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Eric Hosmer Rumors
Eric Hosmer is hitting like someone who deserves to play in the Major Leagues. You don't put up a .439/.525/.582 line as a 21-year-old at Triple-A unless you're pretty talented, so the Royals are rewarding Hosmer’s ability and performance with a spot on the big league roster.
Not only does the decision make a difference for the current Royals team, it has implications for the future, since Hosmer may now go to arbitration four times, instead of the usual three. An extra year of arbitration could cost the Royals millions, but GM Dayton Moore told ESPN.com's Buster Olney that "right now, he helps us put the best team on the field that we can."
Here’s a detailed breakdown of what Hosmer’s callup means for future Kansas City teams:
The current outlook:
- Service time after 2011 – 0 years, 146 days
- Number of arbitration years – 3 or 4
- Additional earnings through arbitration – four years of arbitration could mean $5-15MM in additional earnings
- Hits free agency – after 2017
What an early June callup would have meant:
- Service time after 2011 – 0 years, 116 days
- Number of arbitration years – 3
- Additional earnings through arbitration – none
- Hits free agency – after 2017
Hosmer will pick up 146 days of service time this year if he’s not optioned back to the minors. Recent history suggests that will be enough for super two status after the 2013 season, assuming he picks up full years of service time in ’12 and ’13.
However, there’s no guarantee that the Royals will be stuck paying the former third overall selection for an extra year of arbitration. Early projections for the upcoming super two cutoff place the minimum at two years and 146 days, a couple of weeks more than usual.
Every year is different and it’s far too early to predict how much service time players will need to qualify as super twos after 2013, but it’s possible that two years and 146 days (Hosmer’s pace) won’t be enough. It’s also possible that the Royals will option Hosmer to the minor leagues, where he wouldn’t collect MLB service time.
Though there’s now a distinct possibility that the Royals will go to arbitration four times with Hosmer and pay him millions extra in the process, too many variables – possible demotions, unknown cutoff dates, the upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement – exist for anyone to say with certainty that Moore made a poor financial decision by calling on the top prospect when he did.
Here’s some welcome news for those of us who enjoy trades: executives tell ESPN.com’s Buster Olney that trade talk has started between teams. At this point, GMs are checking in with one another about possible needs and real trade talk probably won’t begin for another month. Here’s the latest from Olney:
- Royals GM Dayton Moore says first base prospect Eric Hosmer accelerated his own timetable by hitting .439/.525/.582 at Triple-A. Instead of keeping Hosmer in the minors for another month or so to prevent him from going to arbitration four times, the Royals called him up as soon as he appeared to be ready.
- ”Right now, he helps us put the best team on the field that we can," Moore told Olney.
- The Royals had expected to call Hosmer up after about 250 minor league plate appearances, but he’s in the majors after 118 trips to the plate for Omaha.
- Michael Pineda’s strong pitching is convincing scouts and executives that the Mariners should hold onto Felix Hernandez and look to contend before King Felix’s contract expires after the 2014 season.
The Royals defeated the Orioles this afternoon to earn their fifth victory in their last six games. The big headline of the day for Kansas City, however, has to do with a certain minor league call-up…
- The Royals announced that Eric Hosmer has been called up to the big leagues to replace Kila Ka'aihue at first base. Hosmer was the third overall pick of the 2008 amateur draft and was rated by Baseball America as the eighth-best prospect in the game before this season. He has a career .886 OPS in the minors, and had a superb .439/.525/.582 line in 118 plate appearances for Triple-A Omaha this season.
- MLB.com's Dick Kaegel says the club wanted Hosmer to have around 250 Triple-A at-bats before coming to the majors, but it's interesting that K.C. pulled the trigger now and not next month. The early call-up means that Hosmer is likely to pick up enough service time to become a Super Two player, meaning he'll earn an extra year of salary arbitration. This, of course, depends on if the Super Two rules aren't changed in the next collective bargaining agreement.
- Noel Arguelles is pitching well in his first month of pro baseball, writes Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star.
- You can follow all the latest Kansas City news on MLBTR's Royals-centric Facebook page, RSS and Twitter feeds.
Teams like saving money and extending their control over top young players. Why wouldn't they? Having impact players on affordable contracts simplifies a GM's job. As a result, teams call top young players up strategically every season to control their service time and, in doing so, delay their free agency and/or limit their earnings.
Though service time is a consideration all season long, it's most evident at two times: in April and again midseason, around early June. If teams wait until a few weeks after the season has begun to call a prospect up for his MLB debut, the player doesn't collect a full year of service time, which delays his free agency by a year.
