Eric Hosmer Rumors
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.
Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has a source that claims the Player's Association will only focus on the status of Pedro Alvarez' contract and not on the contract of Eric Hosmer. Kovacevic says the MLBPA will argue that Hosmer's contract was only delayed so the Pirates could have more time to negotiate with Alvarez.
However, Jonathan Mayo obtained a copy of the grievance filed by the union which suggests that Alvarez' contract will not be the sole focus (emphasis Mayo's).
The Commissioner's Office, without notice to the MLBPA, unilaterally determined to permit Clubs to negotiate with drafted players after the August 15, 2008 deadline, and unilaterally determined to accept agreements by Clubs after the August 15, 2008 deadline.
Mayo feels that the use of plurals in the grievance indicates the union is contesting more than one contract. Mayo says the grievance, combined with MLB not allowing Hosmer to play until this issue is resolved, suggests that this is about more than just the contract status of Alvarez.
Mayo also speculates that part of the desire to make Alvarez the top-paid draftee, may stem from Buster Posey's decision to go with an agent other than Boras. Mayo wonders if Boras is in-part driven to prove Posey made a mistake.
- In the above article, Kovacevic also indicates a third team may have submitted their agreement after the midnight deadline. However, Kovacevic does not name the team. Of the teams to announce their agreements to the public after the midnight deadline, includes the Padres (Allan Dykstra), Rangers (Justin Smoak) and Giants (Posey). Could a third player be dragged into this mess?
- Kovacevic has a second piece in which he details the contentious history between the Pirates and Boras, and how this may have led to the current rift between the two sides.
- Kovacevic is also reporting that Pirates' president Frank Coonelly fired another shot at Boras, blaming the agent for getting Hosmer involved.
- Baseball Prospectus has a list of incidents that could be used as precedents in the Alvarez case.
5:49pm: Disappointing development for the Royals - Hosmer cannot play until the grievance is resolved. The hearing takes place September 10th, so he won't miss too much time.
9:08am: Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette provides his analysis of the Pedro Alvarez situation. How much of this is due to the rivalry between Pirates team president Frank Coonelly and agent Scott Boras? Is Alvarez making a mistake by letting this drag on? Peter Gammons blames Bud Selig, Don Fehr, and Boras for this mess.
Kovacevic does not believe Alvarez will be eligible to return to college in the fall. Independent ball would be the most likely path, if his contract with the Pirates does not stand. Meanwhile, the Royals are trying to keep Eric Hosmer out of the crossfire.
4:51pm: Jim Callis' analysis is a must-read at Baseball America. There is a legitimate chance Alvarez is treated as if he didn't sign, and will become eligible for the '09 draft.
2:08pm: Jonathan Mayo, Jenifer Langosch, and Kevin Goldstein dig up more details. Turns out Hosmer turned down $5.5MM prior to the deadline, but agreed to $6MM during an MLB-approved extension. The Nats may have had an extension for Aaron Crow as well.
THURSDAY, 8:19am: MLB and the Pirates say the grievance is without merit, while Boras says the Bucs violated MLB's rules and need to "come clean." Dejan Kovacevic says the sides have not yet discussed the idea of more money, dismissing the idea that Boras demanded another $200K. An arbitrator will make a binding decision on this case on September 10th. Most believe Alvarez will remain a Pirate with a $6MM bonus.
By the way, Royals GM Dayton Moore is not concerned about Hosmer's contract.
WEDNESDAY, 5:07pm: MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo has been digging all day on this topic. Many questions remain, but it's a good read.
2:27pm: Baseball America's Jim Callis offered thoughts on the situation in a chat today. He heard Hosmer was granted an extension by MLB, and signed a bit after the deadline. Alvarez may have been granted one as well. Alvarez apparently took control of the negotiations toward the end, which may be the cause for Boras' complaint. A similar situation happened in '93 with A-Rod, and the grievance didn't go anywhere.
Also, it should be noted that the Players Association filed the grievance, not Scott Boras.
2:07pm: MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch talked to a source who said Boras wants another $200K, so that Alvarez's bonus matches Buster Posey's.
12:57pm: Turns out Pedro Alvarez has not reported to the Pirates yet for a reason - the Players Association filed a grievance on his behalf today. They're saying Alvarez verbally agreed to his $6MM bonus after the midnight deadline on August 15th. Scott Boras informed the Pirates that Alvarez will not sign the contract unless it is renegotiated at a higher number. Royals top pick Eric Hosmer may also become tangled up in this mess, since his contract was submitted after Alvarez.
The Pirates issued a statement, showing their displeasure with Boras' tactics but expressing confidence the grievance will be dropped. The team also indicates disappointment with Alvarez himself, as he ultimately approved this grievance. In a way, it seems like Boras is taking a stand in general against the idea of the midnight deadline.
Let's kick things off with a link roundup.
- River Ave. Blues wonders about Derek Jeter's future with the Yankees. The Yanks don't have to deal with it until after the 2010 season.
- Reliever Al Reyes is now a free agent. The 38 year-old still has a bit left in the tank.
- Baseball America's Jim Callis lists the draft's best coups.
- Curt Schilling is leaning toward retirement. If he does come back, here is a reminder of the 12 teams he was willing to play for last year aside from the Red Sox: Indians, Tigers, Angels, Mets, Phillies, Braves, Dodgers, Padres, D'Backs, Cubs, Cardinals, and Brewers.
- Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post says the Rockies need to keep Todd Helton.
- Ken Rosenthal says the Dodgers' failure to block the D'Backs' waiver claim on Adam Dunn was a mistake.
- Sam Mellinger explains that Eric Hosmer was smart to hold out for $6MM.
Below I've collected more interesting remaining links regarding the amateur draft.
- The Royals bumped their offer from $5MM to $6MM and signed top pick Eric Hosmer. Rany Jazayerli was surprised to see Hosmer effectively get more than #1 pick Tim Beckham. The Royals joined the Red Sox and Pirates as teams spending around $10MM on draft picks this year.
- The Rangers resisted a Major League deal for Justin Smoak, and ultimately signed him to a $3.5MM minor league deal. Owner Tom Hicks pined for a hard slot system.
- The story of pitcher Chris Gruler, picked third overall by the Reds in '02, reminds us to temper our enthusiasm for these kids. Many will bust.
- Tim Lincecum says Buster Posey can expect other minor leaguers to treat him differently because of the bonus he received.
- The race is on for Stephen Strasburg, who is separating himself from the pack as the top talent in the '09 draft. The Mariners, Padres, and Nationals all have a shot at him, with the Nats in the "lead." Would the Nats avoid Strasburg due to signability concerns?
12:05am: Jonathan Mayo says Hosmer received $6MM. Nice job by Scott Boras.
11:40pm: According to Baseball America's Jim Callis, the Royals signed Eric Hosmer to a minor league deal. Terms are not yet known. Great draft for the Royals, spending big on Hosmer and Tim Melville.