For some players, the burden of being awarded the largest contract in a franchise’s history can feel like too much to bear. MLBbro George Springer is not one of those players.
“Choosing Toronto was one of the easiest decisions I’ve had to make in my career, “Springer wrote in his post for The Players Tribune. “My family and I felt good about it from the start – so after I got off the phone with Mark and Ross during my free agency, I didn’t need more convincing. I called my agent and told him, “This is the place.”
While we all acknowledge family plays a major role in free agent decisions, a quick look at this roster would make any ballplayer comfortable. Toronto’s features players like budding superstar Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Lourdes Gurriel Jr., just to name a few. And despite already possessing a roster packed with homegrown talent, Toronto has shown that they don’t mind spending to compete in AL East — arguably the best division in baseball.
Springer was the first domino to fall, signing his six-year, $151 million deal in the summer of 2021. Unfortunately, last season injuries limited Springer to just 78 games and under 300 plate appearances in a full season for the first time since his rookie year.
Although he was still effective when he did play, smashing 22 homers and posting an OPS of .907, the Blue Jays would eventually miss the playoffs by one game.
This offseason, after losing Marcus Semien, who set the single-season home run record for second baseman, Toronto decided to acquire more reinforcements, spending $240 million dollars on starting pitchers Jose Berrios and Kevin Gausman, while also adding platinum glove winner Matt Chapman in a trade with the forever rebuilding Oakland Athletics.
Adding players of this caliber means more pressure on the 2017 World Series MVP to lead this team all the way.
Fortunately for Blue Jays fans, he has already embraced the role. “It’s been so cool watching these guys and knowing what they have in front of them – because I’ve been in their shoes before. And as the “old guy” (ha) I just get to sit back now and help them whenever I can.”
Springer’s task this season isn’t the first time we’ve seen an MLBbro in this scenario.
Let’s take a quick trip back to 2003, when Black Ace Dontrelle “D-Train” Willis exploded onto the scene with the young Florida Marlins. Willis, Josh Beckett and future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera may receive the most recognition, but there was a veteran MLBbro who was also critical to the Marlins eventual World Series victory.
Derek Lee smacked 31 home runs that season while driving in 92 runs and winning a Golden Glove at first base. Lee’s numbers may have dipped in the postseason, but the heavy lifting he did during the regular season was crucial to the Marlins postseason berth. If Toronto is to reach the lofty expectations placed upon them, Springer will need to take a similar role with the Blue Jays in order to guide these young guys to glory.
Chris Archer is nearing a return after being sidelined for almost three months.
Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reported that Archer is “feeling good and is eyeing an early July return from the injured list.”
This is a sign the Rays certainly wanted to see from Archer. Having another healthy and potentially lethal arm in an already-solid pitching rotation can be a huge benefit.
The Rays have had a lot of success without Archer, establishing themselves as the top team in the AL East. So where will the former All-Star fit in when he makes his return?
On the season, he is 0-1 with a 6.23 ERA.
Before his injury, Archer made just two appearances. His first was out of the bullpen and his second appearance was a start.
In his lone start of the season against the New York Yankees, he had a solid outing. The MLBbro threw 2.1 innings, striking out four and giving up no runs before leaving the game because of the injury.
“I thought it was just something that kind of comes and goes, because things come and go as you start,” Archer told the Tampa Bay Times regarding the injury. “But it lingered, and I found myself altering how I was throwing a little and it just wasn’t worth it.”
“Fortunately, it’s nothing serious. But there’s definitely some tightness in there that I need to get out. So I’m glad that we took the precautions that we did. And I’m really glad the bullpen stepped up.”
The two-time All-Star can make an immediate impact once he returns and silence all the critics that think he doesn’t have anything left in the tank. Even though his numbers have not been up to par the past few seasons, he can still go out there and get the job done on the mound.
Especially playing for a team that can make it back to the World Series. They will need all the pitching they can get.
If he can continue to build off his last performance, there’s no question he will add value to the rotation.
The Rays will find the right spot for Archer once he returns and they’ll keep a close eye on him as the time approaches to formulate a playoff roster.
Going into the 2021 season, the 32-year-old was ready to contribute to a team that was coming off its first World Series appearances since 2008.
Archer’s best season came in 2015 when he made his first all-star team and finished the season with a 12-13 record with a 3.23 ERA.
He made 34 starts that season and finished with 252 strikeouts, the most he’s had in a season.
Even though his career has been a roller coaster ride, he’s still in a position to help his team go deep into the playoffs if used correctly.
Once he makes his return, Archer will be an MLBbro you want to keep tabs on.
After seven years with the Houston Astros, a six-year, $150M contract lured Springer (2017 World Series MVP) to the AL East. Springer’s debut was delayed due to aGrade 2 oblique strainthat put him on the IL to start the season, though the Jays expect him to join the lineup any day now.
George Springer is “doing really well,” per Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo.
Next step in Springer's recovery from an oblique strain is taking live batting practice on Tuesday. He's eligible to come off IL on Thursday.
He remains one of the most productive hitters in the game too. During last season’s shortened schedule, Springer finished in the American League’s top ten in home runs, runs batted in, and runs scored.
We mentioned Toronto’s baby-booming infield, but Springer also has some outfield mates who can cause damage. He’s a seamless fit in an outfield that returns Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Teoscar Hernandez, and Randal Grichuk. The trio combined to bat .289 with 39 homers, 102 RBI, and scored 99 times.
Springer is excited to be joining the Blue Jays young core, he and Semien will be the only players over 30 years old in the regular rotation.
The Astros lost 92 games in Springer’s first year in the majors. Surrounded by another collection of rising stars, he was holding a World Series trophy three seasons later.
He sees something familiar with Toronto.
"I think the young core is very, VERY impressive! Bichette, Biggio, Guerrero, Gurriel…" – George Springer ? pic.twitter.com/y8ESk9ehzN
If Toronto is getting the Semien that played all 162 games for the Oakland A’s while batting .285 with 33 home runs, 92 RBI, 123 runs scored, and an .892 OPS, the Blue Jays could have one of the elite offensive middle infields in all of baseball.
Last season was more of a struggle for the 30-year-old, some of which has to be attributed to the disjointed nature of the COVID-inflicted season. He did get better as the season went along, raising his OBP by 28 percent and his OPS by 23 percent from July to September and still finishing with a positive WAR figure.
If Toronto is to reach its potential, Marcus Semien and George Springer should be major catalysts.
For a Blue Jays franchise that hasn’t been to the World Series in almost 30 years, and that spent nearly $200 million in free agency, they have to be.