The precise date until which teams must wait before calling prospects up varies each year and according to whether players are on the 40-man roster. Now that we're nearly three weeks into the season, even prospects on the 40-man roster can be called up, since they have spent the requisite 20-day period in the minor leagues.
None of the following prospects have big league service time, which means that their teams can call them up at any point and keep them through the 2017 season, if not longer: Dustin Ackley, Lonnie Chisenhall, Brett Lawrie, Mike Moustakas, Jesus Montero, Eric Hosmer, Julio Teheran, Manny Banuelos, Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles.
On the other hand, Michael Pineda, Zach Britton and Brandon Belt are now in the majors, picking up service time. Because those players are now on MLB rosters, they're currently on track to hit free agency after the 2016 season. However, if their respective teams option them to the minors for 20 days or more, their path to free agency could be slowed as well (that's an immediate possibility for Belt and a long-term one for the pair of impressive rookie hurlers).
That may sounds complicated, but it's the easy part. Later this spring, in late May and early June, the guessing game begins. Teams do not (and can not) know exactly when future cutoffs for super two status will be, so if they want to play it safe and ensure that prospects like Montero and Ackley only go to arbitration three times, they'll want to wait until at least the middle of June before calling them up.
Royals GM Dayton Moore told John Sickels of Minor League Ball that it takes time to develop prospects and turn them into major leaguers. Moore says he understands fans' concerns about the Royals' recent history of losing and shares their excitement about the players currently in the Royals' highly touted system. Here are the details:
- Moore says players can take a few years to develop, pointing to Billy Butler. The Royals extended Butler earlier in the year because he has improved every year and they "think he's about to take that to another level."
- Hitters take time to develop, since it's hard for them "to develop beyond their level of competition." In other words they need to face good pitching to learn to hit it.
- The Royals are "very optimistic" about Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer, partly because the two top prospects have experienced failure.
- Moustakas "can stick at third base, no question," according to Moore, who likes the infielder's arm and body control.
- Hosmer and Moustakas could push Kila Ka'aihue into a reserve role, but the Royals say he's capable of more. "We think he can hit .240-.260, hit 20-25 homers, .370 OBP," Moore said. "It will be a nice problem fitting all these guys in the lineup."
- Christian Colon, the team's top pick in 2010, "can be an Orlando Cabrera type at short, or a Placido Polanco if he moves to second," Moore said.
- Moore says the Royals need more speed and athleticism. The GM says his ideal team would have a center fielder like Adam Jones or Torii Hunter – someone with speed, defense and power.
Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star answered a number of Royals-related questions during an online chat with fans today. Here are a few of the more notable items…
- The Royals' highly-touted farm system has more depth than ever, so Dutton explains that this wave of prospects will be different than past (failed) "youth movements" in Kansas City. "Will some guys flop? Absolutely," Dutton writes. "But the depth is so good that not ALL of them will flop. Some should be really good."
- Dutton thinks Mike Moustakas will be in the majors by June, but Eric Hosmer may be a September call-up at best since K.C. wants to give Kila Ka'aihue "an extended look."
- Speaking of Ka'aihue, Dutton notes that if Hosmer lives up to expectations, the question for Kansas City becomes whether Ka'aihue or Billy Butler is the better long-term DH. You'd expect Butler would have the edge given his proven hitting abilty and recent contract extension, but that team-friendly deal (four years/$30MM, plus a 2015 team option) could make Butler very attractive on the trade market.
- Moustakas' arrival could turn Wilson Betemit into "trade bait," but Dutton notes that Betemit could take over at second if Chris Getz can't handle the job.
- The Royals have no interest in Michael Young. He's both too costly and would block "high-quality alternatives" from the minors at various infield positions.
- "The Royals appear committed to opening the season with Melky Cabrera in center," Dutton writes. Kansas City signed Cabrera before they acquired Lorenzo Cain from Milwaukee, but Dutton notes that Cain could he called up from the minors should he play well. Cabrera is only slated to earn $1.25MM in 2011, so the Royals wouldn't be sending a lot of money to the bench if Cain usurped the center field job. Dutton mentions later in the chat that the Royals can be flexible with Cain since he has minor league options left.
- Dutton thinks the Blue Jays and Braves will regret trading minor league left-hander Tim Collins. The 21-year-old was sent to Atlanta in the Yunel Escobar deal last summer and then became a Royal at the trade deadline as part of the package that sent Kyle Farnsworth and Rick Ankiel to the Braves.
- "It's a long shot" that the Royals would try to sign Zack Greinke after the right-hander's contract expires after 2012.
With Zack Greinke now a Milwaukee Brewer, the last thing Royals fans want to think about is another of their team's few established stars leaving Kauffman Stadium. No, it's not Joakim Soria, but rather Billy Butler. The young first baseman is headed to arbitration for the first time this winter, and how the Royals approach this situation will tell us if the club considers Butler to be part of their long-term plans.
