Early in the morning yesterday, Bob Nightengale reported that the Royals had offered free agent Eric Hosmer a 7-year $147M offer to rejoin his recently departed club, after most of the reports had them linked to only the Padres really. Then later in the day, the Padres reportedly might have not offered as much as rumored earlier. Then even later in the day, Sam Mellinger of the KC Star reported that the Royals hadn’t actually made that offer and it came from Hosmer’s camp.
Okay. That’s a lot in a span of barely six hours, from having a big offer, to having a cooled off offer from another club, to have no offer from the first club. To be honest, I’m more inclined to believe the local guy Mellinger, who should be more plugged in to the Royals. Not to mention that Nightengale cited someone close to Hosmer as the source of that rumor. Of course a player and an agent are supposed to inflate any offer they have or try to feign an offer that might not be there. What are they supposed to do, say they only have bad offers?
Scott Boras, Hosmer’s agent, is pretty well known for being the most outspoken sports agent on Earth, as well as having several reporters known for fronting information to cause a stir. Also it’s worth mentioning that often times these rumors end up being not close to the actual deal signed. Back in 2015 it was reported that former Royal James Shields had a 5/$110M offer on the proverbial table. Shields of course signed for much less a few weeks later, 4/$75M. Back in 2014 it was reported that Jon Lester had a 5/$110-120M offer on the table from the Red Sox. Later, he signed for 5/$155M with the Cubs. Chase Headley had a 4/$65M offer on the table, but ultimately signed for 4/$52M. Even a Royals offer was once way off when they reportedly offered Gordon 4/$50M when he ultimately signed for 4/$72M
Sometimes these reported offers are near spot on, but sometimes they are off by a lot, and it doesn’t particularly bode well for the rumor that follow up reports have contradicted it. But let’s just assume the $147M offer is real. I don’t think it is, but let’s live in that world for a moment.
FanGraphs contract estimator pegs Hosmer for being worth $124M on a seven year deal.
To note though, that assumes that Hosmer is worth ~10 wins over the next three years then ages normally and even then it’s still $23M under the report. Hosmer has been consistently inconsistent, rotating good years with bad years. If history continues, the issuer of a contract for Royals will regret it this upcoming season, but then feel better in 2019.
ZiPS creator Dan Szymborski of ESPN says his system gives Hosmer just a 23% chance of living up to $120M over six years, roughly the same AAV as 7/$147M but a year shorter.
So what is a fair value for Hosmer? This is a question I’ve tried to answer on Twitter and also spilled digital ink on here. The FanGraphs estimate isn’t too outrageous, even if I’d take the under. Dave Cameron at FanGraphs felt more like 6/$126M with the crowd saying more like 5/$95M. MLB Trade Rumors predicted 6/$132M.
What about comparable players, specifically comparable first basemen. There are several first basemen of different “tiers” available this winter, but there are two names that stick out a bit.
Over the two past years, offensively, Logan Morrison and Yonder Alonso have been close, Morrison moreso. Morrison and Hosmer had identical wRC+ figures. Morrison hit for more power (.231 ISO vs .173) but struck out a bit more. Alonso and Hosmer had identical power (.173 ISO).
In 2017, they were all practically identical by wRC+:
Another name came up recently that had me thinking too. Corey Hart and Eric Hosmer have played the exact same number of career games, both achieving spot on offensive lines. Hart though has hit for much more power than Hosmer.
For his career, Corey Hart made ~$43M, peaking at $10M a year in 2013. Alonso and Morrison aren’t getting anywhere near $147M in free agency.
How about further back. Below are the closest hitters to Eric Hosmer between their age 20-28 seasons (min. 3,000 PA) and ignoring position. Also is how they hit from age-28 onwards and their WAR.
That’s a list of both some decent names and perhaps some...underwhelming ones. Ryne Sandberg is nice, but he was an excellent third baseman. George Scott was a six time Gold Glove winning first baseman, but he lead the league in home runs in a season and finished in the MVP voting seven times (Hosmer has twice).
You know which one is kind of apt, at least offensively... Billy Butler.
