Hey Royals land, were you having a good Saturday? Got some drinks with the boys, took the significant other out on the town, maybe even kicked back with a good book? Hey, it’s NBA All-Star Weekend; that Donovan Mitchell is gonna be something isn’t he?
Well, all that went in the pooper with a tweet.
— Kevin Acee (@sdutKevinAcee) February 18, 2018
Purely from a fan services point, of course this blows. Eric Hosmer was the face of the franchise during its most successful stretch of baseball in almost 30 years. If he never returns to Kansas City again, his legend is cemented. And that’s something that can’t be replaced, no matter who mans first base in 2018. To a point, numbers can be replicated; the status of local demigod, not so much.
This is the rare deal that probably works out for everybody else though. The Padres signal their intention to win between 79-88 games a year for the next five years, until they blow it sky-high for the umpteenth time (my first thought upon seeing the news: I don’t think Hosmer ever spends five years in San Diego. Gut feeling). Hosmer gets what he wanted—an eighth year, a little more money and even, perhaps, a second chance for a bite at the apple if he opts out after year five and is playing as well as he thinks he can at age-33*. Even Scott Boras saved some face, although that’s nobody’s idea of a plus outside the Boras household.
*–This is where I remind you that Hosmer’s best single-season BWARP is 3.7, which would rank no better than 16th since the turn of the century… among first basemen in their age-33 through 35 seasons. A late career-surge isn’t unheard of…but I wouldn’t bet on it, either. I already trod this ground at great length way back in October. I don’t want to take credit/blame for Hosmer’s lack of suitors, but I know Dayton Moore is a fan, reader and close personal friend and takes my advice very seriously why are you laughing at me, don’t make fun of the relationship Dayton and I have.
And the Royals? Well, the Royals no longer have to hold to the half-in, half-out, “We may rebuild, but we may also be able to bring back some of these free-agents” mode. Tanking is a basketball term, not a baseball term, as the success of all but the Bryce Harperiest of talents are not fast-moving supernovas but tender flowers to be lovingly cultivated until they can be released on the baseball world at large. Kansas City does not have an impetus to be bad next season—they have six top-100 picks in this draft, four in the top-50, so adding talent and restocking the minor leagues shouldn’t be an issue. They Royals might be bad, but they won’t be embarrassing.
Lonely eyes now turn to Mike Moustakas, but given the Royals brazen all-in movement on Hosmer and the lukewarm discussions between all parties in the Moose-Royals stalemate, it’s a good bet that none of the big-time free-agents are still in the blue-on-blue next year. It’s youth movement time, and the names that have been bandied about both internally—Hunter Dozier, Cheslor Cuthbert, the beat goes on—and externally, chiefly Kansas City native Logan Morrison, aren’t going to make anyone forget Hosmer. They aren’t supposed to—if Cuthbert turns out to be a 25-homer, .280-average guy, that’s just found value there. If he’s bad, next man up. If he’s merely average, Nick Pratto is supposed to be ready in 2021.
If we get to that point with no potential resolution in sight, I imagine we’re discussing quite a few new-found realities, including a front office overhaul.
This season and likely the next are simply what they’re going to be for the Royals and their fans—an exercise in futility, unlikely to end on a positive note more often than not yet offering faint glimmers of hope to all fans involved. You know, like the late-90s—early-00’s Royals teams nobody is eager to run back. But what they have to offer is hope. There needs to be hope that the Royals have the right people in place to take advantage of the unique opportunities currently before Kansas City—to rebuild itself in an exciting fashion that offers the next wave of extremely talented young pups. One hopes it’s Dayton Moore; it would be quite a dispiriting end note for all involved if Moore, the architect of the greatest Kansas City baseball moments since Whitey Herzog, simply couldn’t get the franchise back to respectability.
At the same time, the last time Moore took a player in the first round who was a no-doubt success was Hosmer, in 2008. The litany of half-success, incompletes and outright failures since—Christian Colon, Bubba Starling, Kyle Zimmer, are you nauseous yet?—can’t be ignored. And as much as Moore’s rep was established with building a champion, it will be cemented by this next chapter.
Once upon a time, Hosmer was part of the next wave of tantalizing prospects. And unlike times past, when Royals fans were sold a bill of goods about the next generation of young ballplayers, Hosmer and Company actually walked the talk and talked the walk, delivering two pennants and a World Series title during their collective heyday. That can’t be overstated, regardless of how one feels about Hosmer as a player or his departure. He was good for the franchise, good for the city and now he’s doing what’s good for him.
Leave it to Rustin Dodd to encapsulate the Hosmer experience with nothing more than a tweet.
It’s hard to find a Royals career (non George Brett division) with three bigger hits than Eric Hosmer’s triple in the 2014 Wild Card Game, Cain-scoring RBI double in Game 6 of the 2015 ALCS, and, yes, Cain-scoring double in World Series-clinching Game 5 of the 2015 World Series. — Rustin Dodd (@rustindodd) February 18, 2018
Royals fans will always have 2015. Hosmer was a significant part of that. The hunt for the next championship cornerstone starts now.