In one of the most obvious opt-out decisions in recent memory, Red Sox first baseman Eric Hosmer will forgo his opportunity to return to the open market, tweets Jon Heyman of the New York Post. He’s now locked into the final three years and $39MM of the contract, although the Sox are only on the hook for the league minimum in each of the next three seasons. The Padres are paying the remainder of Hosmer’s salary each season under the terms of the deadline trade that sent him to Boston.
The eight-year, $144MM contract Hosmer signed with San Diego prior to the 2018 season went south almost immediately. A then-27-year-old Hosmer posted a massive .318/.385/.498 slash and swatted 25 homers for the second consecutive season in 2017 — his final year with the Royals, who originally drafted him No. 3 overall in 2008. That led to the aforementioned eight-year deal for Hosmer, but his offensive production cratered in year one with the Friars, as he hit just .253/.322/.398 in his first year with the team.
Over the first five seasons of that nine-figure contract, Hosmer has been exactly average at the plate, by measure of wRC+. He’s hit .265/.325/.409 and averaged 18 home runs and 30 doubles per 162 games played. Hosmer hasn’t necessarily been a bad hitter, but his $18MM annual salary was promised to him under the assumption that he’d continue on as a well above-average, middle-of-the-order hitter.
That simply hasn’t been the case, due in large part to the fact that Hosmer’s bloated ground-ball rate with the Royals actually got even higher with the Friars. Since signing in San Diego, 56.5% of Hosmer’s batted balls have been hit on the ground — the fourth-highest mark among 315 qualified MLB hitters in that stretch. Perhaps the limitations on infield shifts that are coming in 2023 will help Hosmer in that regard, but his repeated inability to elevate the ball will continue to suppress his power output.
The Padres traded Hosmer and a pair of minor leaguers (Corey Rosier and Max Ferguson) to the Red Sox in exchange for former first-round pick Jay Groome, agreeing to pay Hosmer’s salary down to the league minimum as part of the contract. Hosmer also was granted a full no-trade clause as part of that deal, so he’ll have the final say on whether he’ll remain in Boston through 2025 unless the Sox ultimately release him. For now, he’ll give the Red Sox a cost-effective veteran first baseman or perhaps designated hitter, dependent on when the team is ready to give top prospect Triston Casas a full-time look in the big leagues.