Royals fans may be seeing some of their favorite players for the last time this weekend, but don’t expect General Manager Dayton Moore to just sit back and let everyone leave. Although Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and Lorenzo Cain are all expected to be some of the most coveted free agents on the market this winter, there have been reports all year that the Royals expect to be players in retaining at least one or more of their free agents.
According to Jon Heyman at Fanrag, the Royals will target Eric Hosmer to re-sign, even with Hosmer expected to be possibly the best free agent hitter on the market. Heyman, who has long been associated with Hosmer’s agent, Scott Boras, writes that the Royals “love Hosmer” and are willing to make a serious offer, likely over $100 million to keep the All-Star first baseman. There are expected to be other, richer clubs in the bidding for Hosmer, including possibly the Red Sox and Yankees, so a bidding war could price the Royals out.
It should not be much of a surprise that the Royals would target Hosmer, who has become a face of the franchise, and the closest thing to a star this franchise has produced in recent years. Dayton Moore has talked many times of how Hosmer embodies the character of the franchise and is an important player not only on the field, but in the clubhouse, and even, in the community. In an interview with Bob Fescoe of 610 Sports on Friday, Moore was asked about Heyman’s report, responding with high praise for Hosmer, saying “he is an example of a player everyone wants to model after,” adding:
“What does he mean to a franchise? Well, he means a lot. I don’t know if you can measure that.”
Keeping Hosmer won’t be easy. The Royals already have close to $100 million committed to ten players, and with arbitration cases for Kelvin Herrera and Nate Karns, and buyout money still being paid to players like Omar Infante (!), Chris Young, and Mike Minor, the Royals could have around $120 million in contract obligations next year without signing a single player. Moore said he would have discussions in the near future with David Glass to determine next year’s payroll, but in his discussion with Fescoe, Dayton hinted that the high payrolls of recent years may be coming to an end.
“The team was built to make the playoffs and go deep in the playoffs, from a financial standpoint. We simply did not meet those goals. There are consequences for that.”
If payroll is going down, the Royals will have to make a crucial decision on the future of the organization. Can they continue to compete without Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, and possibly Eric Hosmer, three players that had terrific seasons in 2017 and yet could not carry the club to a winning record? Should they do a complete rebuild, trading away any assets they have, such as Salvador Perez, Danny Duffy, and Whit Merrifield, and start over again? Or can they do a re-set, and try to go young next year, with an eye towards competing once they have more financial flexibility in 2019 (the club has about $73 million committed that year) or 2020?
My guess is you will see them do the last option, and signing Eric Hosmer to a long-term deal would likely fit in those plans. Whether or not they can bring him back remains to be seen. The Royals clearly value him highly, perhaps higher than other teams see him. The metrics judge Hosmer very differently than scouts and some baseball observers do, which may scare some teams away. But his youth and his career this year should be enough for bidding to get pretty high.
Eric Hosmer has given us plenty of post-season drama, but this winter may be the most drama Hosmer has even given us.