Nationals

If Springer moves on from the Astros, could he land in the NL East?

Nationals

Houston Astros outfielder George Springer likely won't be re-signing with the team once he hits free agency this offseason, ESPN 97.5’s Patrick Creighton reported Monday.

Springer, 31, is a three-time All-Star who’s played his entire seven-year career in Houston. The former No. 11 overall pick carries the stain of being an integral member of the Astros’ 2017 World Series championship team that used hidden cameras at Minute Maid Park to steal opposing catchers’ signs. Yet that likely won’t stop him from being one of the most highly sought-after free agents this winter.

One division that figures to be heavily involved in the Springer sweepstakes in the NL East, where the Nationals, New York Mets, Atlanta Braves and Miami Marlins all have an opening in their outfield that could be filled by the veteran leadoff man.

The Nationals are expected to decline right fielder Adam Eaton’s $10.5 million team option for 2021, which would create the rare hole at a corner outfield spot for Washington. Since 2013, only four Nationals have logged 100 or more games in a season at either left or right field: Eaton, Juan Soto, Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper. Given their need for another bat to hit alongside Soto and Trea Turner at the top of the order, Springer would be a good fit for Washington.

They won’t get him easily, though. The Mets are reportedly looking to make a big splash this winter under new owner Steve Cohen. New York has plenty of outfielders already in Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, Jeff McNeil and Dominic Smith, but they could sign Springer and trade one of those younger pieces for a starting pitcher to bolster their depleted rotation.

 

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Atlanta could also be in the running with both Marcell Ozuna and Nick Markakis reaching the end of their respective contracts. While top prospect Christian Pache is in line to inherit the job, the Braves could opt to keep their 21-year-old outfielder in the minors for another year and wait until a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (and possibly a universal DH) is reached after next season. Springer would be a much more reliable option to replace Ozuna if he walks this winter.

Finally, the Marlins can’t be counted out after making the playoffs for the first time since 2003. Miami will have an opening in right field following the expected departure of Matt Joyce. Though the Marlins haven’t opened the checkbook much for top free agents since Derek Jeter and Co. took over, they’ve also been in a rebuild the entire time. Springer could be signed to be the biggest star for a team looking to make back-to-back postseason appearances for the first time in franchise history.

Springer would be a fit on almost any roster, so his range of suitors is likely to extend well beyond the division. But the offseason gets underway, no division is as safe a bet to land the free agent outfielder as the NL East.