George Springer gives Blue Jays hope – and one of MLB’s best lineups – for years to come

Just like that, the Toronto Blue Jays are done behaving like a small or mid-sized market team.

Finally, they are playing with the big boys.

The Blue Jays shed their image with the signing of free-agent outfielder George Springer to a six-year, $150 million contract – and are hoping to add Springer's former Astros teammate Michael Brantley on a three-year deal.

Springer’s contract, which should become official Wednesday, is the largest in franchise history and the team's most celebrated free-agent signing since Roger Clemens after the 1996 season. 

The Blue Jays, who have won the AL East just once since 1993 – when they won their second consecutive World Series championship – are serious contenders.

Oh sure, the Blue Jays could still use another starting pitcher and a third baseman, but if the Brantley signing happens, they have a plethora of trade options with outfielders Randal Grichuk, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Teoscar Hernandez.

They still are awfully young, with their fathers having much more illustrious resumes than them, as the sons of Hall of Famers Vladimir Guerrero and Craig Biggio, along with slugger Dante Bichette.

But, man, the future hasn’t looked this bright since the days of Roberto Alomar, Tony Fernandez and John Olerud.

The signing of Springer, 31, means this much to the organization.

You’re talking about a supreme talent on the field, an even a better person off the field, who is exactly what the Blue Jays needed.

They tried to trade for shortstop Francisco Lindor, sign infielder D.J. LeMahieu and grab closer Liam Hendriks, finishing on the outside looking in.

Now, they got their man, leaving free-agent catcher J.T. Realmuto and  starter Trevor Bauer as the top players left on the market.

Springer isn’t going to singlehandedly turn the Blue Jays into a juggernaut. Who knows how long he’ll be able to play center field with the turf making his 31-year-old legs weary? Can their young players continue to develop? Will their starting rotation be enough to overcome the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays?

Still, the arrival of Springer gives them hope, and a whole lot of swagger.

George Springer had spent his entire career with the Houston Astros. (Photo: Jayne Kamin-Oncea, USA TODAY Sports)

This is a franchise owned by the Rogers Corporation, worth $29 billion, yes, even more than New York Mets owner Steve Cohen.

It’s a team that resides in a city of 6.5 million, and the lone baseball team in a country with 37 million people.

Now, the Blue Jays are acting like it.

They are acquiring a player who has played in as many postseason games by himself, 63, as the entire Blue Jays organization.

He is a former World Series MVP, a three-time All-Star and a two-time Silver Slugger who has a career .270 averagewith a .361 on-base percentage and .852 OPS.

The Blue Jays’ outfield in the last full season in 2019 comprised of a meager slash line of .227/.287/.449, and no one who could adequately play a solid center field.

Now, those woes are over.

All it cost was money, outbidding the Mets, who had offered about $125 million over five years.

Sure, Springer has flaws. He was part of the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal. He has stolen more than nine bases just once in his career, and that was back in 2015. And history has shown that players in their mid-30s can no longer can stand the rigors of playing center field.

Still, this is a magnificent upgrade who will be a clubhouse leader, perhaps alongside Brantley. The two were inseparable as friends the past two years in Houston.

“He’s meant everything, whether he realizes it or not,’’ Springer said of Brantley at the 2019 All-Star Game . “His impact on me personally has been unbelievable. … He’s a great teammate, but a better friend.’’

Springer now anchors a balanced lineup that’s capable of terrifying the American League with Springer, Brantley, Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Cavan Biggio for the foreseeable future.

They already ranked third in the AL last year in runs and fourth in homers, and now will be even stronger, no matter where they end up playing their home games in 2021.

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