As much of a star as he may be, Eric Hosmer is not the answer for the Padres at first base. His time on the Royals is essentially what aided his market value once he hit free agency but now? His value is nowhere near the contract he initially signed with the Friars.
A Fresh Start
Back in 2018, the Padres were looking to bolster their roster with a big-name player that could be the start of something new for them. Coincidentally, Hosmer happened to hit free agency that year and was coming off of his best season with Kansas City in which he batted a solid .318 in 162 games with 25 homers and 94 RBIs. He finished the 2017 season acquiring his first and still only All-Star selection, fourth Gold Glove, and first Silver Slugger. After seven seasons and one World Series later, free agency was calling his name and he decided to answer.
The Padres’ front office then went ahead and offered him an eight-year, $144 million contract that would go down as the team’s largest signing in their history at the time. This signing could not have come at a better time as they already had players like Austin Hedges, Freddy Galvis, Franmil Reyes, Hunter Renfroe, Christian Villanueva, and Manuel Margot waiting for their captain. Unfortunately, even with this acquisition, the team still had some ways to go before they could provide the missing pieces around Hosmer.
Settling into a new team can be tough initially (I mean look at how Giancarlo Stanton did in his first season with the Yankees) but overcoming those nerves is what makes you a better player. Hosmer was ultimately consumed by these nerves. His first season saw his batting average drop just above the Mendoza line at .253 while his strikeouts rose to 142, the second-highest in his career. His ground ball rate also rose to 60 percent and he only managed to hit 18 home runs the entire campaign.
There is also an infamous play that occurred while competing against the Astros in Houston where Hosmer comes in to field a routine fly ball, ends up twenty feet in front of it, and misses it completely thus causing the opponent to walk off and win. Needless to say, it was a season to forget for the young star and one for the team to forget too as they finished 2018 with a 66-96 record, good for last in the NL West. Things looked to be on the upswing the following season but alas, it was short-lived for this team and fan base.
In 2019, Hosmer managed to secure a bounce-back campaign as he recorded a .265 batting average complete with 99 RBIs and 22 home runs. The only smudge on his resume that season was that he managed to set a new career-worst in strikeouts with 163. Being able to hit for power tends to come at a cost and Hosmer paid the price trying to get back to those 25 homerun seasons he had in Kansas City. The 2020 season was unfortunately shortened due to covid so even though he batted .289, I would not count this as something to gawk at given he only played 38 games.
2021 was the final breaking point for him as he only smacked 12 home runs and recorded 65 RBIs accompanied by a .269 average. He didn’t break 100 strikeouts, however, but his power was not there and his fielding also suffered. He committed seven errors on the season and has not been above a .997 fielding percentage since his first year with the team. His attempts to continue to produce were in vain as other stars would be brought in to turn this team around.
As time went on, he eventually became overshadowed by the likes of Manny Machado, Fernando Tatis Jr., Blake Snell, Joe Musgrove, and Yu Darvish. Heck, in the middle of the 2021 season the Padres managed to add second baseman, Adam Frazier, with the possible intention of moving Jake Cronenworth to first base. Hosmer, at this point, was looking at riding pine the rest of the season but fortunately for him, this plan did not come to fruition and he managed to start all games he played in. If I were him, I’m worried about losing my spot and working harder to do what I can to keep myself relevant in this crowded lineup.
More Money, More Problems
Most things are easier said than done and this situation is no exception to the saying. Hosmer is set to make $21 million in 2022 but as of right now, that may not even happen due to the MLB lockout and potential cancellation of the season. This makes finding a trade for him that much harder but luckily for this franchise, the final three years of his contract are only paying $13 million each with a player option in all of them. He’s most likely not going to take the player option as of right now because why would he?
The market for first basemen is pretty good right now with some teams in need of a strong, veteran player. The Yankees could be good trade partners although they are still trying to pursue Freddie Freeman so depending on how that plays out could determine who is left to exchange with. Regardless of the location, the team that takes him needs to understand the implications of bringing on such a large contract with regards to their seasonal strategy. Hosmer will most certainly make an impact wherever he goes if the Padres decide to move forward with those plans.
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