We’ve heard varying suggestions on just how much money soon-to-be free agent Eric Hosmer may be seeking, or may command, on the open market. That’ll all be sorted out when the negotiations start in earnest, but it’s fun to begin thinking about it now.
We’re now just a few weeks away now from the start of free agency, after all. First, the Royals will issue a qualifying offer — which will be at a $17.4MM rate. Hosmer, inevitably, will reject it, making him a free agent just weeks after his 28th birthday.
By now, Hosmer’s broad profile is well-known. The former third overall draft pick played in all 162 games this year, slashing a robust .318/.385/.498 and banging 25 home runs for the second consecutive season. That’s quite a bit more than he has produced previously, though Hosmer has had other solid seasons at the plate.
The question teams will be asking is whether there’s reason to believe that Hosmer can maintain that level of output. He rode a .351 batting average on balls in play in 2017, steadily outpacing his .316 career rate. And Hosmer has stayed within the same general K/BB range as ever, while continuing to put the ball on the ground over half the time. His hard-hit rate dropped below thirty percent for the first time since his debut season. When he did put the ball in the air, it went out of the park over twenty percent of the time for the second consecutive season, though it’s still fair to wonder whether that’s sustainable.
There are other factors, too, of course. Hosmer is no longer a double-digit annual stolen base threat and hasn’t always drawn strong reviews from baserunning metrics. Likewise, defensive metrics have never matched his generally positive reputation with the glove. In these areas, perhaps, Hosmer’s reputation outpaces what some of the numbers say — as a result, he hasn’t even yet cracked 10 fWAR over his career — although these are among the most controversial areas of sabermetric analysis.
Perhaps the most interesting concept, though, is the idea that Hosmer delivers value that outpaces his direct, on-the-field contributions. Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star just published an interesting, though eminently arguable look at the evident position that super-agent Scott Boras intends to take on the matter this fall. Most intriguingly, Boras is said to be readying for an attempt at quantifying the ways in which Hosmer’s halo adds value by producing “a metric on intangibles.”
Mellinger cites an executive that thinks Boras will be looking for something like $20MM annually on a decade-long term. That’s quite an ask for a first baseman with the stat line of Hosmer’s — particularly in a day and age when a far superior hitter such as Edwin Encarnacion can only get $20MM over three years (albeit at a significantly older age) and with a number of other quality bats available in free agency.
Plenty of less-than-amazing batters have taken down big money over long terms, though typically such players were expected to deliver significant value in the field and on the bases. Jason Heyward, for example, got $184MM over eight years (plus two opt out opportunities). But Heyward was only 26 and was one of the game’s most valued defenders. Oh, and he also carried a lifetime 118 wRC+ to that point — clearly superior to Hosmer’s 111 wRC+ career mark, though the latter did have the bigger offensive platform season.
We aren’t going to get a sneak peek at Boras’s binder. But Mellinger lays out the broad case for Hosmer to out-earn his prior productivity:
But consider this. The Royals built their success, in large part, on intangibles. How much did they talk about clubhouse friendships, of bonds formed in the minor leagues, and of the joy they found in playing for each other?
For argument’s sake, let’s assume that was overstated, and that the parade happened because of athleticism and relief pitching more than anything else. But you can’t have watched the Royals’ rise without believing the other stuff had a part in it, too. The resiliency in the comebacks, the consistent performance in the biggest moments.
The Royals had a parade because of these things, the team welcoming in record attendance and interest.
Shouldn’t the players be rewarded, too?
Do you buy that? Even a little? How do you value it? And how do you value the stat line you expect Hosmer to put up? Rolling it all together, just how much will he be worth on the open market? (App users can click here for the poll.)