If the Blue Jays end up mostly competing with the Mets to sign George Springer, there could be at least one factor working in their favour.
According to multiple reports that have been floating around, Springer’s camp mostly has two options to choose from at this point. That said, we’ve watched the free agent market exercise extraordinary patience so far, so maybe Springer and his agent will wait for a third team to legitimately join the race. If they can’t round up a third legitimate suitor, the Blue Jays might have one small advantage over the Mets.
I’ll admit that I’ve been expecting Springer to sign in New York for a while now, even after they acquired Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco from Cleveland earlier this month. With a new deep-pocketed ownership that’s invested in winning, Steve Cohen brings excitement to the table that Mets fans haven’t enjoyed in quite some time. That said, there could still be a limit to what they spend this offseason.
To that end, I came across an article from Andrew Stoeten (formerly of the Athletic) on his new blog space (check it out). In yesterday’s entry, Stoeten made an interesting point about where the Mets are sitting with their payroll at the moment, and what that could mean for the rest of their winter.
"“The Mets’ CBT crunch was made a little bit crunchier by a development on Friday though. Francisco Lindor avoided arbitration by signing a $22 million deal, which is above the $19 million that had originally been projected by Cot’s and MLB Trade Rumors. Michael Conforto and Edwin Díaz both also came in above some of their projections. As it stands, Cot’s now has their luxury tax number at $182.9 million, leaving $27.1 million under the threshold. If, as has been reported, the Mets would like to keep $5 to $10 million below the threshold in order to take on some salary in-season, they won’t be able to get Springer on board. A lot of ifs there though!”"
He summed up a lot of important points there, especially if the Mets use some form of financial restraint. It’s always possible that Cohen could spend well beyond the luxury tax threshold, but with the 2021 season looking like it’ll be another with at least reduced attendance, it would make sense if they used the loose “salary cap” as a threshold.
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In that case, Stoeten is correct that the Mets likely wouldn’t have the room to sign Springer, unless they’re content with the rest of their roster as is. Chances are they’ll still do a little more tinkering, even they don’t add another marquee name, and giving Springer the 25 million or more per year that he’s reportedly seeking wouldn’t leave them much room at all. This would also mean that they’d be out on Trevor Bauer as well, but starting pitching likely isn’t the same priority in New York right now.
Does that mean the Blue Jays are going to pay Springer 25 million per season, or Bauer something like the 35-40 that he’s reportedly looking for? I don’t know that I’d expect that to happen in either case, but a legitimate offer to one or even both shouldn’t be completely off the table. The key will be how many other serious suitors there are, and if the Mets are no longer swimming in the deep end after acquiring and paying Lindor 22 million, that would help Ross Atkins’ cause a lot.
We’ll see if the Mets end up exercising any restraint, or if other teams jump into the Springer, Bauer, and even J.T. Realmuto sweepstakes (although it sounds like he has a decent offer to return to the Phillies), but we’re starting to get closer to Spring Training report dates, and ultimately the regular season. If there’s any urgency in the free agent market, the Blue Jays may still have a great opportunity to make an impact upgrade, even if the offseason hasn’t gone as planned so far.