The Boston Red Sox signed Mitch Moreland to a two-year deal yesterday. That, in itself, is relatively meaningless for Royals fans. But it does eliminate yet another contender for the services of one Eric Hosmer. Before the 2017 season began, I believed there could be as many as 12 or 13 teams in the market for a first baseman and able to pay big money for one, but slowly, things happened taking them out of the race. Ryan Zimmerman rediscovered his swing. Justin Smoak became the monster everyone thought he’d be when he was drafted. Cody Bellinger was a beast. The Yankees wanted to be fiscally responsible. You get the idea. Now with Moreland in the fold, the Red Sox are yet another team out on Hosmer.
So where does that leave him? A surprise suitor has emerged for him in the San Diego Padres, and, according to Buster Olney, they’ve offered him six years and $120 million. That’s a lot of money. It’s also less than he’s been looking for. In a strange twist, I also believe it’s probably right around the number the Royals would be comfortable giving him. Should they give him that deal? That’s another argument that I’ll get to in a minute, but that’s where we are right now.
The Royals are suddenly very much in play for Hosmer. That doesn’t mean another team can’t emerge. A few years ago, it looked like Prince Fielder had missed the bus to the dance, but then the Tigers came a-calling with a $200 million plus deal. The teams that could change their tunes in the near future here are the Cardinals and the Mets and maybe the Rockies if the price falls enough for them. I think that as teams start to smell the blood in the water, they’ll try to pick off Hosmer at a “bargain” price, and it might end up working. If he goes to St. Louis, he can slot in at first and they can move Matt Carpenter back to third and let Gyorko handle a utility role. If he goes to the Mets, he takes over first for them and they can relive the haunting memories of him sliding into home in Game Five every game. And if he goes to the Rockies, he can almost certainly get the Coors Field hit boost to help him get to 3,000 faster than pretty much anywhere else.
Before I make the next big statement, I’m going to qualify it. This is all pending the fact that the Royals are actually being truthful about wanting Hosmer back. If they’re just saying this as a PR move to appease the fans, then what I’m about to say means nothing.
I think the Royals are now the favorites to sign Eric Hosmer.
That’s at this particular moment in time. Free agency is crazy, so anything can happen at any minute, but if the choice is between the Royals and the Padres and the Royals actually mean what they say about wanting to bring him back, they have to be considered the favorites.
Again, we’re operating the assumption that they’re being truthful in that claim here, but I would guess they’ve told Hosmer that they’re comfortable giving him a certain amount of money that is probably in line with what the Padres are reportedly offering. They’re likely not going to make another move before late in the offseason to fill the first spot if they fill it all outside of Hosmer, so the offer will remain on the table. That gives Hosmer a cushion that he can fall back on as he continues to search for the even bigger offer from some other team. So far, it hasn’t been there. Maybe it develops in the next few days and weeks, but maybe it doesn’t.
If the Royals are the favorites, the question becomes if they actually should sign Hosmer to a deal that will shatter the previous record for money spent on one player. You know my thoughts. I appreciate everything Hosmer did for this franchise. Every infuriating stretch where he forces Trevor Vance to replace the turf between home plate and the second baseman and every stretch where it seemed like no pitcher could get him out were all a part of bringing a championship back to Kansas City. But the Royals were 161-163 with Hosmer and gang the last two seasons. Even if they bring him back, they’re likely not bringing back his partners in crime, Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain, so can they really expect to be better in 2018 or 2019? And furthermore, does having Hosmer on the field in these rebuilding years actually expedite much of anything? I believe the answer is no to both.
It’s not that there isn’t a benefit to a long-term deal with Hosmer. The situation is certainly more nuanced than simply saying it’s stupid or smart to bring him back. In Hosmer, they’d be putting an experienced hitter in a lineup filled with more inexperience than we’ve seen in a long time. They’d be putting a first baseman back on the field that gives some extra confidence in his infielders to make throws. Can we quantify that? Not especially, but it’s not like it doesn’t exist. And looking forward, as the young players begin to mature and ascend to the big leagues, it’s easy to think about the 2020 lineup and see guys to hit at the top of the lineup and guys to hit at the bottom, but there’s not really anyone currently in the fold to hit in the middle. Hosmer addresses that future need.
But if you’re thinking about a rebuild, the draft picks the Royals are going to receive from their qualifying offer free agents leaving can help them with both the sheer numbers and the extra money to spend, as we’ve all talked about for months. Hosmer will sign for more than $50 million. That’s a near certainty. The pick they’d receive for him signing elsewhere would be worth about $2 million in pool money. That’s not nothing. The flexibility it brings along with the pick can help the Royals to have another strong draft on the heels of the 2017 draft that is looking very good as of this moment.
I don’t think the money is an issue. They have contracts they can trade that likely won’t impact the bottom line of winning and losing in 2018. Still, I’m not sure I see the point of spending frivolously now when the ceiling is maybe 80 wins, and that’s probably optimistic. I know it’s not my money, but I’m also interested in the Royals winning again and winning again soon and I think saving the coin now can be a benefit in the future. Maybe I’m jaded, but it’s hard to logically see the path to actually making it back to the postseason before year four of his at the very earliest and more than likely it’s year five or six, when he’s 32 or 33 years old.
I get the reasons to bring Hosmer back. Some of them even make an awful lot of sense to me. And if you catch me at the right (or wrong) moment, I may even start to think that it actually is a really good idea. Still, though, I think the future of the franchise is in better shape with a full rebuild and that includes watching one of the heroes of the last few years don a different uniform in 2018 and beyond.