TODAY: Hosmer’s contract had a full no-trade clause for the 2018-20 seasons, but he now has only partial protection. Hosmer has a 10-team no-trade clause, ESPN.com’s Jeff Passan reports, adding another difficulty to the Padres’ attempt to deal him. According to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, the 10 teams on Hosmer’s list are the Athletics, Blue Jays, Brewers, Cardinals, Giants, Indians, Mariners, Orioles, Pirates, and Tigers. Hosmer also automatically gains full no-trade protection following the 2022 season due to 10-and-5 rights.
JULY 26: Eric Hosmer “has surfaced in recent trade discussions,” according to Ken Rosenthal and Dennis Lin of The Athletic. The motivation for such discussions seems to be at least partly connected to the Padres’ luxury tax situation, as Rosenthal notes,”The most recent calculation, provided by MLB around the All-Star break, has the Padres over the CBT threshold by roughly $2 million.” On a related note, the Padres had the Pirates pick up much of the tab for recent acquisition Adam Frazier.
After going 71-91 in the 2017 season, the Padres signed Hosmer to a huge eight-year, $144MM deal, sending a signal they were ready to compete. Since that time, the Padres have only gotten more aggressive, handing out even bigger contracts to Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr., along with a number of high profile trades for marquee names such as Yu Darvish, Blake Snell and Joe Musgrove. This has succeeded at pushing the Friars into contention. They got as far as the NLCS in 2020 and currently hold down a wild card spot in 2021. Hosmer’s contribution to the club, however, has been mercurial. In 2018 and 2019, his wRC+ tallies were 95 and 91, producing negative fWAR numbers in the process. The shortened 2020 season seemed to be a bounceback, with a wRC+ of 127 and an fWAR of 0.9. But 2021 has seen him trail off again, with his wRC+ down to 96 and his fWAR in negative territory again. Hosmer’s contract still has four years remaining on it after 2021.
It’s unclear what the next collective bargaining agreement will look like, but the current one has a base tax threshold of $210MM for 2021. As a potential first-time payor, the 20% tax on the overage seems like it should be a very mild deterrent. For example, a team spending $225MM would incur a $3MM penalty. So going over the base tax threshold in 2021 shouldn’t necessarily be a big concern, especially if the thresholds go up significantly in the next CBA. One reason to attempt to avoid becoming a tax payor, at least in the current CBA: a CBT payor signing a free agent who turned down a qualifying offer forfeits its second and fifth-highest available draft picks and has its international bonus pool reduced by $1MM – as opposed to losing their second-highest pick and $500K of the international pool if they’re not a payor. In other words, if the Padres exceed $210MM this year and the current draft pick compensation rules remain in place, then the club will face a slightly worse penalty if they sign a major free agent who turned down a qualifying offer.
Although Rosenthal adds that the team could conceivably increase their CBT figure “for the right acquisition,” they seem to also be considering the alternate route of ducking back beneath the line by season’s end. Moving Hosmer’s deal, with its $18MM AAV, would get the team below the line and potentially leave room for further additions. Since the team seemingly needs to pick a side and commit to it, “it could help explain why Preller continues to discuss a seemingly endless array of scenarios — including potential trades involving Hosmer,” according to Rosenthal.
There’s no indication that any deal is imminent, nor are any trading partners mentioned. But the appeal of acquiring Hosmer wouldn’t be so much about Hosmer himself. “The Padres likely would have to attach significant prospect value” to trade Hosmer, says Rosenthal. So, any team acquiring Hosmer would need to have enough payroll space to pay him, but with an eye towards the future production the prospects would provide. Speculatively speaking, the Cubs could be a fit. They’ve seemingly already started a sell-off, trading Joc Pederson to Atlanta earlier this month. First baseman and impending free agent Anthony Rizzo seems destined to be traded, unless the team can work out an extension. Javier Baez and Kris Bryant are also coming off the books at year’s end, or even sooner, creating more payroll space.
A return to the Royals is another intriguing possibility. They’ve been in rebuild mode since Hosmer left but tried to re-emerge as contenders with some aggressive moves in the most recent offseason. But that hasn’t gone as planned, as they are currently 42-55 and definite sellers as Friday’s 4pm trade deadline approaches. Acquiring Hosmer and some prospects could be a way to improve for future seasons while re-acquiring a fan favorite who was part of a World Series winner to help open the next competitive window. The Orioles and Tigers could also consider taking on Hosmer’s contract as a way of bolstering their prospect inventory.