The contract would be the largest given out by the Blue Jays in franchise history. Their only other contract that topped $100 million was a $126 million extension to Vernon Wells.
Springer is headed to the Blue Jays’ spring training facility in Dunedin, Florida, for a physical. If all goes according to plan, Toronto will get the star it has been looking for all winter.
Springer, the sparkplug for the Houston Astros‘ offense in the leadoff spot for the past four seasons, was one of the most coveted free agents on the market this offseason. He hit a team-high 14 home runs this season and added another four in the postseason, as the Astros lost to the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League Championship Series.
While several of his teammates struggled offensively this past season amid fallout from the 2017 sign-stealing scandal, Springer, who earned $21 million on a one-year deal after avoiding arbitration, has continued to put up better numbers since then — hitting .265 with 32 RBIs in 51 games in 2020 while lowering his strikeout rate to 17.1%, a career best.
He passed on a one-year, $18.9 million qualifying offer by the Astros, who will get a compensation draft pick with him signing with a new team.
Prior to the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, Springer hit 20 home runs in five of the previous six seasons. He earned three straight All-Star nods from 2017-19, and he was named 2017 World Series MVP in 2017, when the Astros beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in seven games.
Springer has been at his best during big moments, hitting 19 postseason home runs, which is tied for fourth all-time. He also ranks sixth in slugging percentage (.546), seventh in extra-base hits (34) and is tied for 14th in runs scored (43).
Since making his debut in 2014, Springer has been one of the best hitters out of the leadoff spot in all of baseball, ranking second in home runs (136), third in RBIs (352) and fourth in hits (665) and extra-base hits (254), according to ESPN Stats & Information. He also has hit a first-inning leadoff home run 39 times during his career, which ranks fourth in American League history.
In 2019, Springer set career highs with a .292 batting average, a .591 slugging percentage, .383 on-base percentage and 6.2 WAR (wins above replacement).
Defensively, Springer continues to be very solid as the everyday center fielder at age 31 and could easily slide over to either of the corner outfield spots, if needed. Blue Jays center fielders accounted for -7 Defensive Runs Saved in 2020, tied with the New York Yankees for 26th in MLB. Springer accounted for 6 DRS as a center fielder in 2020, tied for fifth best at the position.
Overall, in seven seasons with the Astros, Springer has a .270 career average with 174 home runs and 458 home runs.
Blue Jays Nation first reported the agreement Tuesday night, while MLB Network first had the terms.
ESPN Stats & Information contributed to this report.
Rockies’ Trevor Story focused on his play and ‘being the best teammate I can be,’ not contract
DENVER — Trevor Story‘s priority list this season includes being a more vocal leader, taking his base stealing to another level, crushing early count fastballs and honing his footwork in the field.
Not near the top of the list: Fretting about his long-term future with the Colorado Rockies. That’s outside his base path.
The hard-swinging, smooth-fielding shortstop is in the last year of his deal and said he hasn’t engaged in talks with the Rockies. He brings star power to a franchise that recently traded its biggest name, eight-time Gold Glove winner Nolan Arenado, to St. Louis.
Story appears in line for a hefty payday, too, after San Diego and shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. finalized a $340 million, 14-year contract.
“I’m focused on personally being the best teammate I can be,” Story said Tuesday as the Rockies began full-squad workouts in Scottsdale, Arizona. “I try not to look too far ahead.
“I’m trying to be where my feet are, which is right here in spring training with the Rockies.”
This version of the Rockies will certainly have a different look. In addition to Arenado’s departure, they’re without outfielder David Dahl (now with Texas) and versatile veteran Ian Desmond, who opted out for a second straight season.
“It’s a good vibe, though,” said Story, who’s scheduled to make around $18.5 million this season. “I feel like guys are excited to play ball. It opens up a lot of opportunities for some young guys. I think they’re ready to step into that challenge.”
It wasn’t too long ago that he was the one meeting that challenge. The season after the Rockies traded away disgruntled shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, Story stepped in and claimed the position (he hit six homers over his first four games). Story has blossomed into a two-time All-Star.
The 28-year-old is always looking for ways to take his game to an even higher plateau. This season, that includes improving his footwork at shortstop (he was none too pleased with a career-low .961 fielding percentage) and jumping on more fastballs (he’s already an aggressive hitter). He also has an eye on earning a membership in the 30-homer, 30-stolen base club, which he nearly achieved in 2018 (37 homers, 27 stolen bases) and ’19 (35, 23).
“It feels good,” Story said of the ranking. “But I’ve never been motivated by anything other than myself or my own thoughts. I really try to make it about myself and how I can improve my game each year.
“It’s a super-competitive, super-talented (list of) shortstops. I think we all push each other in one way or another, even if we know it or not.”
This will take some getting used to: Arenado not being on the left side of the infield with him. Arenado requested a trade after growing increasingly unhappy with the front office for not improving the roster with an eye toward catching perennial NL West-power the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“Sad for sure to lose a guy like that, lose a player like that,” Story said. “Happy for him that he’s going to be in a spot that he’s happy. A lot of whirlwind emotions. It’s tough to lose a guy like that.”
As for how Arenado’s situation may impact Story’s eventual decision, he explained that it’s “separate.”
