TODAY: It “looks promising” that Hosmer and the Cubs might work out an agreement, Heyman tweets.
DECEMBER 30: Free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer is “on the radar” of the Cubs and Orioles, per a report from Jon Heyman of the New York Post. Hosmer is a free agent after being released by the Red Sox earlier this off-season.
2022 was a challenging year for Hosmer. He was hitting .272/.336/.391 for the Padres at the deadline when they made their move to acquire Juan Soto and Josh Bell from the Nationals. Hosmer was originally part of the return going to Washington, but he exercised his limited no-trade clause to veto that deal. The Padres pushed ahead and ultimately sent Luke Voit to the Nationals instead, and flipped Hosmer (and his remaining salary bar the league minimum) to Boston with prospects Corey Rosier and Max Ferguson in exchange for Jay Groome.
Things didn’t pan out in Boston, as Hosmer hit .244/.320/.311 over 50 plate appearances before landing on the injured list with lower back inflammation and missing the remainder of the season. Given San Diego were paying almost all of his salary, there seemed a chance that Hosmer would remain with Boston in some capacity moving forward. However, the team DFA’d him earlier this month, opening up first base for rookie Triston Casas. There were reports that the Red Sox were trying to trade him prior to the DFA, but they evidently found little interest and Hosmer ultimately found his way back onto the open market.
While it’s been a slightly rocky road for Hosmer lately, and his eight-year, $144MM deal with the Padres has not panned out as planned, he can still be a productive player for a lot of teams. That’s particularly true when considering the fact that the Padres are still on the hook for his $13MM salaries over the next three seasons, and any new team would only have to pay him the league minimum rate for any time spent on the active roster.
Since 2020, Hosmer has slashed .271/.335/.407 with 29 home runs, good for a wRC+ 107. That’s a bit of a drop off from his best years but still represents an above-average player. He’s sacrificed a bit of power in that time, but has lowered his strikeout rate a bit from previous seasons.
The Orioles do make a fair bit of sense as a landing spot for Hosmer. As things stand, the right-handed Ryan Mountcastle is slated to handle the bulk of the reps at first base, with no clear option at DH. Hosmer, a left-handed hitter, could give them another first base/DH option to deepen their lineup, and provide manager Brandon Hyde with another option to tweak the lineup depending on matchups. With a young roster looking to take the next step towards contention, adding a World Series-winning veteran like Hosmer certainly wouldn’t hurt in the clubhouse either.
The Cubs also make sense as an option for Hosmer. They’ve already been linked with free agent first base options Trey Mancini and Dominic Smith this winter, so it comes as no surprise that Hosmer would be on their radar as well. The Cubs have been busy this winter, but Matt Mervis and Patrick Wisdom stand as the likeliest in-house candidates to man first base/DH in 2023, so adding a bona fide first baseman like Hosmer makes plenty of sense.
While both the Cubs and Orioles do make sense for Hosmer, it’s worth noting that there’s a fair few teams that would make some sense on paper, particularly at the minimal cost. The Cubs and Orioles do, however, present as two teams that have a clear path to regular playing time for Hosmer and are aiming to compete in 2023.