What is Eric Hosmer Actually Worth?

Eric Hosmer is the most overrated player in baseball. Through 5+ MLB seasons, Hosmer has compiled an underwhelming 5.9 WAR, which is good for just greater than a win per season. To put that number in context, here is a list of First Baseman who have surpassed Hosmer’s barely-above-replacement-level production during that same time span:

Lucas Duda (6.5)

Steve Pearce (6.7)

Nick Swisher (7.0)

Brandon Moss (8.6)  

Mark Trumbo (8.4)

Now understandably it may be unfair to track Hosmer’s performance back to his rookie season as everyone takes a few years to develop, so perhaps it would be more fair to compare his performance to other first baseman over the last 3+ seasons (including 2017). After all the last three seasons have been the best of Hosmer’s career and are a better indicator of what a team could expect from him going forward. While one would think that focusing on these 3+ seasons would paint Hosmer in a more favorable light, the numbers do not bare that out. In fact, from 2014 through this season, Hosmer ranks 21st among qualified first baseman in WAR with a cumulative WAR of just 3.5. This number is especially concerning when we take a glance at some of the names ahead of him on this list.

Adam Lind (3.6)

Marwin Gonzalez (4.0)

Brandon Moss (4.2)

Lucas Duda (6.6)

Steve Pearce (6.8)

I do not mean to disparage any of the players listed above, rather I am using these players to illustrate the huge discrepancy between Hosmer’s perceived value and his actual on-field production. The problem is not that Hosmer is a bad player per se. The problem is that Hosmer is going to be a free agent at year’s end and so far his rumored asking price is absolutely ludicrous given his actual value. Some have speculated that Hosmer could earn well above 100 million on the free agent market this winter, even though his average value has been 7.53 million per season thus far in his career according to FanGraphs “Value” tool  (The Value tool is a “backward-looking value statistic that quantifies the replacement cost of a certain level of production based upon the market price for a certain player’s value).

The idea of Hosmer netting an eight digit salary is especially ridiculous when you compare this number to the salaries of the players I listed above. Below is these player’s current contracts:

Adam Lind (1 yr(s) / 1.5 million)

Marwin Gonzalez (1 yr(s) / 3.725 million)

Brandon Moss (2 yr(s) / 12 million)

Lucas Duda (1 yr(s) / 7.25 million)

Steve Pearce (2 yr(s) / 12.5 million)

Obviously, there is more to consider when analyzing a contract than simply a player’s production over the previous few seasons. First, Hosmer is only 27 years old and should be entering the prime of his career, whereas the average age of the players on this list is just over 31. However, the notion that Hosmer should earn significantly more simply because he is entering his prime rests of the notion that his career is on an upward trajectory, but in reality, there is nothing to suggest this is the case. In fact, since his career-best 3.4 WAR in 2015, he has posted a cumulative WAR of .1. Yes, that means the Royals could have literally called up a 1B from Omaha that could have theoretically matched Hosmer’s production over the last 14 months. Eric Hosmer does not deserve the label of being a franchise first baseman, so why does anyone think he will actually sign such a lucrative contract this offseason?

The primary reason that Hosmer could reasonably sign a contract so out of line with what he is actually worth is the fact that he has Scott Boras representing him. Boras is famous for presenting teams with statistical reports about his clients that emphasize their strengths in a unique and persuasive way. For example, Boras alleviated concerns about Max Scherzer’s age in 2015 by arguing that despite being 30 years old, Scherzer had thrown far fewer pitches than most starting pitchers his age. Scherzer eventually signed a record-breaking contract for a pitcher and the Nationals have been rewarded for following Boras’ wisdom. In Hosmer’s case, Boras has already spoken openly about why Hosmer’s defensive value is actually greater than what the advanced metric show, which is the type of argument that could dupe a team into signing Hosmer.

There are many other reasons why many around the game perceive Hosmer as a better player than the statistics suggest. For one, Hosmer was regarded as one of the Royals team leaders during their 2015 World Series run, despite putting up subpar numbers in the playoffs. Secondly, Hosmer’s pedigree as a former top 10 prospect, lead many to believe that he has yet to truly breakout, even though he is in his sixth MLB season. Third, Hosmer is a 3x Gold Glove winner and is widely regarded as one of the best defensive first basemen in the game, even though he has -2 DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) in his career.

With MLB front offices placing an increased emphasis on advanced metrics, it is hard to imagine a team that would be willing to invest anywhere near Boras’s asking price for Hosmer, but sabermetrics are not only the only thing working against the Royals first baseman. Perhaps most troubling for Hosmer is the lack of possible suitors. When surveying the first base market next offseason, it is nearly impossible to find a team that would be willing to sacrifice such a large chunk of their payroll in exchange for Hosmer’s services. If we look at each team division-by-division, nearly every team in the league has a legitimate reason to shy away from Hosmer.

AL East:

Yankees – Probably will save cap space to pursue Machado or Harper in 2018. Probably will be patient with Greg Bird at 1B.

Red Sox – No payroll flexibility as Dave Dombrowski wants to stay under the luxury tax.

Orioles – Chris Davis signed long term.

*Blue Jays – Justin Smoak having career year. Could be rebuilding going forward.  

Rays – Logan Morrison playing very well. Very sabermetrically inclined. Do not have money to meet Hosmer’s asking price.

AL Central:

Indians – Focused on resigning Carlos Santana. Not willing to increase payroll significantly.

Twins – Still in rebuilding mode.

*Royals

Tigers – Miguel Cabrera at 1B.

White Sox – Jose Abreu at 1B. In rebuilding mode.

AL West:

Angels – Trying to shed payroll.

A’s – Rebuilding mode. Sabermetrically inclined team.

Astros – Gurriel signed long term. Have AJ Reed waiting in minors.

Rangers – Focused on resigning Yu Darvish, adding pitching.

Mariners – Window for playoffs would be closed for latter half of Hosmer contract.

NL East:

Nationals – Zimmerman is having a career year. Trying to shed payroll to keep Harper.

Braves – Freddie Freeman at 1B.

Phillies – Trying to keep payroll low to sign Harper / Machado / Arenado in 2018.

Marlins – Justin Bour at 1B.

Mets – Dominic Smith waiting in minors.

NL Central:

Cubs – Anthony Rizzo at 1B.

Cardinals – Matt Carpenter at 1B.

Pirates – Josh Bell at 1B.

Brewers – Eric Thames at 1B.

Reds – Joey Votto at 1B.

NL West:

Dodgers – Cody Bellinger at 1B.

Giants – Brandon Belt at 1B.

D’Backs – Paul Goldschmidt at 1B.

Rockies – Ian Desmond at 1B.

Padres – Wil Myers at 1B.

As you can see, the Kansas City Royals may quite possibly be Hosmer’s only suitor. Boras will certainly push Hosmer to test the open market, but there may not be many teams who will show interest, especially given the asking price. Additionally, last offseason, teams were wary of signing 1Bs to long term deals, which forced several first basemen to settle for one-year deals. This means that guys like Mike Napoli, Adam Lind, Chris Carter, and Matt Holliday will all be re-entering the free agent market next offseason, which will decrease the demand for Hosmer.

 

All in all, Hosmer’s value has been greatly overstated throughout his career, and he may very well learn that the hard way this offseason. If I were Hosmer, I would go to Scott Boras right now and tell him to start negotiating an extension with the Royals because if the free agent market plays out this offseason like many expect it to, Hosmer may be sitting on his couch still looking for a contract when Spring Training opens in 2018.

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