Both of them hit the same number of home runs, walked about the same, struck out about the same, and had the same ISO. Butler was the slightly better hitter, but overall fairly similar. This may seem like a disappointment, but remember that Butler is one of the best hitters in Royals history even though he couldn’t run or field to save his life.
Those similar players finished with okay careers to the end. They average 11.4 WAR over the rest of their career, some longer than others. That number of course is helped by the positional differences of not all them being a first baseman.
Only 18 hitters in baseball history have received deals of 5+ years and $120M+ in free agency.
On that list are several MVPs, at least three Hall of Famers, and one the greatest hitters to step into the box in Albert Pujols. Hosmer would has the lowest prior 3-year WAR if he were to make this list, as well as the Royals/Padres paying the most for it if the deal came true.
On a similarity basis, the closest comparables would have to be the deals given to Justin Upton, Carl Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Shin-Soo Choo. Upton was a bit tricky as he got an opt out, opted out, and then re-signed with the Angels after being traded to them. Carl Crawford signed with Boston, was unloaded to the Dodgers who DFA’d him in June of 2016 with $35M left. Jacoby Ellsbury rode a huge outlier year to a big contract with the Yankees, who four years later are trying to decide if they should trade him, cut him, or just keep him as their fourth outfielder for the next few seasons. Choo has had a litany of injuries, making a deal that looked questionable at the time of signing even worse.
There is another motive that is brought up often too, mentioning keeping Hosmer around to help mold players during the rebuild. On 610 Sports yesterday afternoon, co-host Brad Fanning had this to say:
There has never been of course any evidence of this kind of stuff or at least anything that shows an actual impact. Do prospects truly gain anything by having someone to “show them the way”? Maybe it creates some small, intangible result if they feel more comfortable by having someone to talk to and discuss hitting/fielding with, but $147M for that isn’t going to cut it. That’s something you might pay an extra million or two (again I’m totally guessing here because there is literally no evidence this is true).
But I’ll also ask this: what kind of clubhouse guy is Hosmer? We know Scott Boras raves about him, as does Ned Yost and Dayton Moore, but of course they have his back. Three years ago, as the Royals were about to kick off the season of their first playoff run in 29 years, Hosmer had an incident with a reporter in the clubhouse that certainly doesn’t make him come off as a nice guy, even if Eno Sarris didn’t get off on the right foot (God bless you Billy Butler).
Another point that I’ve seen, and a minor one at that, is that the Royals traded away Danny Valencia in 2014 partly due to his bad clubhouse presence. Two years later, Valencia (who is notoriously kind of a jerk - he’s been on seven different teams despite being a halfway decent hitter) got into a fight with a teammate. Who was it? You guessed it... Billy Butler. Shortly after the incident, Hosmer tweeted about how well he and Valencia got along.
Don't understand all the negativity towards Danny Valencia. One of the better teammates/friends I've had in this game.— Eric Hosmer (@TheRealHos35) August 22, 2016
Again, that’s nothing really, just an interesting anecdote that a “clubhouse leader” called one of the more notorious clubhouse disruptors one of the better teammates/friends he’s had in the game.
If the Royals can afford to spend 7/$147M on Hosmer, they could just a likely afford to spread that out amongst two players and bring back both Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakas (who like Hosmer have had a slow offseason). I put out a poll on Twitter, asking which one folks would rather have, and Cain + Moustakas won in a 70/30 landslide.
Might as well put it to a poll.— Shaun Newkirk (@Shauncore) January 3, 2018
Which should the Royals collectively spend $150M on (ignoring the caveats of AAV)
A) Hosmer at 7/$150M
B) Cain at 4/$60M and Moustakas at 5/$90M
If the Royals truly want to compete in 2018, retaining Cain and Moustakas (both who project to be as good or better than Hosmer - let alone the two combined) should be their priority (as others have argued). Even the clubhouse argument could work here too. Are Cain and Moustakas any less of a good clubhouse atmosphere as Hosmer? Both have won World Series (a point that is brought up for some reason - as if that makes Dusty Coleman a more valuable player to have too), and both came through the system just like Hosmer.