Butler, 24, has blossomed into one of the game's up-and-coming stars, posting an .855 OPS over the last two seasons as Kansas City's everyday first baseman. Even though his home run numbers dropped from 21 in 2009 to 15 last season, Butler is still far and away the biggest threat in the K.C. lineup, especially now that David DeJesus has been traded.
With Butler's production and young age in mind, surely it makes sense for the Royals to sign Butler to an extension that carries at least through his arbitration years, right? Well, not necessarily. The Royals already have another promising first baseman on the major league roster in Kila Ka'aihue, and another (Eric Hosmer) is one of the top prospects in K.C.'s vaunted minor league system.
Ka'aihue got his first significant taste of major league playing time last season. He posted a .702 OPS in 206 plate appearances overall, and hit .274/.361/.548 playing every day in September. The Hawaii native has put up big minor league numbers over the last three years, and though it took him six years just to reach Triple-A, Ka'aihue began his pro career at age 18 and only turns 27 in March.
Hosmer was picked third overall by K.C. in the 2008 amateur draft, and has so far lived up to that selection by hitting .298/.378/.483 in his three pro seasons. Hosmer is projected to move up to Triple-A in 2011 and barring any unexpected setbacks will be a huge part of the Royals' future.
The question facing the cash-conscious Royals is simple: do they lock up Butler now in the hopes that he'll be entering his prime years when the club is ready to contend in 2013, or do the Royals shop Butler at the trade deadline and see if they can score even more premium prospects for the first baseman? If Butler is dealt, then Ka'aihue takes over first base duties and it frees up the DH spot for Hosmer in 2012 and beyond (or, vice versa, with Hosmer at first and Ka'aihue as the DH).
If the Royals sign Butler to a big multi-year extension, then they're going all-in with him and Ka'aihue becomes the one on the trading block once Hosmer is ready. If the Royals sign Butler to just a one-year contract for 2011 (worth probably between $3-4MM), then the team is basically just holding off on any long-term decisions until they can see what they really have in Ka'aihue and Hosmer. If I had to guess, I'd say the latter option is more likely to happen, though K.C. might also feel a Butler deal covering two arbitration years makes financial sense and gives a team a bit of good local press in the wake of the Greinke trade.
A few notes from the MLBiverse…
- Ken Williams says the White Sox are in a position where they could either add more young players to develop or add some veteran pieces to the group. Williams says whichever road they choose, the team is "in a pretty good position."
- Joe Posnanski, on his blog, takes a look at some recent rumors surrounding the Royals. He feels that is the rumors have any truth to them, they are scary, noting that it would lead to an OBP-deprived lineup. Posnanski feels Dayton Moore is a "smart baseball man" and won’t make the moves being rumored.
- Cathal Kelly of the Toronto Star looks at the Jays roster and dreams about the free agents that could fill in the holes.
- Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer says Joe Crede will not return to the White Sox.
- DraftInfo talked to Eric Hosmer about his first year as a pro. Hosmer discussed the Pedro Alvarez situation, noting that he was never worried with Scott Boras as his agent.
5:47pm: Alvarez’s contract is signed.
3:26pm: MLB just issued a press release…the dispute has been resolved. Alvarez and Eric Hosmer are free to play ball.
10:06am: According to Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pedro Alvarez and Scott Boras are in downtown Pittsburgh this morning. The union’s grievance might be dropped today (testimony has been postponed), and Alvarez should take his physical and sign the contract soon.
A few questions to ponder. If Alvarez wins ROY in 2010, will all be forgiven in Pittsburgh? And will the Pirates be willing to use their early first-round pick next year on a Boras client?
1:08pm: Kovacevic has more. He says talks have begun toward resolving the grievance filed by the players union. He also indicates Alvarez has yet to take his physical. Meanwhile the Royals hope this means they can get Eric Hosmer back out on the field soon.
8:42am: Good news for Pirates fans – top draft pick Pedro Alvarez agreed to terms on a new contract with the Pirates. It’s a four-year Major League deal worth $6.355MM, with a couple of option years after that. The union’s grievance may no longer be an issue.
Dejan Kovacevic says that with interest and inflation Alvarez is getting around $5.67MM (less than the $6MM minor league deal he originally signed). On the other hand, Alvarez will now be added to the 40-man roster.
On deadline day, Alvarez and other players did not receive big league deals partially because the two parties no longer had time to conduct a physical. I’m wondering if the Pirates and Alvarez met up and did this recently. And when did they find the time to do this post-deadline renegotiation? I’m surprised it was allowed.