After the trade proposal with the New York Mets fell through, several Padres players stepped forward with their support for teammate Eric Hosmer.
In February 2018, the San Diego Padres signed free-agent first baseman Eric Hosmer to the most generous contract in the team’s history (up to that point) at $144 million for eight years. The year before, Hosmer had a batting line of .269/.337/.395 and a 4.0WAR with the Kansas City Royals. He also brought his four (dubious) Gold Gloves to San Diego.
Just two years into the contract, Padres general manager A.J. Preller switched gears and started shopping Hosmer and his contract. The trade rumors heated up this offseason, and the league shutdown further exacerbated the problem.
Apparently, his teammates have tired of the rumors, and several have spoken out to reporters for the San Diego Union-Tribune and The Athletic and adamantly defended their teammate.
“I know there’s a lot of bad talk about him within the fan base and people seeming to kind of give up on him and stuff, but the impact he has on the team, in the clubhouse, who is as a leader, the way that he kind of is the glue that brings everyone together in the clubhouse, is something you can’t really measure with stats or a computer,” starting pitcher Joe Musgrove declared. “It’s something only the guys in the room will know.”
Reliever Craig Stammen, a veteran of 12 years in the major leagues said, “I’m praying that he does not get traded. It’s hard for me to put into words how big of an impact he has had on myself as a teammate and the rest of the guys. I care about and respect him almost more than any other baseball players I have ever played with.”
When asked about Hosmer, Wil Myers praised the man who replaced him at first base, “It sounds as if he’s going to stay with us, which is great. I think everybody in the clubhouse is excited about that. A great presence in there.”
Jake Cronenworth also extolled Hosmer’s virtues as a mentor to younger players: “Probably the best teammate I’ve ever had. Being a young kid coming up to the big leagues, he took me under his wings and showed me the ropes. He’s been an incredible friend, teammate. It’s almost indescribable.”
The Padres have to weigh this vociferous (and quite unusual) defense of Hosmer by his teammates against his play on the field. Offensively he’s not matched his performance with the Kansas City Royals—seven years, .284/.342.439.781, OPS+ 111—in San Diego—four years, .264/.323/.415/.738 OPS+102.
However, a larger issue lies in Hosmer’s defense. Granted, he’s won four Gold Gloves, including one the year before he signed with San Diego. But, a deeper dive into his defensive abilities reveals a different picture. The year he won his fourth Gold Glove and signed with the Padres, his DRS (defensive runs saved) were subpar at -7. According to FanGraphs advanced defensive stats, he ranked 17th of first basemen with -14.4 Def, .2.0 UZR/150.
Last year, his UZR fell to -5.1, WAR to 0.0, and Value in dollars of -$0.0. And he’s not getting younger. At 32, he’s on the wrong side of the performance curve but will still take home $20 million this year and $13 million a year through 2025.
Although Preller has emphasized that Hosmer is the team’s first baseman, he’s continued to shop him. Last summer’s trade rumors included the Texas Rangers and the Chicago Cubs. This month, talks with the New York Mets came to naught partly because Hosmer’s salary would land the team in luxury tax territory. The Mets were rumored to receive Hosmer, Chris Paddack, Emilio Pagan, and $30 million for one player—first baseman Dominic Smith.
Recently Hosmer and Preller got together to discuss the situation, and they also met last July. Neither would comment on their conversations, but Preller undoubtedly tried to clear the air with his player. Hosmer has reacted to the situation by emphasizing, “You know I’m human, just like you guys.”
The team’s collapse last season exacerbated the situation with Hosmer, and Trent Grisham bemoaned the “negative vibes” in the clubhouse. However, last year’s manager, Jayce Tingler, did not have the years of experience that Bob Melvin brings to the job.
About Hosmer, Melvin recently told local media that he is “all about winning…Obviously, it’s a huge personality in the room, and he gets a ton of respect from our guys, and he will be treated that way.”