Eric Hosmer has been quite public with the fact that he has had long-term contract negotiations with the Royals, saying that he wants a deal done by Opening Day or he will become a free agent at season’s end. Recent reports indicate those talks have ended, however, and now the two sides are taking their case to the public.
Royals owner David Glass spoke on the situation for the first time, expressing doubt to Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star that the Royals could retain Hosmer.
“I think it will be difficult,” Glass said. “I think Hoz wants to stay here, and I think he’s very loyal to our organization. But at the same time, these guys have agents that want to get the best deal for them. Hoz has (Scott) Boras, and if Boras doesn’t get a really good deal for Hoz, then it affects his relationship with his other clients.
“They sort of set a standard with each one of their clients. So I think we’ll have a difficult time with Hosmer.”
Glass is clearly setting up his position, saying that it will be “difficult” to reach Boras’ demands. He also seems to be trying to set up a divide between Hosmer and Boras, implying that Boras may not have his client’s best interests at heart, looking only at the bottom line, and not necessarily what situation fits best for the All-Star first baseman. It is a common refrain from fans, “hey, if you like it here so much, why don’t ya just sign?”
But it is understandable that Hosmer would want to get the best financial deal possible. This is his big shot at free agency, a right he has emphasized to the media (almost certainly scripted by Boras). This is why he hired Boras in the first place, the man who once negotiated on his behalf the largest draft-day bonus in Royals history.
Boras was not one to take Glass’ words lightly, however, and he fired back.
“Anyone who truly knows Hoz knows he is a leader and one of the game’s true winning players,” Boras said, when reached for a response. “He makes instinctive decisions at the most critical moments while on the biggest stage. Hoz is known league wide as an extremely prepared player.
“It’s not surprising he seeks discerning information and counsel. To suggest Hoz isn’t in total control of his decisions indicates someone has yet to notice that championship ring on his finger.”
It is curious how much of Boras’ argument on Hosmer’s value lies on intangibles like “leadership”, “instinct”, “clutch play”, and “champion.” In an era in which most teams are moving away from such narratives and towards harder analytics which downplay Hosmer’s value, it seems unclear how much of a market there will be for Hosmer’s services, and at what price. Certainly the Royals will be one of the few teams to buy into some of those narratives - reportedly they think he is worth more than Brandon Belt, despite objective evidence to the contrary. But they are also a lower-revenue club, on a dismal television deal, that is already spending a record amount of money on players, including long-term deals with Alex Gordon, Ian Kennedy, Danny Duffy, and Salvador Pérez. They love Hosmer. But at what price?
Trading barbs in the press is not necessarily a bad sign for negotiations. Remember reports that there was “no chance” Alex Gordon would re-sign as things stood? Obviously both sides are taking their stance to leverage the other. But if a deal is to be done by Opening Day, the clock is ticking. And the two sides do not sound as if they are close to keeping Hosmer in Kansas City.