“Obviously, two different situations. I’m not here to just speak on what happened with Nolan or any type of things that went on with him and the front office or whatever it may be,” said Story, who hit .289 with 11 homers, 28 RBI and 15 stolen bases last year in an abbreviated season due to the pandemic. “It’s a separate situation for sure. … We’ll see where it goes.”
After years of being mentored by the likes of Arenado, outfielder Charlie Blackmon and Desmond, Story’s looking to pay the knowledge forward anyway he can.
“That’s something that I’m going to embrace,” Story said. “I’m going to talk to the young guys and let them know that I’m here for them.”
He understands that in light of the Arenado trade, the Rockies are already being dismissed. They’re embracing the underdog role as they try to make it back to the playoffs after missing out the past two seasons.
“I feel like you count a group of competitors out like that at this level, at the major league level, you instantly put a chip on their shoulder,” Story said. “That’s kind of the attitude we’re coming in with.”
Yankees’ Gerrit Cole calls MLB service-time manipulation exposed in exec’s video blatant, ‘not productive’
TAMPA — Add Yankees ace Gerrit Cole to the growing list of major leaguers that have sounded off on the way some MLB teams think internally about players in the wake of former Mariners president Kevin Mather’s inflammatory comments about service-time manipulation and free agency.
“Every player should wake up and read the news on the guy in the Mariners,” said Cole, one of eight players on the MLB Players Association’s executive subcommittee. “It’s just tired. It’s tired, man, and I think players are over it. And if they haven’t been awakened to that type of behavior, that’s what goes on.”
Mather, who resigned Monday, apologized for remarks made to a Rotary Club earlier this month, which surfaced when the video was recently posted online. In his wide-ranging comments, Mather not only criticized the English-speaking capabilities of two members of the organization, he also talked about some of the Mariners top prospects not starting the season with the team as a way to manipulate their major-league service time.
“Those conversations are being had, and unfortunately that’s the kind of way a lot of clubs are acting,” Cole said Tuesday afternoon after finishing pitchers and catchers workouts at the Yankees minor league complex in Tampa. “That’s just not productive for anyone. It’s not productive for the product. You’re not putting the best players on the field for people to see. This guy’s talking about players that are making him money. The product is the people that he’s talking poorly about.”
The players’ association released a statement in which they described Mather’s comments as offensive and as a “highly disturbing yet critically important window into how players are genuinely viewed by management.”
“Not just because of what was said, but also because it represents an unfiltered look into club thinking,” the statement read. “It is offensive, and it is not surprising that fans and others around the game are offended as well.”
Finding ways to gain a financial advantage is part of the fabric of baseball as much as it is for any other industry. And more control tends to equal more financial return, which is why teams have been known to hold a player back in the minors to manipulate service time and push back his eligibility for free agency.
“I’m fortunate to be in an organization where we don’t do that or play that. When guys are ready, or we feel like they’re ready to impact the club, that’s that. And that’s how we treat things around here,” said Yankees manager Aaron Boone, who spent 12 years in the big leagues. “If somebody is truly being held down, I think that’s terrible. There are certain times where it’s a little more gray, but purposely holding a guy down I don’t think should have a place in our game.”
Yankees All-Star outfielder Aaron Judge, who is two years away from free agency, also spoke out strongly about service time manipulation, one of the topics poised to be front and center as the MLBPA and MLB negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement. Their current CBA will expire on Dec. 1, 2021.
“It’s tough to hear because, as a player, I’ve always wanted to have the best product out there on the field. This is about winning this championship. And it doesn’t matter if you’re 40 years old, if you’re 18 years old, if you’re the best player at that position, you should get that opportunity,” said Judge after the Yankees’ first full squad workout of the spring at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
“It’s saddening to hear those comments coming from a guy in that position. It’s sad to see, and I’m kind of looking forward to seeing what comes out of this. It’s tough. It’s your dream to play professional baseball and play in the major leagues, and getting cut out of that based on certain manipulations, I don’t think that’s right.”
New York Mets’ Taijuan Walker picks number 99 as mascot Mr. Met wears preferred 00
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Taijuan Walker is taking a back seat on his new team — to Mr. Met.
A day after the Mets finalized his $23 million, three-year contract, Walker said he was aced out of his preferred jersey number by the rotund mascot with the baseball-shaped head.
“I was 44 growing up, and I finally got it with the Mariners in 2016,” Walker said Tuesday. “And then I ended up getting traded at the end of the year, and when I got traded to the Diamondbacks, Paul Goldschmidt was No. 44. So I was, OK, I’m never going to get that again.”
So Walker thought: “What number can wear that not a lot of people in the league have it?”
He chose 99.
“And I think the only way I don’t wear 99 is if I get traded to the Yankees,” he said. “So I was, OK, 99 is a safe bet and live with that.”
“And then, of course, last year I got traded to Toronto and (Hyun Jin) Ryu wears 99. So, I was like, OK, well, that didn’t work out. So I’m wearing 00. Something different, again.”
“And, of course, this year, Mr. Met is 00. So I just went back to wearing 99.”
The only previous Mets No. 99 was Turk Wendell from 1997-2001, according to Baseball Reference.
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