Heading into 2005, Mets GM Omar Minaya made big strides toward turning the team into a true contender. Perhaps the move that signaled that more than any other was his signing of Carlos Beltran to a seven-year, $119 million contract to patrol center field. In the years since, the world learned who Bernard Madoff was, and the Mets haven’t landed the prime free agent on the market.

As the 2020 offseason stands, we know two things: one of the biggest needs for the New York Mets moving forward is center field, and the top free agent George Springer is a center fielder. With new owner Steve Cohen signaling a willingness to spend freely on a winner, the time is now for the Mets to make a splash in free agency and make a legitimate push to sign Springer.

There have been calls coming from all ends of the New York media and fans for the Mets to go after Springer this offseason, and for good reason. He has hit .273/.363/.500 and averaged 37 home runs per 162 games over the last five seasons, and is about to enter his age 31 season. While that is a touch on the older side, there is reason to believe Springer still has several productive seasons left in him. He gets on base, hits for power and plays solid defense in center, which is a combination of skills the Mets haven’t seen since Beltran.

Signing Springer, a Connecticut native, would send a message to the rest of Major League Baseball that the new Mets are not just talk, but that they mean business. Making this signing is the kind of thing a team does when it wants to win a title in the next two to three seasons, as Cohen said in his introductory news conference.

But just how much of an upgrade would Springer be for the Mets? Let’s take a look at what the past tells us.

Since Springer’s first year in the majors in 2015, Mets center fielders have hit .248/.334/.434 and have been worth 2.1 fWAR/150. Meanwhile Springer has hit .274/.363/.494 and has produced at a 5.2 fWAR/150 clip. So on average over the past three seasons, Springer would have been a 3-win improvement for the Mets in center field.

That was surprisingly open-and-close, but obviously it isn’t that simple. Springer is at the end of his prime, and that means age regression is coming. So what do the projection systems think? We’ll use ZiPS 3-year projections (which at this point only cover ‘21 and ’22) to compare Springer and incumbent center fielder Brandon Nimmo.

ZiPS sees Springer being worth 8.0 fWAR in the next two years (4.3 and 3.7, respectively), continuing his place as one of the best center fielders in baseball. A move from Minute Maid Park to Citi Field isn’t likely to make a meaningful impact on that projection.

Nimmo, however, is projected at 3.8 fWAR over the next two seasons (1.8 and 2.0). Part of that has to do with his inability to play a full season in the majors except for 2018 at the time of these projections. Of course some of it has to do with him being a subpar defender in center. As a corner outfielder, Nimmo’s outlook is probably more optimistic than that.

And that’s really the crux of the whole acquisition. Signing Springer isn’t about just sending a message, it is about improving the team, first and foremost. It doesn’t just improve the Mets in one position, it helps them out in three – center, left, and depth on the bench. Those are areas that the team has been sorely lacking in for a long time.

Bringing Springer into the fold immediately makes the Mets a better team, and one that is more capable of competing for a playoff spot. Money is only an object as it relates to the luxury tax penalties, but the Mets don’t have to worry about those for several years, and even at that point it is unknown what the new Collective Bargaining Agreement brings after the 2021 season.

By no means would that mean the Mets could rest on their laurels as a catcher and starting pitchers need to be brought in to create a well-balanced team. However, Springer would anchor the team’s outfield for years to come, and be the kind of signing that Beltran was for the Mets 15 years ago – one that signals that the team is ready to go all-in to win now.

Joe Vasile is a broadcaster for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders and Bucknell University. He is the host of the baseball history podcast Secondary Lead.

13 comments on “Signing George Springer good for Mets on and off the field

  • Pal88

    Agree.. Springer would be #1 on my “want list” followed closely by Bauer & McAnn.

    • Joe Vasile

      I like Bauer and wouldn’t mind him, but I do have concerns about his past performance relative to this year. There is a lot of inconsistency and ERAs in the mid-4s until 2020. I know there have been a lot of whispers that he was doctoring the ball this year, and that’s a concern as well.

