Editor's Note: This week, NBC Sports Bay Area will theorize hypothetical front-office acquisitions for each of our teams. Today, we examine a potential move the Giants could make.
Giancarlo Stanton. Shohei Ohtani. Bryce Harper. Were these smokescreens in San Francisco or real pursuits by the Giants?
No, $310 million isn't a smokescreen. That's what the Giants offered Harper in February 2019 before the former NL MVP eventually signed with the Philadelphia Phillies. Harper, at 26 years old, was the rare free agent who made sense for the rebuilding Giants to offer such a larger, and long (12 years), contract. So, who's next in line for the Giants to make a run at as early as next offseason?
The obvious answer is Mookie Betts, who turns 28 in October. Regardless of if a shortened season is played or not this year, teams will line up to hand Betts a blank check. The first in line will be the Los Angeles Dodgers, and they rightfully will be the frontrunners to sign the 2018 AL MVP.
After jumping through all the hoops and clearing all the hurdles, Betts headlined a five-player trade where he went from the Boston Red Sox to the Dodgers in February. The fact that someone named "Jeter" joining the Red Sox isn't the most absurd part of this trade shows just how bonkers this blockbuster was. San Francisco surely will test the waters when it comes to signing Betts, but if you're a betting man (yeah, I know) put your money on Mookie making Hollywood his home.
That doesn't mean the Giants can't find a star on the open market, though. There's a cheaper, slightly older, power-hitting outfielder they can get their hands on. Farhan Zaidi should be all-in on making George Springer a Giant.
Before we dive into Springer and how he would fit the Giants, let's compare him and Betts by the numbers last season.
Betts (150 games): .295/.391/.525, 29 HR, 135 R, 80 RBI, 16 SB, .915 OPS, 135 OPS+
Springer (122 games): .292/.383/.591, 39 HR, 96 R, 96 RBI, 6 SB, .974 OPS, 150 OPS+
Despite missing a chunk of games after straining his hamstring in late May and then suffering a concussion when running into the outfield wall in early September, Springer had a career year at the plate. He finished seventh in AL MVP voting, Betts finished eighth. Springer was worth a career-high 6.4 bWAR, while Betts was worth slightly more at 6.9.
Betts has won four straight Gold Glove awards, but both players were worth 1.2 dWAR last year. FanGraphs had Betts edging out Springer, who can play center or right field, in Defensive Runs Saved at 16-12.
Springer also is three years older than Betts and won't get paid nearly as much. The Astros star will enter free agency having just turned 31 years old. It will be a wild offseason, too, with the league coming off the financial ramifications of losing games to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
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Springer could be hoping to hear offers starting around six years and $180 million. With past injury concerns and contract constraints after such odd circumstances, that number will come down. It could come down a long way, too.
Justin Upton signed a five-year, $106 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels in November 2017 after hitting 35 homers that season. He was 30 years old, turning 31 in August, at the time of the signing. In his age-24 through 29 seasons, Upton averaged 28 homers, an .817 OPS and 122 OPS+. Springer has averaged 27 homers (in 164 fewer games) with an .849 OPS and 131 OPS+ in his first six seasons, when he was 24 through 29 years old.
The Astros will do what they can to keep Springer in Houston, and they already have expressed their interest in a long-term deal. Springer also was one of the most remorseful and outspoken players regarding the Astros' sign-stealing scandal.
"I feel horrible for our sport, our game, you know, our fans, our city, our organization -- just fans in general," Springer said to reporters in spring training. "I regret everything."
For those concerned about Springer's production away from Houston, he is a .278 career hitter with 87 home runs on the road, compared .262 and 73 homers at Minute Maid Park.
In this hypothetical world, the Connecticut native wants to come West and signs a five-year, $118.5 million contract with the Giants this Winter.
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San Francisco has a lot of big contracts coming off the books in the near future. Jeff Samardzija will be a free agent this upcoming offseason. Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford's contracts both end after 2021. And Buster Posey and Johnny Cueto, who both have 2022 team options, could be out after '21.
The rebuild also will be ramping up by the time Springer would be on board. Joey Bart should be ingrained into the Giants' lineup by 2021, as should fellow top prospect Heliot Ramos. Hunter Bishop, and even Marco Luciano, could be playing at Oracle Park in 2022.
Zaidi and the rest of the Giants' front office could use San Francisco's rising farm system as a selling tool to Springer. They also might make it clear they have their eyes on a handful of the 2021-22 free-agent class that includes the likes of Noah Syndergaard, Nolan Arenado, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Francisco Lindor, Trevor Story and Carlos Correa.
If the Giants want to get back to get back to wearing championship rings, adding a former World Series MVP won't hurt. Springer doesn't just smash in the regular season -- he already has 15 postseason homers and hit .379 in the 2017 World Series.
Mookie Betts will be baseball's biggest star when free agency starts this offseason. George Springer is a hell of a backup plan, and the Giants already should be plotting ways to get him in Gabe Kapler's lineup.