Mariners Profiles of Free Agency: 1B – Eric Hosmer
While the Mariners are not eliminated from the AL Wild Card chase, things look bleak. So now we should shift our focus to what promises to be a very important off-season for Jerry Dipoto and staff. In this series, we will profile potential free agent targets and dissect the player, the fit, and the cost.
One of the Seattle Mariners biggest needs heading into the 2018 season is at first base. Both Yonder Alonso and Danny Valencia will be free agents, and the only real in house option is Daniel Vogelbach. For a team with an aging core and playoff aspirations, giving 600 PA to an unproven rookie seems, well… sub-optimal.
While Dipoto has hinted that Alonso could be a fit for the Mariners beyond this seaon, we have heard no rumors of traction towards an extension, and must assume he will hit the free agent market in November. Enter Eric Hosmer.
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Hosmer is one of the few “crown jewels” in a weak 2017 free agent class. The Kansas City Royal is having a breakout season of sorts, and is looking to cash in this off-season. But who is he on the field, and does he make sense? Lets take a look.
Hosmer will play the entire 2018 season at age 28. A career .284/.343/.439 hitter, Hosmer has been plagued by inconsistency. In 2013, it appeared he had turned a corner, accumulating a 3.1 fWAR. However; in 2014, his fWAR dropped to 0.0. Hosmer rebounded in 2015 and finished with a solid 3.4 fWAR, only to see it nose dive in 2016 to a -0.2 fWAR.
Needing a big season in his contract year, Hosmer has been nothing short of amazing in 2017, posting a career high 4.1 fWAR thus far. He has hit career highs in all 3 ratio stats (BA, OBP, SLG) and is 1 HR away from tying his career high.
Hosmer is also a very capable base runner, especially considering the position he plays. With 60 career stolen bases and 539 runs scored. The Mariners are baseballs worst baserunning team, and adding Hosmer could improve that.
Defensively, Hosmer is a Gold Glove winner and is widely considered one of the premier gloves at the position. Defensive metrics disagree, but these metrics are far from perfect, particularly in regard to first base. Things like picking low thows and foot work around the bag are real strengths for Hosmer, and would definetly present an upgrade of Valencia or Alonso.
The fit is pretty obvious in this particular case. The Mariners best first base prospect is at least 2 years away (Evan White) and Hosmer is entering his statistical prime. The addition of Hosmer would lengthen the lineup and improve both their base running and defense.
Hosmer would probably hit either 2nd or 6th in the lineup. A Segura-Hosmer-Cano-Cruz-Seager-Haniger is certainly appealing. But Hosmer can hit anywhere from 1-6 and make this lineup better.
It is a bit difficult to pin down an accurate value for Hosmer. On the one hand, his age and breakout season point to him being a candidate for a mega deal (7+ years $150 million or more). On the other hand, his inconsistent play could make a team weary of giving Hosmer an ultra long contract.
Further complicating things, Hosmer is represented by Scott Boras. Boras is notorious for getting his clients mega deals, often advising his clients to wait out the market. This could mean that Hosmer does not sign until late January, and the Mariners cannot afford to wait on an answer that long.
Rumors circulated this off-season that Boras wanted a 10 year, $200 million contract for Hosmer. The asking price is ridiculous and anybody who pays that cost should be fired. But the AAV of $20 million might be about right.
When looking for a comp, Brandon Belt immediately springs to mind. Both players are good glove, on base over power players who are athletic first baseman. Belt just signed a 5 year deal worth $72.8 million. At the time of the signing, Belt was 28. Hosmer will be 28 when he signs, but the will still be playing 2018 as a 28 year old, while Belt will play it as a 30 year old.
It seems reasonable for Hosmer to get a similar contract to Belt, who is far more consistent than Hosmer. But it is unlikely Boras would allow such an offer, so the Mariners will most certainly have to top that.
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A 4 or 5 year deal with an AAV (average annual value) of $18 million feels fair for both sides. Hosmer would still be a Top 5% paid player, and the Mariners would get Hosmer for his age 28-32 seasons. This deal would then allow Hosmer to hit free agency in time for one more big pay day.
I am guessing somebody will give Hosmer a 5 year deal in the neighborhood of $100 million. Are the Mariners willing to go that far? Only time will tell.