The Royals are discussing a contract extension with first baseman Eric Hosmer’s representatives, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports. Hosmer has set Opening Day as the deadline for negotiations, as he doesn’t want ongoing talks to distract him during the season. Should the two sides not reach an agreement by the Royals’ first game, Hosmer will test free agency after the season, though he did say he wants to remain in Kansas City.
“We are talking about certain extensions, stuff like that. But the way I see it right now, I just want to make it that far [to free agency]. And if I do make it that far without signing anything, I feel like I deserve that right to see what’s out on the market,” Hosmer said. “It’s not cutting this place out completely. It’s earning the right to see what else is out there, seeing my options, seeing what would be the best possible situation for me.”
Hosmer is far from the only Royals star scheduled to hit the open market next winter, though he appears to be the only one thus far contacted by the team about an extension. Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakas both tell Rosenthal that they haven’t been in talks about a new deal. (It can be inferred that Alcides Escobar, another pending free agent, also hasn’t been in negotiations with the club. Escobar was described by Rosenthal as “less of a priority” than the other three, given how Raul Mondesi Jr. could step in as Kansas City’s shortstop of the future.) Since Spring Training has just begun, of course, it stands to reason that Royals GM Dayton Moore will at least touch base with these players about potentially remaining in K.C. beyond the 2017 campaign.
It could be that Hosmer drew the early attention from the Royals because his potential extension could be the most complicated. The club expects Hosmer and agent Scott Boras to seek a ten-year deal, owing to both Hosmer’s young age (he is entering his age-27 season), the number of big-market teams that could be looking for first base help next winter.
Most players prefer to avoid having extension talks drag into the season, and in Hosmer’s case, he has some extra financial security — he has already earned $29.75MM through his four seasons of arbitration eligibility as a Super Two player, including a two-year extension and a $12.25MM deal for 2017 to avoid arbitration.
It should also be noted that Hosmer could use another full year to really establish himself as a player worthy of a mega-deal, as the first baseman has been rather inconsistent over his first six seasons. Hosmer posted fWARs of 3.2 in 2013 and 3.4 in the Royals’ championship season of 2015, though he sandwiched those strong years in between three years of (according to the fWAR calculation) not even replacement-level play. Hosmer posted a -1.7 fWAR in 2012, 0.0 in 2014 and -0.2 last season, when he hit .266/.328/.433 with 25 homers over 667 plate appearances. Despite that seemingly good slash line, Hosmer was barely above average in terms of runs created (101 wRC+) and he was rated as a below-average baserunner and defender. After mostly good grades in terms of Defensive Runs Saved and UZR/150 in the previous three years, Hosmer’s first base work took a tumble as per those two metrics in 2016 (minus-6 DRS, -6.1 UZR/150). Hosmer’s contact rate also declined last year, while he posted a career-worst 19.8% strikeout rate.
With so many key free agents, the coming offseason has been seen as a turning point for a Royals team that is trying to remain competitive while remaining fiscally responsible. This winter, Kansas City has dealt two pending free agents in Wade Davis and Jarrod Dyson while extending another (Danny Duffy). While the odds of re-signing everyone is next to impossible, Duffy’s extension would imply that K.C. also isn’t going to let everyone walk and go into a full rebuild, though one or two of the free agents could be moved at the trade deadline if the Royals aren’t in contention for a playoff berth.