SOUTH HILLS – I’ve arrived back in Lebo. I’ve traded in June-like Pittsburgh weather for real-time Pittsburgh whether. Bad deal on paper but, hey, it builds character, right? In the midst of scrolling through Twitter, while keeping an eye on Harvard-Cincinnati this afternoon, this Ken Rosenthal report caught my eye:
Yet last September, the Astros offered Springer a seven-year, $23 million contract, according to major-league sources.
Springer, 24, rejected the offer, sources said, declining to give up three years of arbitration and one year of free agency.
The obvious question:
If Springer was good enough to be offered $23 million, why isn’t he good enough to crack the 25-man roster of a team that has finished with the worst record in the majors in each of the past three seasons?
Yes, we know the system is flawed.
Professional football and basketball teams put their best talent on Opening Day rosters. Baseball teams do not due to service time and future costs, etc. Almost every club does it, and we’ve seen the Pirates send two of their best-25-right-now assets to minor league camp in Gregory Polanco and Jameson Taillon.
The system might need reform but that’s a subject for another day.
I hate to keep bringing up the name John Hart. It’s like he’s the only former big-time exec who returns my calls (OK, he is.). But when I asked Hart about the future of team-friendly extensions for young players this winter he thought clubs would have to be more aggressive to get such deals done. He thought they would have to act earlier when players are further away from free agency…. or they would have to pay closer to market value for players like the Braves did with Freddie Freeman.
Earlier, as in before they accrue major league service time.
Instead of waiting several years into a major league career to sign, say, an Andrew McCutchen, teams might have to act even earlier. And that’s precisely what the Astros tried to do with George Springer, offering him a 7-year, $23 million deal. The only comparable I can think of is when the Rays signed Evan Longoria to a six-year deal nine days into his major league career.
Now you only do this with special players who you really trust. But if you really trust a young player, perhaps the Astros’ offer to Springer represents the next-generation approach to arbitration-buyout deals that Hart first pioneered back with Cleveland in the early 1990s.
I think the Pirates would be wise to make a Springer-like offer to Polanco this spring. And I think Polanco might be more inclined to say ‘Yes.’
For starters, Polanco was not a first-round pick who signed a seven-figure bonus like in the case of Springer. Polanco signed for $150,000 out of the Dominican. It might be tough for Polanco to say ‘No’ to a seven-year, $23 million deal.
Moreover, by signing the deal, Polanco would guarantee that his service time clock started on Opening Day. He would hit free agency after his Age 28 season and he would already be rich and incredibly rich by Dominican standards.
I think the Astros are on to somethin here. I think other players would say ‘Yes.’ And I think the Pirates, if they’re not already. would be wise to follow this track.