the prototypical fingerprints of this Astros team all over it, Houston returned to Minute Maid Park on Saturday, hoping to take a dominant 2-0 series lead if they could grab another victory. The Red Sox dashed those hopes very early, though, scoring eight runs across the first two innings to build the lead they would hold on to even the series.

Final Score: Boston 9, Astros 5

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): tied 1-1

Winning Pitcher: Nathan Eovaldi

Losing Pitcher: Luis Garcia

Houston met with disaster to start Game 2

You couldn't have drawn up a much better start for the Red Sox or a worse one for the Astros in Saturday's ALCS Game 2. Luis Garcia met early disaster in the top of the first inning, allowing a leadoff double, then got two outs while issuing two walks to load the bases. That brought up Boston's designated hitter, J.D. Martinez, to the plate, and he delivered a crushing blow to Houston, launching a grand slam to put the Red Sox up 4-0 before Houston could even get to the plate.

After a scoreless bottom of the inning by his offense, things got worse for Garcia in the top of the second, as after issuing a four-pitch walk to start the frame, he would become the center of a meeting at the mound with trainers, ultimately leaving the game with an injury. Houston opted to bring in Jake Odorizzi for the emergency call to the bullpen, but things did not start well for him either. He would put two of his own batters on base with two singles, then gave up the second grand slam in as many innings, this one to Rafael Devers to double Boston's lead to 8-0, doubling down on Houston's disastrous start to the game.

Odorizzi rebounded with a 1-2-3 third, but with one out in the top of the fourth allowed a solo homer to Kiké Hernández, his third homer of the series so far. He would still get the job done of eating up a few innings, finishing the fourth, and retiring Boston in order in the fifth, giving Houston just four more innings to cover with the rest of their relievers.

Astros get a few runs back

Over that span, Houston did trim the lead by three runs, getting an RBI double by Kyle Tucker and a two-RBI single by Yuli Gurriel in the bottom of the fourth, making it a six-run game at 9-3. Their next reliever was Blake Taylor in the top of the sixth, and he would keep the score where it stood by sitting down the three batters he faced that frame.

The Astros threatened again in the bottom of the sixth, getting two singles to put two aboard, but would come out empty, sending the game on to the seventh, where Taylor would remain on the mound. He faced three more batters, getting two out while allowing a single before Yimi Garcia would come in to get the third out.

Red Sox even the series as it shifts to Boston

Garcia returned in the top of the eighth, getting through that inning despite a walk and hit by pitch, stranding both runners. Boston's bullpen kept Houston from getting any closer in the bottom of the eighth, then Ryne Stanek came in for the Astros in the top of the ninth. Stanek allowed a leadoff double, but with a groundout and double play, held the score at 9-3. Yuli Gurriel and Jason Castro did their part to keep the Astros alive in the bottom of the ninth, each hitting solo homers to make it 9-5, but that's as close as they'd come, dropping Game 2 to tie the series at one game apiece.

Up Next: The ALCS now moves to Boston for the next three games after a day off on Sunday, with Game 3 on Monday at 7:08 PM Central. While the Astros have named Jose Urquidy as their starter, the Red Sox have not yet determined theirs.

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