George Springer, introduced by the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday, is joining a different club but not an unfamiliar situation.
George Springer made his first appearance in a Blue Jays uniform on Wednesday as he prepares to join a young but talented club. It’s a situation he’s found himself in before.
When Springer first debuted in the Majors with the Houston Astros in 2014, the club was coming off three straight 100-loss seasons. But there were reasons for optimism. Jose Altuve was in his third full season and on his way to winning his first of three batting titles. Carlos Correa was still a year away, while Alex Bregman, who wouldn’t even be drafted until the following June, didn’t debut for another two years.
The 2015 Astros, in Springer’s second season, were the youngest lineup in baseball but accelerated their rebuilding process by making the postseason. Two years later, with the core of Springer, Altuve, Correa, and Bregman, they won the first World Series in franchise history. It was a lesson for other clubs that a patient accumulation of young prospects can pay off in the long-run.
Springer, who signed a six-year, $150 million contract with the Blue Jays last week, admits the current Blue Jays roster reminds him of those early years in Houston. They have the young core — players like Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio — and a front office ready and willing to spend. Those factors, Springer says, is what made the decision to commit to this team the right one.
“I think the young core is obviously very, very impressive,” he said at his introductory press conference Wednesday. “The way the front office has gotten behind their guys, the message that they really believe in this team, that’s very important to me.”
Like those emerging Astros teams, the 2020 Blue Jays had the youngest roster in the league at an average age of 25.9 years. The Astros supplemented their young, home-grown talent by acquiring key veterans like Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran before the 2017 season; their biggest move came when they traded for Justin Verlander with just minutes to spare before the August trade deadline. The Blue Jays front office, led by General Manager Ross Atkins, is doing the same thing to help their young stars, signing Hyun Jin Ryu last offseason and now Springer.
When the Astros won the World Series, neither of their four key hitters was older than 28. Guerrero is still just 21, Bichette 22; Biggio is the oldest of the trio at 25. Springer, Correa, and Bregman averaged a .821 OPS over their first two seasons in the big leagues. The Blue Jays big three have combined for a .824 OPS since they all debuted in 2019, which would rank second in the league among infielders over that span behind only the Atlanta Braves.
There are more similarities between those Astros teams and the current Blue Jays besides the man who will patrol center field. The addition of Springer to a lineup that was already deep should make the Blue Jays perennial contenders, just like the Astros became. And he knows it.
“I had the privilege of playing with some talented guys, Jose, Alex, Correa. This lineup reminds me a lot of them,” he said. “I think it is a young lineup but it’s a talented, advanced lineup. Everything I’ve heard, everything I’ve seen, they want to win, they work hard, and that’s pretty much awesome. It’s awesome to see.”
The Astros went from the bottom-feeders of baseball to a potential dynasty in just three short years. From losing 100 games three straight years, they won more than 100 between 2017-19, with two trips to the Fall Classic and four ALCS appearances.
The Blue Jays made the playoffs for the first time in four years last season. And just like those Astros of 2015, it seems like that’s just the beginning. Springer, no longer a youngster but a veteran and one of the best outfielders in baseball, decided he wanted to be apart of it yet again.