At some point in the near future, the major league offseason is going to stop moving at the speed of Albert Pujols and become a compelling parade of transactions. When that happens, there’s a team that’s going to commit a lot of money to free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer, who turned in a well-timed career year in 2017. But the 28-year-old Hosmer’s major league tenure has also come with some unspectacular seasons, leading to plenty of wariness about what he’ll provide on a big-money deal. With the up-and-down Hosmer having racked up a litany of supporters and detractors since debuting with the Royals in 2011, the pact he secures in the coming weeks is sure to polarize.
As mentioned, last season was one to remember for Hosmer, who slashed a personal-best .318/.385/.498 in 671 plate appearances, totaled exactly 25 home runs for the second straight year and posted career-high walk (9.8 percent) and isolated slugging (.179) marks. Only 24 players bettered Hosmer’s wRC+ (135), which placed him among the likes of Cody Bellinger (138), Justin Upton (137) and Anthony Rizzo (133). Hosmer’s hard-to-strike out ways contributed to his success, as he posted a K rate of just 15.5 percent that was right in line with his quality lifetime rate of 16.3. He also logged a swinging-strike rate below 10 percent (9.3) for the sixth time in seven seasons.
The most recent campaign wasn’t exactly an outlier for Hosmer, who was similarly effective in 2013 and during the Royals’ World Series-winning 2015 campaign. Hosmer accumulated between 3.2 and 4.1 fWAR in all three of those seasons, and that type of output over the next several years would make him well worth a significant payday. At his zenith, Hosmer has been a high-end offensive producer who makes an above-average amount of contact, a skill that’s all the more valuable in today’s strikeout-heavy game.
Not to be overlooked, durability has been a staple of Hosmer’s career. He was one of five players who didn’t miss a game in 2017, and with the exception of his abbreviated rookie year and a 131-game showing in 2014, he has appeared in at least 152 contests in every season.
Hosmer’s famed agent, Scott Boras, is trying to sell his client as a $200MM-caliber player who has been ’‘Playoffville Federal Express.” And yet, he’s only a two-time playoff participant – one who has batted a so-so .276/.333/.398 in 138 postseason PAs. Now, it’s not Hosmer’s fault the Royals haven’t been consistently good, nor is his playoff production worth judging him over. The point is that Boras is likely to have trouble getting anyone to buy that Hosmer is the ultimate winner whose intangibles are worth just as much as his regular-season numbers.
And while Hosmer has been terrific in three full seasons, he has also turned in three clunkers. In those years – 2012, ’14 and ’16 – he was a league-average or worse hitter who notched fWARs ranging from zero to minus-1.7. The left-hander’s offensive inconsistency has come thanks in part to struggles versus southpaws, against whom he has batted .265/.310/.382, and a groundball-heavy batted-ball profile.
Hosmer has finished with one of the majors’ 25 highest grounder rates in all of his seasons, including top five in each of the previous two years, and has typically sat toward the bottom of the launch angle leaderboard, as FanGraphs’ Travis Sawchik wrote earlier this month. The method hardly led to disaster in 2017, evidenced by Hosmer’s production, but a .351 batting average on balls in play had something to do with his excellence. Hosmer’s career BABIP entering the season was .310 – which is about what you’d expect from someone who’s not a burner (nor is he slow, granted) – and his lifetime wRC+ prior to last year’s outburst was an underwhelming 107.
Hosmer was also heavily reliant on BABIP fortune in his other two best seasons, while his production cratered in the years when the number was closer to the league-average mark. The bottom line is that Hosmer neither walks enough nor hits for enough power to make him ultra-valuable when he’s not registering a high average. Both his lifetime walk rate (8.2 percent) and ISO (.155) are mediocre.
The fWAR metric also factors in defense, which is yet another divisive aspect of Hosmer’s game. He’s got plenty of defensive hardware, having won four Gold Gloves (including in 2017), but fielding metrics haven’t always looked kindly on his work. Overall, Hosmer has combined for minus-21 Defensive Runs Saved and a minus-29 Ultimate Zone Rating. Still, it’s unclear how much those numbers will weigh on teams that are interested in signing Hosmer, who’s mostly known for his offense.
