Houston Astros prospect George Springer reportedly turned down a $23 milliion, seven-year offer in September of 2013 that would have bought out all six years that he's under team control plus one year of free agency according to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal.
The 24-year-old Springer is on the verge of the major leagues, completing 2013 with a .303/.411/.600 combined slash line between Double- and Triple-A, kicking in 37 total home runs and 45 stolen bases. While the numbers pop off the screen, there are issues with Springer, highlighted by his prodigious 161 strikeouts in 135 games.
While Springer is respected as a prospect, rankings have him at 19th overall in aggregate, there are still questions as to his major league viability thanks to that elite swing-and-miss ability as well as a lack of a two-strike approach. He's been able to punish minor league pitching but the thought is that major league pitchers will be able to exploit the holes in his swing.
That's the downside, but the upside is immense as Springer is a frontline athlete capable of playing centerfield, hitting 30+ home runs and stealing 30+ bases. Players of that ilk don't come along often, even if they are a bit on the raw end of the scale. Which is why the Astros offer makes sense. They could have one of the best players in the game if everything clicks, and if they get him on a seven-year, $23 million deal they won't have to worry about a call up affecting service time. On top of that, Springer could conceivably spend all of 2014 at Triple-A and still make that a good deal for the Astros.
Which means the story shouldn't be Springer's declination of the reported offer. He's taking a risk turning down life-changing money but he (or his agent) is correctly reading baseball's market. It's well worth it for players to take a small discount for some security, as they'll get their money whether they perform or not. But if a player is confident in his abilities, there's a lot of money to be made using baseball's arbitration process -- especially for a player like Springer who can accrue massive counting stats in home runs and stolen bases even if he doesn't hit for much of an average.
As an imperfect but still relevant example, take current Astro, Dexter Fowler. Fowler ranked 15th overall per Baseball America as a 23-year-old, and will have earned $15.81 million through the 2014 season (his sixth) with one year of arbitration eligibility remaining, likely earning a raise from his current $7.35 million salary. If we give Springer a floor of Dexter Fowler, he is earning $23+ million anyway, and that's without giving away a year of free agency in the process. The high end comparison might be Jacoby Ellsbury, who was ranked 13th in 2008 (per BA) as a 24-year-old. He made $20.812 million in his six years of team control, before signing his massive free agent deal this offseason, which would bring his seven year total to around $42 million.
There's still risk on the Astros' side, to be sure. We know of prospects that have flamed out without ever reaching the majors or those who have struggled to adjust to the overall talent level once arriving. It's not a bad offer by Houston, who would take on significant risk in such a deal, but it becomes more understandable as to why Springer might decline such a deal if he believes in his own talent.