First baseman Eric Hosmer hasn’t been on a major league roster in almost a year and has now decided to hang up his spikes. He tells John Perrotto of Forbes that he has now officially retired and is pivoting into the media sphere.
Hosmer, now 34, was one of many high-profile prospects in the Royals’ system, going back almost a couple of decades. The club leaned into a lengthy period of tanking in the early parts of this century, losing at least 87 games in nine straight seasons from 2004 to 2012. Over that time, they were able to pile up young talent in their farm system thanks to some strong draft picks. The deepest part of the rebuild was 2004 to 2007, with the club losing at least 93 games in each of those campaigns, but also getting a top-three pick in the draft for four straight years.
Those four picks were used on Alex Gordon, Luke Hochevar, Mike Moustakas and Hosmer. Those players combined with other youngsters like Lorenzo Cain, Salvador Pérez and Yordano Ventura to form a promising young core that the club was hoping to use to return to prominence.
Hosmer hit well on his way up the minor league ladder and was considered one of the top 10 prospects in the game going into 2011. He made a strong debut that year and showcased some tendencies that would go on to define his career, namely an ability to avoid strikeouts but also an inability to get under the ball. He didn’t walk much either, so the ball was often in play, with his numbers swaying from year to year depending on whether he was finding holes or not.
He only struck out in 14.6% of his plate appearances in his rookie season, well below that year’s league average of 18.6%. But 49.7% of his balls in play were pounded into the ground, noticeably above the 44.4% league average. Regardless, he still hit 19 home runs and slashed .293/.334/.465 for a wRC+ of 113.
In 2012, he suffered through a sophomore slump, hitting just .232/.304/.359 for a wRC+ of 80. Part of that was batted ball luck, as his BABIP dropped to .255 from .314 the year prior. But his grounder rate also ticked up to 53.6% and he only hit 14 homers. These sorts of oscillations continued into the next few years. In 2013, his batting average was up at .302 and he hit 17 homers, but then those numbers dipped to .270 and just nine long balls in 2014.
Despite the challenges for Hosmer in the latter year, the club’s planned return to contention finally clicked in a big way. The Royals went all the way to the World Series that year, though they ultimate were felled by the Giants in seven games. Hosmer was a big part of that run, as he hit .351/.439/.544 that postseason.
Just about everything went right the next year, despite Hosmer still putting 52% of batted balls into the dirt. He also hit 18 homers and slashed .297/.363/.459 for a wRC+ of 124. The Royals went back to the World Series and finished the job this time, taking down the Mets in five games to hoist their first trophy since 1985.
The club slipped near .500 in the next two seasons as the up-and-down performance continued for Hosmer. His bat dipped closer to league average in 2016, though he rebounded with arguably the best season of his career in 2017. His grounder rate was still very high at 55.6%, but he managed to park the ball over the fence 25 times and slashed .318/.385/.498 for a wRC+ of 135.
That was excellent timing for a career year, as that was his platform season for his first trip into free agency. Despite the inconsistent performance, the Padres took a chance on him, agreeing to an eight-year, $144MM deal. In addition to the offensive questions, his defensive metrics were never strong, in spite of his four Gold Glove awards while with the Royals. But the Padres had been undergoing their own period of insignificance, having just finished the seventh of what would eventually be nine straight losing seasons. The signing of Hosmer, the largest deal in franchise history at the time, was meant to signal an end of the rebuild and a return to relevance.
Unfortunately, the deal quickly went south, as Hosmer’s bat was around league average for most of his time in San Diego. From 2018 through 2021, he hit .264/.323/.415, translating to a wRC+ of 99. He was often the subject of trade rumors in that time, as the Friars looked to get out from under the deal. He was going to be sent to the Nationals as part of the deal that sent Juan Soto to San Diego, but Hosmer had a limited no-trade clause that allowed him to block the deal. That deal went through with Luke Voit taking Hosmer’s place, though Hoz was flipped to the Red Sox instead, with that club not covered by his clause. The Padres ate the remainder of Hosmer’s contract, apart from the league minimum, and included a couple of prospects in order to get Jay Groome from Boston.
A stint on the injured list due to some back inflammation limited him to just 14 games with the Sox after the deal and they released him in the offseason to clear a path for prospect Triston Casas. The Cubs took a flier on Hosmer, which was essentially a free look since the Padres were still on the hook for his salary. But he hit poorly in 31 games as a Cub last year, producing a batting line of .234/.280/.330, and was released in May. He didn’t latch on elsewhere and has now decided to officially call it a career.
Though there were some ups and downs, Hosmer still has plenty of accolades on his ledger, including four Gold Gloves, a Silver Slugger Award, an All-Star appearance and a World Series ring. He also won the World Baseball Classic with Team USA in 2017. He racked up 1,753 hits in his MLB career, including 322 doubles, 20 triples and 198 home runs. He scored 812 runs and drove in 893. Baseball Reference lists his career earnings just under $175MM. We at MLBTR salute Hosmer on a fine career and wish him the best in his next steps.