As he told Tim Kurkjian of ESPN in March, the Florida-born Hosmer attributes much of his success to his parents – a father, Mike, who was a longtime firefighter and a mother, Ileana, who escaped Fidel Castro-led Cuba as a 9-year-old and became a nurse. With their support, Hosmer developed into a star prospect whom the Royals selected third overall in the 2008 draft. To secure Hosmer, the Royals handed him a $6MM signing bonus. He has since earned nearly $31MM as a major leaguer, per Baseball-Reference.
Off the field, Hosmer has been very active in the Kansas City community, including with Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Greater Kansas City Firefighters Local 42 Community Assistance organization. He’s a two-time nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, which is given yearly to the major leaguer who best combines community involvement with sportsmanship and contributions to his team.
Unfortunately for Hosmer, he’s not the only free agent first baseman coming off a nice 2017. Carlos Santana (who has a more consistent track record than Hosmer), Logan Morrison, Yonder Alonso and Lucas Duda are also available in the wake of impressive seasons, while Jose Abreu will emerge as a sought-after target if the White Sox shop him. The amount of decent options available, not to mention the draft pick compensation attached to Hosmer, won’t positively affect his market. It also doesn’t help that the Mariners just acquired Ryon Healy, which seemingly took them out of the running for a first base upgrade, and the Yankees appear content with Greg Bird manning the position. But Boras has shown time and again that he’s capable of wizardry when it comes to selling his clients, and he’ll try to effectively pitch Hosmer to teams like the Red Sox, Cardinals, Angels and Rockies. If no one from that group ends up as Hosmer’s next employer, he could remain with the Royals, who haven’t given up on re-signing the franchise icon, or join a dark horse. The Padres would fall under the “dark horse” category, and they have discussed a Hosmer pursuit.
Last winter was not an ideal one for free agent first basemen – the high-profile duo of Edwin Encarnacion and Mark Trumbo settled for lesser contracts than expected, as did lower-tier types (Chris Carter and Mike Napoli, to name a couple). A repeat of that would mean a disappointing offseason for Hosmer, though he still has youth and Boras on his side. The general feeling, then, is that he’ll reel in a nine-figure contract in the coming months. MLBTR, which projects a six-year, $132MM guarantee, is on the bandwagon.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Great job, now you made Albert Pujols feel sad.
Pretty sure Pujols is doing aggressive workouts to build up his strength in the offseason, then going home and stacking bundles of hundreds. Doubtful he’s going to get bent out of shape about being known as someone who could lose a foot race with Bengie Molina.
Funny thing is Moustakas is actually slower
Lol speed of Albert
That was pretty hilarious!
Someone is going to make a mistake.
Roasting Albert out here
Amazing how this site has changed. Back in the day if someone belittled a player the moderator would automatically zap the comment….it was a tight ship…now the writers are in on it. There was a time mlbtr really wanted to build a foundation and not irritate people in the game, in order to gain access.
It was a simple joke.. no one is belittling or irritating for some kind of gain.
Grandpa? Is that you?
No…im not your grandpa…just making a statement about the comment section. If you like trolling through 150 comments of people calling eachother ridiculous things have at it.
No one is forcing you to read through everything, but that for being so pro censorship there, Stalin jr.
No, no one is forcing me to read everything, but just hang around and see what happens without moderation. I’ve been with mlbtr since virtual day one…and I’ve seen the comment section ebb and flow. Yeah, go with the cliched dictator reference….also ask yourself if you own a private site whether controlling comment content to some extent isnt in your best interest.
I’m sorry you took offense to that portion of the article.. There was no malice intended. Even though Pujols’ legs are working against him these days, he is still one of the greatest, richest baseball players ever. I’m not. He wins.
You don’t have to justify yourself to him. He is apparently bitter for some reason and clearly can’t take a joke. You did no wrong in your article.
Sorry so much is being made out of my response….it was just meant in general. It just got me thinking about the course the comment section has taken over the past decade or a little more. Comments used to trip moderation for less is all. Bitter? Oh come on…this is a baseball comment section…its not that big of a deal…there’s much being lost here because of the written word. Just not that big of a deal….irony is just in the course mlbtr has taken.
