The Eric Hosmer talk is just not dying down.
With the recent signing of Mitch Moreland by the Boston Red Sox, the San Diego Padres appear to be the favorites for landing Hosmer.
I can distinctly remember 26 years ago when the San Diego Padres were reportedly close to signing a Kansas City Royal player coming off a career year. Danny Tartabull put up a .990 OPS in his final year with the Royals at the age of 28. The right-handed hitter slugged 31 homers and hit .316 on the year for Kansas City. He had a career year in his contract year and was looking to cash in on the open market.
The Padres were in search of outfield help and Tom Werner (yeah, I know), the Padres owner, was on record as stating the Padres were viable contenders for the talented outfielder. Reports were the Padres offered him a five-year deal in the neighborhood of $20-23 million. That was a very hefty sum for the ball club and the fact the team was flirting with a free agent of this caliber was certainly promising to the fans.
At the end of the day, Tartabull chose to sign with the New York Yankees for $25.5 million and five years. The Padres probably avoided an issue, as his numbers declined after a few productive seasons in New York. The Yankees could survive a bad contract, but a smaller market team like the Padres could have been crippled by that kind of long-term deal.
Fast forward to now and the Padres are once again infatuated with a 28-year-old Kansas City Royal player. This time it is a first baseman.
Eris Hosmer would be a fantastic fit for the club. Nobody is arguing that. However his asking price, and what he will sign for, is certainly of concern to the Padres and their fans. Presently the Padres are free of long-term, burdensome contracts, and that is a good thing. Besides a few seasons of Hector Olivera, the team does not have to pay much in terms of money. Committing to Hosmer at $20-25 million in five or six years could be very bad business.
Perhaps the answer is to get creative with his contract. Let’s say in the end, Hosmer gets a six-year deal at $130 million from the Friars. The Padres could pay him $25 million in his first three seasons of the deal, then split the remaining $55 million between the final three seasons. An average of $18.33 million for his age 30-33 seasons would be a better pill to swallow and allow the team to pay their young players who will contributing at the major league level by then.
Typically, players want their yearly pay to be staggered the opposite way, but Hosmer seems to be a team player, and could be on board with this thought process. He would certainly enjoy being paid like one of the top first baseman for the first three years of the deal. A.J. Preller is a creative man. He prides himself in thinking outside the box and getting the job done.
If the Padres can get creative with a Hosmer deal, then the two sides make sense. If the team has to pay Hosmer $25 million or more per year when he is 33, then we could have serious issues. He could age like a fine wine and certainly still be productive, but the Padres just do not have the payroll flexibility to gamble.
The Red Sox appear to be out and the price tag on Hosmer seems to be getting reasonable. If the Padres sign the first baseman, then this will certainly signify that the Dark Ages are over in San Diego. Will this team be competitive in 2018? That’s very unlikely, but at the very least they could be fun to watch, and growth is taking place at the minor league level. Like Danny Tartabull, the flirtation is real with Hosmer and the Padres. Like before, it will all come down to dollars and cents – how much money the slugger wants and how much his price tag makes sense for the long-term growth of this franchise.