The San Diego Padres love to wheel and deal, but it seems they have dealt themselves into a bit of a pickle. The team has been aggressive in adding players the last year or two to become a serious contender, but according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the team is now on pace to exceed the luxury tax threshold, set this year at $210 million.
The best way to get back under would be to trade disappointing first baseman Eric Hosmer, who has a limited 10-team no-trade clause that the Royals are not on. The team acquired Pirates second baseman Adam Frazier this week, which could move Jake Cronenworth to first base, with Jurickson Profar also an option, leaving Hosmer out of a starting job. The 31-year old has failed to tap into his power and is hitting .266/.330/.381 this year with just eight home runs. Out of 25 qualified first basemen in baseball, only Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers has a worse wRC+.
Hosmer turned down a $100+ million offer from the Royals to sign an eight-year, $144 million deal with the Padres in February of 2018. Through four years in San Diego, Hosmer has been league-average, hitting .263/.320/.415, but with just 2.1 WAR, according to Baseball Reference. Hosmer’s issue is the same as it was in Kansas City - he’s pounding the ball into the ground at rates higher than he did in Kansas City. Since 2018, only two hitters in baseball have a higher groundball rate than his 56.9 percent rate.
Would the Royals seek a reunion with Hosmer? Dayton Moore has made no secret of his affinity for the All-Star first baseman who was instrumental in two playoff runs in Kansas City. The team has already brought back some members of their championship team, with Greg Holland, Wade Davis, and Jarrod Dyson on this year’s roster. While Dayton’s heart may desire a reunion, his head may have other ideas.
The Royals likely can’t take on a contract of Hosmer’s magnitude, but the Padres are certainly going to eat a substantial amount of the deal just to get under the luxury tax threshold. Hosmer is owed $21 million next year, but his salary drops to $13 million per year in the final three years of the deal through 2025. He can also opt out after the 2022 season, but it seems highly unlikely he would do that at this point.
The Padres shouldn’t expect much of anything in return for Hosmer, who has negative trade value right now. So the Royals could get a league-average hitter at first base with the possibility of unlocking more potential if you can get him to elevate, who the defensive metrics don’t like, but who scouts and coaches love defensively, and has the clubhouse presence and intangibles Dayton Moore loves, all without having to give up much of anything, at a fraction of the contract you were willing to give him a few years ago.
But is there a place for Hosmer in Kansas City anymore? Carlos Santana occupies first base now, but it is very possible he is traded this week. If not, he could easily move to DH next year if Jorge Soler departs, with Hosmer providing his defense at first base.
But what about Nick Pratto? The 2017 first-round pick has rebounded from a disastrous 2019 season to become one of the top prospects in baseball by hitting .271/.404/.570 with 15 home runs in 61 games in Double-A Northwest Arkansas before his promotion to Triple-A last week. In a lot of ways, Pratto is a younger, cheaper version of Hosmer - with perhaps a better eye at the plate. With Pratto banging on the door, surely the Royals wouldn’t block him at first base?
Pratto is athletic enough that he could theoretically move to right field, although he has not played the position at all in the minors. Or perhaps he is used as trade bait to acquire an outfielder, although that seems unlikely with how the Royals regard him. Acquiring Hosmer could give the team more options.
There is also the possibility the Padres could throw in a prospect to sweeten the deal. According to Padres beat writer Kevin Acee, a top prospect could go along with Hosmer.
It looks like if Eric Hosmer goes, so does one of the Padres’ top four prospects.— Kevin Acee (@sdutKevinAcee) July 27, 2021
That’s what is being discussed.
The top Padres prospects are pitcher Mackenzie Gore, catcher Luis Campusano, shortstop C.J. Abrams, and outfielder Robert Hassell. Getting a prospect would probably require a receiving team to take on more of Hosmer’s contract.
However fun a reunion may seem, it just doesn’t seem to be a good baseball move, even if Hosmer comes at a discount. Nick Pratto seems to be the future first baseman for this franchise, and deserves his shot. A prospect would make it much more palatable, but it is unclear that the Royals ownership group has deep enough pockets to absorb Hosmer’s deal. Ultimately it seems highly unlikely the Royals will bring Hosmer back. But you never know with Dayton Moore.
If the Padres ate enough of the contract, would you want the Royals to bring back Eric Hosmer?
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