Reminds me a lot of Jayson Werth…I’m guessing his output will be similar to his over the life of the contract (assuming its of a decent length)…$200M for that?
Not a bad comparison
Great comparison. Hosmer is not worth what some of the armchair gms are clammering about.
Eric Hosmer and Brandon Belt both came into the league in 2011 in that time Hosmer has racked up about 1200 more at bats than Belt due to Belt’s concussion issues, yet Belt has generated almost 6 more WAR. Teams looking at signing Hosmer should call the Giants about a trade if the Giants end up landing Stanton and need to shed some salary.
plus belt is a good defender with the actual stats to back it up. huge BB% too.
Someone will give him a 6 year 100 mill deal
For that KC should re-sign him. Thats about qualifying offer territory.
Except that it’s $83MM more than the qualifying offer over 5 more years.
Hosmer has huge marketing value in KC. If they could sign him long term they would have. He’s going above that just based off how the Royals seem resigned to him walking. Maybe if he can’t make the bank he expects he’ll end up returning. Doesn’t seem like KC is making a run at any of their free agents.
Im not high on Hosmer anyway….KC would be better signing Logan Morrison and taking the comp pick for Hosmer.
6/100 works out to an AAV that equates to the value of a qualifying offer. If KC was willing to offer him that, he should stay where he’s valued highly.
Personally, I don’t think he’s worth more than that. His stats are the same as Wil Myers’….who just signed a 6/83 deal in Jan. If you extrapolate Myers’ stats so they both have the same number of at-bats, Myers has considerably more power and more speed…… and Hosmer hit’s for a better average. If you looking for a Big Bat that delivers a THUMP….. Hosmer’s not your guy.
6/110 at the most…..and he’ll probably disappoint.
KC already proved that a team with plus speed, plus defense, and an insanely good bull=pen can overcome an extremely weak hitting lineup to win a World Series. Why not pay Hosmer and Moose? The rest of the ingredients they relied on for a World Series recipe can be picked up cheap or raised in house.
They can’t pay hosmer and moose both. It would probably hamper their franchise for several years.
With the offseason moving so slowly I am wondering if we are finally seeing the spending upticks from the massive tv contracts come to an end.
Also, the last couple of World Series teams have been built on youth, with a only a handful of veteran free agents on the team.
Both of these factors, coupled with the abundance of first basemen makes me believe that Hosmer will be one of the most disappointed free agents this off season. I see him signing late and well below what Boras is seeking.
You may be right, but next years offseason will start the erratic spending once again
Good point in that another reason for the slow offseason is that teams are saving their funds for next year. This could shape up to be an interesting winter where a few ‘bargins’ can be found.
I think part of the offseason moving so slowly is that Ohtani is a part of a lot of team’s plans and until his situation is sorted out, teams are going to wait. I do think Hosmer is a bit overrated as a player, and the obvious landing spot for him, Boston, probably doesn’t want to spend that much on a first baseman. Other contenders with money seem to be fairly set at first base, and there’s a cheaper FA option in Santana available as well, and he’s just about as good as Hosmer.
As a Royals fan, I do somewhat agree about Hosmer. I do hope that he signs elsewhere for 100 million or whatever he gets paid, just so the royals can get an extra draft pick
@jwarden15, now that is some good sense!
Thanks! I’m a huge royals fan, so I’ll always appreciate what he did for the franchise, but I can’t see the team be competitive and pay him $100 million or so
Everyone is waiting on Otani, and even Stanton to an extent. After that the dominos will fall. If a team can get Santana on a 3 year deal for roughly half the money I don’t see why they would sniff Hosmer. First base, in my opinion, is the easiest position on the diamond to fill. Spend that money on Cain and Santana together and let some other team take the bait.
If it is indeed true that everyone is waiting to see where Ohtani goes, we won’t see much action before Christmas. The same can be said if teams aren’t willing to spend much this year in order to have the funds available for next off-season. I can definitely see a lot of bargain signings or real short contracts in Jan/Feb.
I’m not sure that 20m posting fee for a minor league deal on Otani is really going to slow many off season approaches down.
I hope you’re right
Could Hosmer dh?
