The San Diego Padres might sign free-agent first baseman Eric Hosmer.
It’s easy to see why San Diego fans are excited about the possibility: he’s young (28), has already played for a World Champion—the 2015 Royals, hits for power, plays solid defense, and is a clubhouse leader.
According to USA Today, the Padres have already offered Hosmer a seven-year contract worth roughly $20 million per year.
But here is my warning to A.J. Preller and company: Don’t take the bait. Just walk away from Hosmer, and stay the course with the youth movement. Here are five reasons why:
1- While Hosmer is a good ballplayer, he is hardly elite
Last season, his walk year, was his best season to date: .315/.385/.498 with a .882 OPS, 4.0 WAR, 25 home runs, and 94 RBI. Hosmer also won his fourth Gold Glove and first Silver Slugger award.
But before 2017, his numbers really weren’t much: from 2011-2016. He batted a collective .277/.335/.428, averaging just 17 home runs and 79 RBI. His combined WAR during those six seasons was a meager 10.1—under two wins per year above a replacement value player.
To put that into perspective, compare Hosmer to Chase Headley, nearly everyone’s idea of the “average” ballplayer (minus two spectacular months in 2012). From 2013-2017, Hoadley averaged 12 home runs and 57 RBI, together with a .257/.334/.383 slash. Not too impressive, right? Well, consider also that Headley had a 9.1 WAR, or an average of 2.275 WAR during those four seasons.
In other words, Headley was of greater value to the New York Yankees over four years than Eric Hosmer was to the Kansas City Royals over six years. The Yankees just traded Headley (back to the Padres, ironically) because they didn’t want to pay him $13 million to play the last season of his contract. And the Padres are offering Hosmer close to or more than $20 million per year!
Consider also that the perennially contending Boston Red Sox resigned first baseman, Mitch Moreland, for two years at $13 million, rather than pursuing the pricier Hosmer.
As one analyst noted, Hosmer is not that much better than Moreland when you crunch the numbers.
Question: If you were a general manager, would you offer either Chase Headley (setting aside his age for the moment) or Mitch Moreland a seven-year million contract? Of course not. So then, why would you make that kind of offer to Eric Hosmer, who is only slightly better than both of those players?
2- The Padres will not be contending for at least two years, more likely three
Even though they played better than expected last year with a 71-91 record, the Padres are still a very young ball club. They finished last in batting average and runs, and talented young players like Luis Perdomo, Hunter Renfroe, Austin Hedges, and Manuel Margot are still very green.
The Padres have lots of solid minor league talent; players like Fernando Tatis, Jr., Luis Urias, Cal Quantrill, Eric Lauer, and Joey Lucchesi. Many of them will likely make their major league debuts in 2018, and Mackenzie Gore, their exciting top pick from last June, probably won’t be in a Padre uniform until September 2019 at the very earliest.
And remember, prospects are still just that: prospects. They still have to go through their growing pains, as Padre fans saw former top prospects like Renfroe (.231 average and a .284 OBP) and Hedges (.214 average and .262 OBP) go through last year. But that’s part of the rebuilding process: it just takes time for young ballplayers to adjust to other big-league ballplayers, and develop their skills. And some of them just don’t stick. That’s just reality.
All of that to say, is it really wise to splurge on a free agent like Eric Hosmer when you likely won’t be serious contenders until 2020 at the earliest?
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A native of Escondido, Greg is a free-lance writer who currently resides in Western Canada. He remains an avid Padres fan.