An interesting situation has been developing down in Houston, basically dating back to September, when the Astros offered top prospect George Springer a seven-year, $23 million contract that was ultimately rejected.
At the time, the 24-year-old outfielder was absolutely tearing it up at Double-A and Triple-A, posting a .303/.411/.600 with 37 home runs and 45 stolen bases in 135 games. Numbers that were obviously worthy of a September call up and an extended trial run against major league pitching to see how far away Springer might be from contributing.
It seems the Astros were willing to give it to him as well, but apparently not before they locked him up in a long-term contract. The advantage for them being that Springer would then be under team control, eliminating concerns about service time and starting his arbitration and free agency clocks.
To put it simply, the longer they wait to call him up, the longer it will be before they have to pay him good money.
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?
The last question became relevant when Springer was shipped to minor league camp again on Wednesday. His addition to the 40-man roster hasn’t come yet either, and his agent Greg Genske is growing tired of the shenanigans. He believes the Astros are holding his client back simply for their own financial gains explained above, and are therefore robbing him of an opportunity he’s clearly earning. And with that in mind, Genske may soon seek recourse with the assistance of the MLBPA.
People with knowledge of the situation told the Chronicle that in the case of George Springer and the possibility he may not be in the major leagues because of service time, due diligence is being conducted as to whether it’s worth pursuing recourse. That does not mean the ultimate decision will involve any action, i.e., a grievance. But the possibility will be weighed.
Player’s union director of communications Greg Bouris and Springer’s agent, Greg Genske, declined to comment.
Although Springer is technically not a member of the major league baseball players association — he is not on the team’s 40-man roster yet — that does not limit the union’s ability to potentially contest that the Astros did not act properly. The central issue is always whether the collective bargaining agreement was violated in any way.
It’s a tough case to make since the Astros are working within the framework of the current CBA. In fact, it’s a tactic that is used with several other non-contending teams as well as they attempt to hold on to their prospects longer. But that doesn’t make it any more comfortable or less frustrating for the player. And that’s especially true in Springer’s case because the Astros obviously acknowledged he’s ready with the long-term contract offer, but won’t extend the deserved opportunity unless he signs.
As has also been noted, there’s some additional urgency for Springer as he’s already 24 years old. He’s losing valuable time to prove he belongs and to increase his value with some tasty stats, where as younger players in his situation still have time for development and often hit their stride just as they’re hitting arbitration.
It’s a maddening position to be in. It doesn’t exactly put the Astros in a favorable light, either, so perception is something they’ll have to consider through all of this. But until the CBA changes, there’s really not a lot Springer or others in his position will be able to do. And that’s bad for baseball, because everyone is being robbed of enjoying a great talent as he rises in the big leagues.
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