I hope Boston don’t sign him!! Better wt Santana! Try Cozart or Nunéz for 2b! Trade Bradley for prospects and sign Carlos Gonzales a free agent for LF
Absolutely, he could DH. If your team needs a hitter who can hit a ground ball out into the shift, he’s your guy.
So you want to pay a DH $200 million bucks? Ha!
Hosmer is good, just not $200 million good.
If only he were $100M good.
Over 12 years he is.
On scoops, URZ incorporates them now and I expect other advanced defensive metrics have incorporated them now that they are being tracked.
Eric Hosmer is the most overrated player in baseball and I look forward to him getting $120 million dollars from a team that isn’t mine.
Nothing about Hosmer suggests he’s worth anywhere near a 9-figure deal. He’s by no means a bad player and — in a vacuum — I’d love to have him on my team, but he basically alternates really good and really bad seasons, he’s a mediocre defender other than his picking ability, and his batted ball profile doesn’t really inspire a lot of confidence or excitement. If he could potentially change his launch angle and hit fewer ground balls without completely selling out for power (and therefore keeping his contact ability and low strikeout rate), he’d seem more appealing, but there are still other guys on the market that I think could provide comparable production for much less money.
Hosmer’s strikeout and walk percentages are impressive!! Just what the Cardinals would need in their line up! However, John Mabry the current hitting coach, and his hitting philosophy would have to go. Matt Carpenter, for an example, came up as a contact hitter and made an instant splash. Because of his contact hitting and on base percentage, the Cardinals were able to place him as their lead off hitter, thus trading Jon Jay. His hitting for average style has been aborted. He never swings at the first pitch anymore. Mabry has instructed his hitters to elevate their “swing angle” for more power and extra base hits. While their power has increased, batting averages and on base percentages have plummeted! Hosmer’s swing should not be changed. Neither should have Carpenter’s, Diaz, Adams, Holliday, Piscoty, Grichuk, and on and on since Mabry has been there. I would hope, if the Cardinals are fortunate enough to get Hosmer, they leave his swing alone.
Totally serious: I’ve had dreams/nightmares (Brewers fan) about Hosmer on the Cards.
“He never swings at the first pitch anymore.” If that was 100% true then it’s not good. But if it’s 90% then it is a good thing.
I wouldn’t mind Hosmer but only if it becomes a decent deal. Cards shouldn’t be the team that overpays for nonexistent value when it comes.
Im not sure he even rotates good and bad. Last season seemed to be alright…but the dude was basically replacement level with a bro haircut before. He’s just not where ypu spend money.
The Cards fans will go crazy watching Hosmer hit into dp grounders. He’s a ground ball machine. His swing gets really long..has over his entire career.
Del Boca Vista
He only averages just under 15 GIDP a year. Guys in top 8 or 10 of GIDP are hitting into >21
I don’t think a team would deter for that reason.
I’d add that the front end of the Cardinals lineup is a bit slower than what Hosmer has hit behind in KC. Faster lineup means fewer dp. His bat will also likely slow even more as he ages.
“The point is that Boras is likely to have trouble getting anyone to buy that Hosmer is the ultimate winner whose intangibles are worth just as much as his regular-season numbers.”
This point wasn’t made; the author made the point that he wouldn’t buy Boras’s pitch, not that no owners or gms would. I bet a lot of owners already think of Hosmer as a big time winner and don’t need Boras to convince them..it would be pure reinforcement.
It seems pretty obvious that these KC teams have been sum is greater than parts. Kind of a shame they dont have another 3 years with this group. Royals really seem to be about bullpen strength. I really think we’ll see their 3 free agents sign elsewhere and then just fade away. It was a solid team identity while it lasted.
With the way the market is looking I see Hosmer signing a lifestyle-type deal with the Royals for a much more modest AAV than people/Boras expect. Something like 8/120.
Or else a team that needs the “winner” “leader” “identity” thing, which could be a team emerging out of a rebuild or a team that has been disappointing but still good. White Sox if they trade Abreu, Mets, Cardinals if they trade a bunch of infielders. Still though I think it would be for a low-AAV deal, like 7/100 or something.
Hosmers bro shtick would get old quick on the south side…..ala Nick Swisher.
Whoever signs Hosmer to a big deal, like Arrieta, will regret it big time.
7 years, 125 million….like it or not, it’s happening.