Eric Hosmer, one of the best free agents this offseason and still on the open market in mid-February, struck a deal with the San Diego Padres last night. The Friars will be Hosmer’s second organization after playing the past seven seasons with the Kansas City Royals.
The deal is reportedly worth $144 million over eight seasons. The first five seasons will be worth $20 million a piece with the following three seasons worth $13 million each. There is also a $5 million signing bonus. Hosmer, 29, will enjoy a full no-trade clause for the first three years of the deal, and then a limited no-trade clause the following seasons.
Perhaps most importantly, though, is that the deal includes an opt-out clause after the fifth season, enabling Hosmer to once again jump into the free market when he’s 33 (he’d be 34 at the beginning of the next season).
Hosmer entered free agency for the first time after a year in which he slashed .318/.385/.498 while hitting 25 home runs (tied for his career best), driving in 94 runs, scoring 98 runs (a career high) while also hitting 31 doubles for a Royals team that finished 80-82. On the defensive side, Hosmer earned his fourth Gold Glove Award in five seasons.
To make room for Hosmer, the Padres will shift former Royals top prospect Wil Myers to the outfield. The deal for Hosmer is the biggest free agency deal in the Padres’ history. Hosmer joins a team that went 71-91 in 2017, finishing 33 games behind the division champions, the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Overall, this deal makes sense, assuming two things: Hosmer left the Royals for a team that’s closer to competing than are the Royals, and he took the bigger deal to move to Southern California.
Unfortunately, neither assumption is correct.
The First Assumption: The Padres are Closer to Contending Than the Royals
Hosmer bolts one franchise that is just two seasons removed from winning the World Series to join another that has not reached the playoffs since 2006 (heck, the last time San Diego finished with a record that was .500 or better was 2010) but may be, if you quint your eyes really close together, closer to contending than are the Royals.
But: a winning ball club the Padres aren’t.
Now, the Padres, led by Myers (above), have been in the middle of a rebuild since mid-2015. But that hasn’t led to much on-field success. In the 2016 and 2017, the Padres went 68-94 and 71-91. The Royals went 81-81 and 80-82 in that time.
Of course, the Royals front office made it clear this offseason that the rebuild was on, letting go of players like Jason Vargas (Mets),Lorenzo Cain (Brewers),Mike Moustakas (still available!) walk in free agency while trading other players like Scott Alexander (Dodgers), Brandon Moss (Athletics…for now), and Joakim Soria (White Sox), all in the name of a) saving a buck and b) seeing what the younger guys can do.
It’s going to be a tough rebuild for Kansas City.
It has already been a tough rebuild for San Diego, and the end does not appear to be in sight, especially not in the loaded National League West.
Verdict: both teams are the same timeline to once again compete.
Which brings us to the second assumption.
The Second Assumption: Hosmer Took the Bigger Deal to Go to the Padres
Not so fast!
When it was first reported that it was a two-team (Royals vs Padres) race for Hosmer’s services, it was also reported that the Royals had offered Hosmer a 7-year deal worth $21 annually–or, $147 million. At that time, it was thought the Padres had also offered seven years, but the worth was unknown.
Hosmer, a true Scott Boras client if ever one existed, was holding out for that eighth guaranteed year.
Kings of Kauffman
And not much more was known until last night, when it broke that Hosmer signed with the Padres for a maximum of 8 years, $144 million, and a minimum of 5 years for $100 million.
The conventional wisdom is that the opt-out clause after year five was key.
But why? Think about it: for Hosmer to earn back what he (allegedly) turned down from the Royals, when he’s 34, he’s going to have to sign an overall deal that is worth more than $47 million.
And with the way the free agency played out this offseason, that’s not a given. Heck, the odds are against that happening.
Now, the league’s Collective Bargaining Agreement expires in 2021, before Hosmer’s deal expires, so perhaps there will be some new rules in place that makes it easier for guys in their mid-30’s to sign a deal of that nature.
But Eric Hosmer is taking an awfully huge risk for that to be the case.
Verdict: Hosmer took less money to sign with the San Diego Padres.
In the end, Hosmer a) left the Royals for a team that isn’t closer to contending and b) took less money to do so.
Which makes one thing all too apparent: he wanted out of Kansas City.
He got his wish.