Is Springer leveling the free agent market?

The Major League Baseball free agent market is a lot like the housing market. The price of houses are generally dictated by what people are willing to pay for them in the area at a given time.

For instance, if houses are averaging $150k in an area and people are moving from a more expensive area to buy, they’ll be more likely to overspend to get the house that they want. The price of houses will rise from the $150k base. Eventually, the cost of these houses gets too high and nobody is willing to pay what the market has dictated and prices drop because sellers need to take any offer that comes along.

In other news, Houston Astros outfielder George Springer signed a two-year contract extension worth $24 million Monday morning. That dollar amount feels low to me.

Baseball’s free agent market has been swelling for nearly two decades. We can first point to Alex Rodriguez taking a 10-year, $252 million contract with the Texas Rangers after the 2000 season. This became the new standard for superstars, and there was much rejoicing in clubhouses throughout MLB.

Since then, we have continually seen monster contracts. Notably, LA Angels designated hitter Albert Pujols and Seattle Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano are currently in matching 10-year, $240 million contracts, and New York Yankees outfielder Giancarlo Stanton is bathing in money with a 13-year, $325 million contract. Meanwhile, Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper is expected to fetch somewhere in the $400 million range after the 2018 season. That’s a lot of American dollars.

So, what’s this have to do with Springer? After an All-Star season, winning a Silver Slugger, a brilliant performance in the World Series and a World Series MVP award, Springer’s new deal raised my eyebrows, as well as a few questions.

How does this affect free agency next winter? There’s a chance teams have finally seen that massive, long-term contracts aren’t necessarily panning out for themselves and they aren’t willing to break the bank to get the guy they want. Look at the lack of signings this winter for this point. There are many major free agents who are still on the market, and it’s likely because of their high asking price.

Did the Astros low ball Springer? This was my first thought, but it turns out, Springer was eligible for arbitration this offseason and again next offseason. By signing this deal, he and the Astros avoid an arbitration mess until at least 2021. At 28 years old, Springer still has several very good years ahead of him, but he could be looking for a fat raise in 2020.

As it turns out, Springer’s extension is not a result of selling himself low, but rather a temporary fix by the Astros to keep their employee gruntled. Springer is part of the Astros’ core that could help them win titles for years to come, and if they want to keep winning, there’s a chance they’ll need to pony up a solid chunk of change next time he’s eligible.

Photo by Brad Curnow

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