      He’s a good pitcher and improves the staff, but even casting his personality aside he seems like a guy who things could really go upside down quickly.

  • Steve S.

    I like the Beltran comparison. He was an above-average player offensively until he was 39 years old. Signing Springer for six years sounds about right.

    Even if Conforto is extended, an OF of Nimmo, Springer, and Conforto looks good for several years (Beltran’s defense slipped a bit around age 34). And then, if Springer, has to move to a corner position, Nimmo could be traded or be the DH.

  • Thomas M Christensen

    Springer would be a terrific addition but his price could be exceptionally high ! The kid on the Dodgers Joc Pederson would be a good catch if he is still available also because he is young and can hit and play center field as well but most of all he’ll be a lot cheaper in costs so they can go after J T Ralomuto with the extra cash ! A real splurge would be to get Springer and J T all at once and fill in with the Starting Pitchers on Free Agency . We have been sucking wind for about 15 years and didn’t have the people to do the job, Cespedes was supposed to be the man to make us a winner but all he did was make money and stay at home . I’m sure there is a team that would take him because he does have some value to swap for a starter ? That’s a thought only !!

    • Not Mike Koehler

      After the culture in Houston the past few years, I don’t want any part of Springer or any Astro. However, I do like the idea of Joc Pederson (good defense, holes but useable on offense) since it saves money for pitching and JTR.

    • Joe Vasile

      I’m not the biggest fan of going after Joc to play CF. He hasn’t consistently played center every day since 2017. There’s a reason the Dodgers moved Cody Bellinger from 1B to CF. Career he has -16 DRS in 412 games, Nimmo has -14 in 147 games, so he is better defensively, but still a net negative.

      So then you’re left with still a sub-par fielder with more power and less OBP than Nimmo. If the Mets had an opening in one of the corners I’d be all for bringing Pederson in, but for CF, I don’t think its a good idea right now.

  • José

    Bauer and his agent are sending coy winks and kissy lips (figuratively speaking) at the Mets via SNY on YouTube.

    I want to imagine Springer, Realmuto and Bauer joining the Blue and Orange. That would be their greatest coup ever, but would be business as usual for the Yanks

    • Metsense

      Springer would be a good choice but not the best choice. Nimmo/Springer/Conforto and McNeil at 3B is the best defensive lineup. Smith and Alonso split 1B/DH if there is a DH. Davis would not get enough playing time and will be on the bench. Like you said, catcher and starting pitching would need to be addressed. If instead, Realmuto is signed then the position players would stay in their positions and only have to deal with the starting pitching. Realmuto should the primary target with Springer the fall back choice.

  • TJ

    Buy George. That has a nice ring to it. His price may not be as high as expected given the marketplace.

  • MattyMets

    Beltran was 28 when the Mets signed him. I was relieved over the past few years when we passed on AJ Pollock, Lorenzo Cain, Dexter Fowler and one more I’m not thinking of. I’d add Starling Marte to that group too. CFs don’t age well and typically I don’t like the idea of signing one over 30. However, this one is different. Springer’s bat plays in the corners too and he can transition in two or three years where as the guys above will all wind up being dead wood/sunk cost when their legs start slowing down. Dammit, Lagares was supposed to be our Kevin Keirmeier.

  • Remember1969

    Good write-up, Joe.

    Springer has been my first choice for free agents since the year ended. Your point of his signing making the team better at three positions is excellent.

  • Mike W

    The Mets are talking to Ozuna too. Could be the DH. I guess they are kicking the tires on everybody.

    Maybe they find a way to ship off Cano. I am just sensing some big moves. It is exciting.

  • Brian Joura

    Alonso, Smith, Cano, McNeil, Davis, Gimenez, Rosario, Nimmo, Conforto – That’s nine players for seven spots, eight if the DH comes back. Springer would be a really good fit but it seems his addition would absolutely require a trade to happen. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But it is a thing.

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