In the Padres’ press conference welcoming Eric Hosmer to San Diego, agent Scott Boras opined that the organization as a whole is a “volcano of hot talent lava.” Hosmer brings his experience with a Kansas City Royals team that won the World Series to San Diego, and will take over first base. The addition displaces Wil Myers from that position and causes a hot lava ripple effect throughout the clubhouse that may have unintended consequences.
Boras, the 21st-century version of a 19th-century traveling medicine man peddling his miracle cures, sold the Padres on Hosmer’s PV, or prestige value, as well as his leadership skills. However, Jack Dickey of Sports Illustrated opined that “With such soft demand for Hosmer’s services, the Padres $144 million guarantee…stands out as old-school Boras swindling.”
In fact, before he joined the Padres’ front office, Dave Cameron placed Eric Hosmer at the top of his list of 2018 “Free-Agent Landmines” in an article on FanGraphs. Cameron pointed out that Hosmer’s defensive stats indicate he’s an average, not elite, first baseman, and that his skill set would call for a salary around $80 to $90 million. The verdict on whether or not Boras swindled the Padres will not be rendered for several years, but the deal does have the immediate effect of sending Myers to the already crowded outfield.
The $144 million deal also completely eclipses Myers’ six-year, $83 million contract extension, which, at the time (January of 2017), made him the highest paid player in the history of the franchise. So far, Myers has said all the right things about being displaced by his former teammates with the Royals. However, being human, he has to be disappointed at the very least.
Unfortunately, Padres Executive Chairman Ron Fowler then piled on by publically denigrating Myers’ leadership abilities, and even questioning his face-of-the-franchise designation, as reported by Jerry Crasnick of ESPN. Fowler said that Myers had “never embraced the role of ‘franchise face,’” adding that it’s not in the former first baseman’s DNA to be a team leader.
While Myers publically accepted a change in position, Fowler’s comments cannot have helped his mindset. Since Myers indicated he’d consulted a sports psychologist in the offseason, Fowler’s remarks seem even more misguided, and frankly, confounding. If he wanted to share this opinion, he would have been wise to speak privately with the man who traded for Myers, general manager A.J. Preller.
Rumor has it that Myers may move to right field, the position he played with the Tampa Bay Rays. The hot lava domino effect would leave Hunter Renfroe, a rookie last year, a man without a country. Last year, the Padres indicated displeasure with Renfroe’s performance, especially his .284 on-base percentage combined with a high strikeout and low walk rate, by sending him down to Triple-A in August.
Renfroe undoubtedly went into the offseason expecting to get another chance to prove himself in right, but now finds himself just another guy in a crowded outfield.
Since Manuel Margot has a virtual lock on center, Renfroe will join Jose Pirela, Alex Dickerson, Travis Jankowski, Matt Szczur, and Franchy Cordero competing for playing time in left or as a fourth outfielder.
To further complicate the situation, Pirela has some experience at second in the past and could end up there. But where does that leave Carlos Asuaje? Last year he improved his defense at second base and batted .270 with a .334 OBP. Those numbers may not be earth shattering, but ranked near the top of all Padres’ position players last year.
Most importantly, can a new guy just walk in and take over a clubhouse? That’s putting a huge burden on Hosmer and may even cause resentment among Padres holdovers from last year. In Kansas City, Hosmer had the advantage of coming up with players like Mike Moustakas and Salvador Perez and gradually stepped into the leadership role during his seven-year tenure.
Hosmer’s main goal should be to acclimate to a new team, new league, and new cast of characters, but the Padres have thrust him into a leadership role as well. His addition may prove to be far more complicated than it appears on the surface and cause unintended consequences on team chemistry and performance.
And finally, the addition of Hosmer will not improve the Padres’ chances of competing in 2018, according to win-loss predictions by FanGraphs (73-89), ZiPS (72-90) and teamrankings.com (71-91). Joel Reuter of Bleacher Report even predicts the Padres will fall from a 71-91 record in 2017 to 65-97 in 2018.