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The market has changed for first basemen, says Ken Rosenthal

Maybe Hosmer isn’t a $100 million player?

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Minnesota Twins Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Over the weekend, Eric Hosmer revealed he was engaged in long-term contract talks with the Royals, although he will end talks if there is no deal by Opening Day. The All-Star Game MVP is eligible for free agency the end of the season. Fox Sports reporter Ken Rosenthal went on The Drive on 610 Sports to discuss Hosmer and other other impending Royals free agents.

Host Carrington Harrison asserted that Hosmer would get nine figures, likely in reference to numbers floated around by agent Scott Boras that Hosmer could seek a ten-year, $200 million deal. Rosenthal wasn’t so quick to assume Hosmer could land such a lucrative deal, however.

“You would assume nine figures, but I’m not positive. The market has changed. First basemen did not do well this past off-season....Is he going to crazy with $150 million? I’m not sure I see that anymore for players like him.”

Many sluggers such as Edwin Encarnacion, Mark Trumbo, and Jose Bautista received deals well under what they were expecting this past winter. Rosenthal argued that while Hosmer is a more complete player than those home-run hitting sluggers, teams are not paying top dollar for first basemen anymore, instead relying on non-traditional first basemen and platoons.

The Royals are not engaged in long-term contract talks with Mike Moustakas, according to Rosenthal, and Harrison wondered what kind of deal Moose could expect. Rosenthal used the recent four year, $60 million deal signed this past winter by Justin Turner as a starting point, admitting that Moustakas is younger. He did knock Moustakas for not having a long established track record, as 2015 was his only big breakout season thus far.

“This year will determine a lot for him.”

However, he opined that the lack of any other quality third basemen on the market this winter would help, just as Hosmer faces little free agent competition at first base.

On Lorenzo Cain, it seems that age is the big reason why the Royals are not engaged in long-term talks with their All-Star outfielder.

“Age is increasingly a big factor in free agency.”

Rosenthal thought Dexter Fowler was a “fair comp” for Cain, although each brought different qualities to the table. Fowler signed a five-year, $82.5 million deal with the Cardinals last winter, and is one year younger than Cain will be when Lorenzo reaches free agency next winter. Rosenthal was much more dismissive of the possibility of shortstop Alcides Escobar returning, citing his declining defensive metrics and ready replacement in Raúl A. Mondesí.

“I would say he’s not likely to come back.”

Rosenthal gave the Royals credit for a tough off-season, but was uncertain they had really improved the club. The loss of Wade Davis and Kendrys Morales were big blows to the roster, although he liked the late pickups of Brandon Moss, Jason Hammel, and Travis Wood.

“It was two off-seasons for them - the one before the death of Yordano Ventura and the one after the death of Yordano Ventura.”

Rosenthal also discussed the evolving free agent market, with teams becoming “ruthlessly efficient with how they approach payroll.” Teams are becoming more patient with free agents, and using the supply and demand of the market to work the best deal. The Royals exploited the market this past winter, getting slugger Brandon Moss at a fraction of the price of the deal Kendrys Morales signed with the Blue Jays at the outset of the off-season.