Eric Hosmer will be the San Diego Padres opening day first baseman in 2020. He is not going anywhere. But how can the Padres get the most value out of the veteran?
Complaining about something gets you nowhere, especially in the game of baseball.
The San Diego Padres are invested into Eric Hosmer and, despite his reduced production, there is little the team can do about that fact. Hosmer has a full no-trade clause for the first three years of his contract. The Padres may potentially deal the veteran after the 2020 season (after which he has a limited trade clause), but the team may find it difficult to move him without eating a significant sum of money. Hosmer and his representatives may opt-out of the remaining contract after the 2022 season, but he may have little motivation with three years and $39 million more guaranteed to him.
Eric Hosmer is at the root of this team, and he must be embraced. The numbers he has posted throughout his career are complicated to assess. They are all over the place. He used to be productive every odd-numbered year since he entered the league in 2011, but the pattern was destroyed last year with his poor year at the plate.
Consistency will be essential for the left-handed hitter, both with the bat and with his glove. The four-time Gold Glove winner has flashed a plus glove from time to time, but in reality, he has looked far from a top-tiered first baseman with his footwork and glove handling skills.
The value and production from first basemen are unrecognized when it comes to defense. There is no baseball stat for scooping a ball out of the dirt. There is no defensive metric for bounces, and the difficulty there is in handling short throws from your infielders. Defensive range can be measured at the position, but footwork and adequately placing your foot on the bag cannot be recognized. Nor can taking the proper angle while stretching for a close play at the bag. Sadly, all these skills are where Hosmer needs work. These little things are what suffered last year for the Padres.
If you look at his defensive metrics throughout his career, he has NEVER posted a positive number in WAR (baseball-reference). A four-time Gold-Glove award-winner who has never finished above 0.0 WAR for a season with his glove? Yes. It’s true. Eric Hosmer has produced a -9.5 WAR in his nine-year career with the glove. His offensive production has provided a 15.3 WAR in his Major League career. The good does outweigh the bad- but barely.
Can Eric Hosmer improve?
The simple answer: yes. There are no limitations that should be set on a player. He is 30 and coming off one of the worst years in his career. The only thing standing in Eric Hosmer’s way is himself. Every so often a player needs to dig deep and make a change. A change in their approach. A change in their training regiment. A change in their mechanics and mindset. New Padres’ manager Jayce Tingler comes to the team with excellent skill in terms of player development. Most assume this will be for the rookie and second-year players on the roster. But the truth is the whole unit will gain from his ability to reach players and motivate them to be better.
Eric Hosmer must improve in 2020. The talented ballplayer needs to take his play into the next level for the sake of the team. Hosmer is durable and intense and plays every day. The veteran demands to be in the lineup each day. Coming prepared to the office is his forte, and he has a great attitude about the game. Jayce Tingler will have no problem reaching him. They speak the same baseball language.
Being a first baseman traditionally comes with a high offensive profile. The Padres are not getting that from Hosmer. He hit .119 last year against sliders (.075 against LHP) and slugged a miserable .195 against the pitch. He was picked apart by the slider continually, striking out 43 times on the season against the pitch. Major League teams are very good at finding a weakness and exposing it until you make a change. Hosmer has issues, and they need to be corrected. It goes far beyond that of his launch angle.
The 2019 season was one to forget for the Padres’ first baseman. He struck out 163 times, which was the most in his career. He also walked 40 times, which was the worst output in his nine-year career. The season did not start badly for the former All-Star as he put up a .783 OPS in the first half of the year with 14 homers. A cold month of July with the bat and a frigid September and October brought his overall numbers to a .735 OPS for the 2019 season. At times, at the end of 2019, he looked utterly lost at the plate.
Jayce Tingler has a long checklist. There is a lot to accomplish with this young team. One of the first orders of business should be to get on the same page as Eric Hosmer and see what is needed to get his game into the next level. The Padres need Eric Hosmer to continue to develop and grow as a professional baseball player. Doing that will only encourage all the young players on the team to always put their best foot forward when they step on that field. Eric Hosmer is a leader. It is time to show that with the bat and assist in bringing the city of San Diego a Championship.