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The Royals reportedly think Hosmer is worth more than Brandon Belt - they’re wrong

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Boras is tossing out some silly comps

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Kansas City Royals John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

After grading out the Royals’ offseason as a B at FanRag Sports, Jon Heyman took a trip around the league and had the following to say about the Royals and the prospect of them signing Eric Hosmer to an extension:

The Royals and Eric Hosmer are expected to have negotiations, and word is, he’s the top free agent on their “keep” list (Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain also are free agents after the year). The team has conceded he’s worth more than Brandon Belt, who got a $75-million deal with the Giants, and the number would almost certainly hit nine figures.

There is a lot to unpack here, but before diving in, there is a huge caveat that should probably be applied to the source of the above statement. The writer in question is thought of as a mouthpiece for Scott Boras in some circles. Given this reputation, it would stand to reason that this passage could be serving to strengthen the position of the Boras client in negotiations and should be read accordingly.

There is a reason players like Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas flock to Scott Boras. He is one of the best agents in the business. Using the press is but one way in which he earns his keep.

One can reasonably intuit that the first point is accurate. The only reports in which the Royals have been linked to extension discussions since Danny Duffy signed his have centered around Eric Hosmer. Whether or not it is wise that the Royals have put Hosmer atop their list of pending free agents whose services they would like to retain beyond this season is certainly questionable. Hosmer’s weaknesses have been discussed ad nauseum. Ground balls. Defense disliked by advanced metrics. Ground balls. Middling power. Because of ground balls. MVP potential with second division results.

Sidestepping the question as to why Moustakas or Cain wouldn’t place ahead of Hosmer on Dayton Moore’s list, Heyman’s next statement doesn’t make a lot of sense. “The team has conceded he’s worth more than Brandon Belt...” Here are career numbers for two first basemen on a per-162 game basis.

  • Player A - 681 PA, .277/.335/.428, 19 HR, 7.9 BB%, 16.4 K%, 107 wRC+, 1.0 fWAR, 1.8 rWAR, 1.9 WARP
  • Player B - 614 PA, .272/.359/.460, 18 HR, 11.3 BB%, 24.0 K%, 129 wRC+, 3.7 fWAR, 3.8 rWAR, 4.1 WARP

Pretty easy to see that Player B is the superior player. Want to guess who Player B is?

Hosmer has three Gold Gloves in years in which the publicly available advanced defensive metrics differ strongly with his having been awarded. Both players have been to one All-Star Game - last year - but Hosmer won game MVP. Hosmer’s postseason résumé is a little more impressive, but neither player’s overall numbers in October are particularly good.

Belt has three 4.1+ fWAR seasons in the past four years. Hosmer’s best season was a 3.4 fWAR season in 2015. 2013 was the only other season he was better than 1.0 fWAR (3.2). Even if Hosmer’s defense was better than he’s been credited for by the metrics, Belt is still the better hitter by a wide margin.

If Dayton Moore and the Royals are conceding that Hosmer is better than Belt, they’re doing it wrong. Judging by each player’s statistical record in the harsh day of light, Belt is better.

The only way in which a Hosmer contract being larger than the deal Belt signed last April makes any sense is that there would be a difference in the first year of the deal. Belt signed his extension last year after already agreeing to a $6.2MM, one-year deal in his penultimate year of arbitration. So the first year of Belt’s extension was this year, what would have been his final arbitration year, and it was priced at $2.8MM with the $6MM signing bonus essentially making it $8.8MM. Hosmer is set to make $12.25MM (thanks, Gold Gloves!) in his final season before eligibility for free agency. The subsequent four years of Belt’s deal come at the price tag of $16MM, which is about all Hosmer should hope to get at this point in time.

With Hosmer being a year-and-a-half younger than Belt, maybe a fifth year could get added to the end, but it’s just difficult to rationalize how Hosmer should get much more than the $16MM per year that Belt got.

Heyman continues:

But it is believed he might at least look at something in the range of the Mark Teixeira deal ($180 million, eight years), or perhaps even more years considering his relative youth (Hosmer was quoted recently saying he never said anything about 10 years). Agent Scott Boras isn’t commenting on the coming talks or the asking price, but word he is he views Teixeira as “old money,” considering skyrocketing MLB revenues in the eight years since.

Boras isn’t commenting, but Heyman has magically heard word that Boras believes Teixeira’s contract to be old money! The fact Boras and Hosmer could be seeking a Teixeira deal (or longer!) is, frankly, hilarious. The fewest home runs Teixeira had in a season came as a rookie and surpassed Hosmer’s best power season thus far. Heading into free agency, Teixeira had accrued 26.6 fWAR and 31.2 rWAR in a mere six seasons. Tex was a Gold Glover as well. In terms of WAR, Teixeira accumulated more value than Belt and Hosmer have combined.

And if one is trying to use Teixeira’s deal as a benchmark for one that Hosmer might get, then that person also has to explain how the last five years of that deal, in which Teixeira averaged 98 games a season and was worth a total of 5.5 fWAR and 7.8 rWAR while being a $22MM+ suck on the payroll doesn’t serve as a cautionary tale. That alone should make the Royals’ case for not signing Hosmer to an eight-to-ten-year deal worth well over $100MM.

Sure, baseball’s revenues have gone up, but free agent contracts haven’t necessarily escalated at the same rate, so the market doesn’t appear to bear the claim that Hosmer should get Teixeira dough when he’s been worth somewhere between one-sixth and one-third of what Big Tex was in his first six years.

Revenues certainly have not gone up so much that a small-market team like the Royals can afford to pay a 36-year-old Eric Hosmer $20MM to be below replacement level, a level to which he’s performed more than once in his twenties.

Has Scott Boras targeted his mark and found himself a real whale? If the Royals hope to field a competitive Royals squad in Trump’s second term, let’s hope not. If the Royals think paying Omar Infante about $12MM over the last year-and-a-half of his deal was painful, think about how much of an albatross this deal could become.

Moore hasn’t always fared well while working out these larger deals with free agents. Given the Ian Kennedy deal in which the player was given all the leverage in the contract, a first-round draft pick was ceded, and it appeared as though the reigning World Champions were guaranteeing more years than anyone else, the best Royals fans have to hope for is that Hosmer tests the waters of free agency. If this year’s market is any indication, there may not be that much money out there for first basemen with middling power and questionable defense.

No one is saying Eric Hosmer shouldn’t get all the money he can. Unfortunately for Royals fans and Hosmer, the best thing for the Royals is probably for someone else to be footing that bill.