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Monday August 2nd, 2021 9:19PM

New Jays OF Springer sees echoes of Astros in Toronto's core

By The Associated Press
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TORONTO (AP) — George Springer thinks Toronto's promising young core is similar to the group he played with that led Houston to its first World Series title in 2017.

Springer and the Blue Jays agreed last week to a team-record $150 million, six-year contract. He joined a roster that includes young sluggers Vladimir Guerrero and Bo Bichette, The three-time All-Star outfielder was 2017 World Series MVP when he played with José Altuve, Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa.

“This lineup reminds me a lot of them,” Springer said, wearing a Toronto cap and jersey during a video news conference. “It is a young lineup but it’s a very talented, advanced younger lineup. From everything I’ve seen, they’re very, very ambitious. They want to win, they work hard. That’s awesome to see.”

Toronto went 32-28 during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, finishing third in the AL East behind Tampa Bay and the New York Yankees and qualifying for the expanded postseason. The Blue Jays swept in two games during a first-round series by the eventual AL champion Rays.

“I think they’re right there,” Springer said of Toronto. “When you play against this team like I have, you could see the talent, could see the potential in their lineup, in their staff, in their arms. I think this team is built to win, and I think they’re going to be built to win for a long time.”

Team president Mark Shapiro said Springer was “clearly a good fit” for the emerging Blue Jays.

“His experience will add a certain level of wisdom to our players,” Shapiro said. “He’s been places where our guys haven’t been yet and knows how to handle those environments.”

In seven seasons, Springer has a .270 career average with 174 home runs and 458 RBIs, including career bests of .292 with 39 homers and 96 RBIs in 2019.

Besides Springer, Toronto also has signed right-handers Kirby Yates and Tyler Chatwood in the past week. The Blue Jays have a pending $18 million, one-year deal with infielder Marcus Semien, subject to a successful physical.

“We’ve taken the next step and we’ll see where that takes us,” general manager Ross Atkins said.

Shapiro insisted the Blue Jays still have flexibility to add payroll, likely to strengthen the rotation, but said “the bulk of our heavy lifting is done.”

Springer split time between center field and right with the Astros, but is expected to become a fixture in center for the Blue Jays. He’s also likely to lead off Toronto’s batting order.

“It’s no secret that George is a great leadoff hitter,” manager Charlie Montoyo said.

“I’m willing to do whatever it is they want me to do,” Springer said. “I’m here for the team, I’m here to win so whatever they want me to do, I’ll gladly do it.”

Springer said the Blue Jays contacted him early in the free agent process, putting him in “a very good state of mind” right from the first call.

“When you have a young talented group that’s already in place, it’s obviously very, very attractive because you know what they could potentially do,” he said.

Springer’s contract is the second $100 million-plus deal in team history. In December 2006, center fielder Vernon Wells and the Blue Jays agreed to a $126 million, seven-year contract.

Under new owner Steve Cohen, the New York Mets were said to be interested in Springer, but the outfielder wouldn't address their pursuit.

“This is about the Blue Jays,” Springer said. “I don’t really have anything to say on that matter. I’m extremely happy to be where I am.”

Springer was more open to addressing Toronto’s interest in friend and former teammate Michael Brantley, who rejoined the Astros for a $32 million, two-year deal.

“I talk to Mike as a friend probably every day,” Springer said. “It’s not my business to ask him all that stuff. I was hopeful for it but, ultimately, I’m happy for him.”

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More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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