Eric Hosmer will begin spring training with the San Diego Padres this week, having inked an eight-year contract that could pay him up to $144 million. The deal includes an opt-out after five years and is heavily frontloaded, two qualities that caused him to prefer the offer over what the Royals had offered, according to Kansas City Star reporter Rustin Dodd. Dodd wrote that the Royals’ offer was “believed to be in the neighborhood of $140 million” at one point, but suggests that was not the final number.
FanRag reporter Robert Murray, who works with Scott Boras-connected reporter Jon Heyman, writes today that the Royals’ final offer was for five years in the $100 million range. That is about the same amount of money the Padres offered in the first five years of their offer, but without the guarantee of the final three years of the deal should something happen to Hosmer. Bob Nightengale of USA Today previously reported the Royals had offered seven-years, $147 million, but Sam Mellinger at the Kansas City Star disputed that number. Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reported the Royals had made a seven-year offer, but that Hosmer wanted nine years.
Murray writes that the Padres were favorites all along, and the club did seem to be the most aggressive in pursuing Hosmer all winter, meeting with him several times. The Royals seemingly took a more passive approach, waiting for Hosmer’s price to drop, which it arguably did. If true, the $100 million offer would have been by far the largest contract in Royals history, had Hosmer signed it, exceeding the $72 million deal Alex Gordon signed before the 2016 season.
I don’t think you can blame the Royals much for wanting to avoid the opt-out clause that basically gives the player security of the contract AND the freedom to test free agency again. If Hosmer plays well, he can bolt after five years. If he stinks, the team has to pay a bad player for eight years. Opt-outs are typically a bad deal for the club.
Offering a five year deal is a bit curious, considering they are going through a rebuild and it would be pretty optimistic to think the Royals will be contenders within the next five years. But perhaps the team was wary of such a long-term commitment, even for such a young player, especially considering Hosmer’s inconsistent track record.
I am also a bit curious how the Royals would have handled payroll had Hosmer agreed to their offer. The projected payroll is down to about $108 million. Even a heavily backloaded deal would have paid Hosmer at least $12-15 million this year. Would it have required further off-setting cuts? Would there be a taker for Jason Hammel? Kelvin Herrera? Would they move Danny Duffy?
I also wonder if the Royals would ever give a player a big-time franchise contract. I don’t think they have had anyone that deserved such a deal since maybe Zack Greinke or Carlos Beltran, but would they pony up big-time money for a cornerstone player? They are one of four clubs that have never given a $100 million contract - the Pirates, Indians, and White Sox are the others. Would they shell out the kind of money the Reds did for Joey Votto? Like the Twins did for Joe Mauer? Hosmer was a huge favorite with the front office, and yet their offer was not good enough. Is there a player they would lock up for life? Or, considering how many of those deals end up, is that just a bad idea for a small market club?
In the end, this is probably the best case scenario for all parties involved. The Padres get a player they hope to accelerate their rebuild. Hosmer gets paid. The Royals take the wonderful memories of a dynamic player and move on with their rebuild.