The Houston Astros are expected to promote George Springer to the majors shortly, which is great for him, and great for baseball fans, especially those in Houston.
But why now?
Houston certainly hasn't waited long enough to avoid the dreaded Super Two status with Springer. The countdown to arbitration will begin less than a month into the 2014 season.
That means he could be eligible for his first panel hearing after the 2016 season. If they had waited about 100 more days, they could have set themselves up to avoid a more expensive George Springer until 2017. Their decision won't affect the duration of their control over him, but it will allow him to earn much more than the league minimum a year sooner, or a year longer depending on how you look at it.
In any event, it's not exactly a prototypical move. The Astros might be surprisingly good this season, but it would take all off 63 wins for them to be labeled as such. It goes without saying that they aren't exactly going for it in 2014.
So, why call up Springer now?
To avoid a messy situation with Springer's agency, Legacy Sports Group. Springer's representatives threatened to file a grievance against the Astros after their client was demoted despite being offered a seven-year, $23 million deal.
None of this would have mattered if Springer had accepted the offer, but he made the decision to bet on himself and play through his pre-arbitration years in hopes of earning more than the extension that was offered. When he didn't break camp with the team, it became pretty obvious what the Astros were doing.
It's a tactic teams have employed for some time now. Calling a promising prospect up in June just makes more financial sense than having him start on Opening Day or permanently join the roster in September within the current rules of the collective-bargaining agreement.
However until now, no team had made it so obvious. The Astros aren't a bunch of Rumple-drunken fratbros pantsing each other and slinging together a plan between intramural frolfings. They're the Houston Astros, one of, if not, the most progressive organizations in sports.
They probably expected Springer to accept their offer, or at least negotiate with them until they could reach a deal. It's becoming the norm in baseball to lock up prospects. Houston was just performing due diligence. Springer's decision to decline their offer(s) was an exclamation of sorts, and it could give way to an avalanche of changes in the way teams interact with their top prospects.
In Arizona, Archie Bradley is currently making a similar statement. The Diamondbacks clearly need help in their rotation and Bradley's agent, Jay Franklin, says his client is ready now, and that the team is unfairly postponing his promotion to prevent him from earning what he's worth. Franklin seems to be using Springer's situation with Houston as a launching pad for his argument.
It's certainly possible that Houston -- and Arizona -- made these decisions from a position unadulterated by money, but it doesn't seem likely. If this trend continues, and more prospects begin claiming their teams are stifling their earning power, those teams could become more hesitant to join the more apparent trend of extending their most promising players.
Because as soon as the club makes an offer, the power of negotiation might just be in the player's hands now. Of course the player could still accept ... if the deal was lucrative enough ...
... or they could take the risk of betting on themselves and have a perfect opportunity to force their way onto the 25-man roster, even though their teams might not want to afford them the opportunity to earn the Super Two designation, and in turn, afford potential superstars the chance to become very, very expensive.