The Blue Jays may have paid a little more than they wanted to for George Springer, but doing so allowed them to land the free agent target they were chasing.
That’s often been the way that the Blue Jays have landed free agents in recent years, with a good old-fashioned overpay. It’s not as common to see them using that strategy while swimming in the deep end, however, by committing to six years and 150 million for Springer, the Blue Jays sent a message to rest of baseball that they’re ready to get back to competing for a World Series title.
That statement alone is worth a fair bit to Ross Atkins and the front office staff, and you know it means a lot to the players filling out the roster. Bringing in a premium free agent target tells your homegrown players that you believe in them, and that investing in the improvement of the roster in the immediate term is worth it.
Springer is exactly that, as he’s a 31-year-old in the prime of his career. Because he’s already on the wrong side of 30, the Blue Jays surely understand that they’re going to get the best of his production over the next couple of years. That’s especially the case because he’ll be tasked with holding down the fort in centre field, a position he’ll likely have to give up in latter part of his new contract. However, he was brought in for his defence almost as much as his offence, with the Blue Jays getting an outfield leader and improving their group production on that side of the ball. It was a weakness they needed to address, and they’ve done just that.
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Not only have they improved their overall defence, regardless of who starts along side Springer in the outfield, their new weapon makes their lineup longer and more dangerous. Adding Springer to the mix could give Charlie Montoyo to roll out a lineup card that looks something like this:
1- Springer (CF)
2- Cavan Biggio (2B)
3- Bo Bichette (SS)
4- Teoscar Hernandez (DH)
5- Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (3B)
6- Rowdy Tellez (1B)
7- Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (LF)
8- Randal Griichuk (RF)
9- Danny Jansen (C)
For what it’s worth, I believe the Blue Jays will add a third baseman in order to keep Vlad Jr. away from the position and at first where he belongs, but Springer’s addition helps in that regard as well. You could argue that the Blue Jays have four starting calibre outfielders, and they may elect to trade one of them. Whether that’s in order to help address third base, or possibly the pitching staff, bringing Springer on board allows for another potential surplus to trade from.
By signing Springer, the Blue Jays have improved their lineup on both sides of the ball, potentially given themselves another trade asset or two to consider, and they’ve changed the way that other teams are looking them. They’d already put the league on notice with their surprisingly successful 60-game season in 2020, but by adding Springer, Kirby Yates, and potentially more before Opening Day, they won’t be viewed as a “team to watch out for in the future” anymore.
In order to achieve all of that, they arguably had to pay Springer a little more than they wanted to. I’ll stop short of using the word “should” though. The Blue Jays had to do the same when they signed Russell Martin ahead of the 2015, and they had to give him one more year on his deal than the competing teams were offering as well, just as it seems happened with their latest splash. Sometimes that’s what it takes to let free agents and their representatives know that you’re serious, and I don’t think anyone will question Atkins going forward.