The hot stove season is upon us with all sorts of rumors surrounding the Royals and their free agents. The Royals met yesterday with Scott Boras, agent of Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, and you can expect more meetings with other teams in the next few weeks. Lorenzo Cain is already drawing interest from the Blue Jays and Mets. The Padres are kicking the tires on Alcides Escobar.
Earlier, I took a look at the potential landing spots for Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and Lorenzo Cain. But how much should each expect in free agency? Let’s take a look on a case-by-case basis. We start first with Eric Hosmer.
Boras threw out a $200 million figure for Hosmer last year that was completely laughable. That is the type of contract reserved for elite, MVP-type players, Eric Hosmer has received exactly one MVP vote so far in his career.
On the other hand, some of the stat crowd is probably underselling Hosmer quite a bit. Keith Law writes, he could “see giving Hosmer four years and $60 million to $70 million given his youth and the possibility that he's really a four-win player going forward, but paying even that much to a player who was replacement level as recently as 2016 should make any GM nervous.”
Brandon Belt has been used quite a bit as a comp for Hosmer - they both have a reputation for being good defenders, can get on base, but aren’t big power hitters for the first base position. Belt signed a six-year, $79 million deal in 2016, but that was an extension, not a free agent contract, so Belt did not have multiple suitors driving up the price for him.
Hosmer is coming off a career year, but has been notoriously inconsistent over the last few seasons. If you compare his numbers from 2013-2017 to fellow free agent first baseman Carlos Santana, Hosmer comes up short.
Eric Hosmer vs. Carlos Santana
Before you argue “Kauffman Stadium suppresses home runs”, Hosmer’s numbers on the road don’t improve his standing. Here are the road numbers from 2013-2017 for each player.
Eric Hosmer vs. Carlos Santana on the road
Santana even fares better in defensive metrics (he was a finalist for the Gold Glove this year), although some scouts may dispute that. The big difference is that Hosmer is three years younger than Santana, and will likely draw a longer deal accordingly. Whereas Santana is probably looking at a four-year deal this winter, Hosmer can probably expect a six, maybe even seven year commitment.
Hosmer’s value lies more in what teams think he can be, rather than what he has done. He helped himself quite a bit by having a career year this year, giving potential suitors hope this is a new level of performance for him. And many teams may look at his groundball rate, one of the highest in baseball, and think that if they could just fix his swing to get him to elevate the ball, they could have an elite hitter on their hands.
The gulf in opinions on Hosmer is one of the biggest I have ever seen on a player. The analytics crowd sees a decidedly average to below-average first baseman with an overrated mitt. The scout crowd sees a fantastic clutch hitter with great power potential, a Gold Glove, and intangibles any coach or franchise would love.
I can see many more analytically-minded teams staying away, pursuing cheaper options like Santana or Logan Morrison. But it only takes one team to buy into the Scott Boras binder to drive up the price. The Royals certainly seem like one of the true believers, reportedly seeing Hosmer as more valuable than Belt despite the numbers saying otherwise. But they, of course, have financial limitations that may prevent them from driving the price up too much.
The Red Sox, who have traditionally been an analytical team, may buy into the idea of Hosmer and his intangibles under General Manager Dave Dombrowski. Dombrowski has a reputation of preferring veterans, and the Red Sox will be looking to make a splash after a disappointing season. The Yankees could drive up the price as well. But several big market teams may be wanting to get under the luxury tax threshold that is more punitive under the new labor deal. Teams may also want to hoard their money for a much better free agent class next year.
I think Hosmer ends up with a six-year deal, worth $132 million. That would probably still be in Kansas City’s price range, and it would not surprise me to see them as the team that ultimately has the high bid. It is possible bidding gets as high as $150 million, and perhaps a team like Boston is more willing to add a seventh year. But a solid, non-elite, young player in his prime is probably worth about $22 million per-season in this market, although some may dispute that characterization of Hosmer.
Here are the predictions on how much Hosmer will get in free agency from Dave Cameron at Fangraphs and the crowd-sourced predictions from Fangraphs, Jon Heyman at FanRag and his “expert”, MLB Trade Rumors, Ken Davidoff at the New York Post, and John Harper of the New York Daily News,
Eric Hosmer contract estimates
|MLB Trade Rumors||6/$132M|
What is your prediction on what Eric Hosmer signs for?