Why the San Diego Padres Signed Eric Hosmer
Baseball’s most powerful agent struck again this off season, with one of the most surprising free agent moves this winter. First baseman Eric Hosmer, the former Kansas City Royal who is represented by super-agent Scott Boras, signed an eight-year, $144 million deal with the San Diego Padres earlier this week.
The signing raised eyebrows all over the league, Boras’ efforts notwithstanding. The Royals wanted to keep Hosmer, and were willing to sign him to one of the largest deals in franchise history.
Hosmer’s talent, his intangibles, his work ethic
They believed in his talent, his intangibles, his work ethic, and his symbolism as part of the city’s baseball renaissance. But they were also exercising fiscal restraint, in the sense that they didn’t want to sign him to a nine-figure deal that would hamstring their finances as they undergo their current rebuild process. Devoting so much of their thin-by-comparison funds to only Hosmer wouldn’t have been smart.
That’s likely why Hosmer decided to switch locales, moving from one major rebuilding effort to another. The Padres lost 91 games last season (the 7th most in the MLB last year), and their young nucleus is still too far away from being ready to take that next step.
The really smart move by the Padres
As he arrives in southern California, the question remains: was this really a smart move by the Padres? Critics will point to the fact that Hosmer hits too many grounders, and not enough home runs. His defensive production doesn’t match the athleticism he shows, and his overall annual performance appears to be a little too on-again, off-again.
But optimists will point to the fact that sometimes you need that highly-paid veteran to be the cornerstone of the franchise’s rebuilding efforts. Even if he’s not an All-Star, having a guy like Hosmer in the lineup brings credibility to the team, and a leader (of sorts) in the dugout. People scoffed when the Washington Nationals signed Jayson Werth to an enormous deal, or when the Detroit Tigers did the same with Ivan Rodriguez and Magglio Ordonez. But those signings became part of the catalyst that propelled those teams from perennial doormats to contenders.
The yellow brick road
Hosmer’s time in Kansas City will forever be memorialized from when he hit the the triple off the top of the left-field wall in the 12th inning of the 2014 Wild Card Game, running around and pumping his fists in the air after the hit that he called “the biggest at-bat of his life.” In fact, it really had been the most significant at-bat for the Royals in almost three decades. 29 years. That’s probably how the Padres can justify handing the largest contract in franchise history to the four-time Gold Glove winner, 2016 All-Star, and World Series champion, even if he’s not necessarily “deserving” of that type of money.
The stats say it all
From a statistical standpoint, Hosmer is coming off some of the best statistics of his career, which included a 318/.385/.498 slash line, a 132 OPS+, and 25 home runs last season. But even though his former team struggled last year, he’s going to a team that’s projected to lose in the neighborhood of 90 games yet again this year. Clearly, the Padres aren’t paying Hosmer that type of money with just one season in mind, though.