Kansas City Royals

Reassessing the impending free agency of Eric Hosmer

KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 07: Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer (35) crosses the plate after hitting a home run during the MLB interleague game between the National League St. Louis Cardinals and the American League Kansas City Royals on August 7, 2017 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by William Purnell/Icon Sportswire)
(Photo by William Purnell/Icon Sportswire)

Right now, Eric Hosmer is focused on helping the Kansas City Royals make an improbable run at the postseason.

In a few months, though, he’ll have to worry about something else: how he’s going to spend the huge amount of money that will come with his new free-agent contract.

Hosmer is in his prime, and he’s hitting .312/.371/.490 with an .860 OPS. Over the last three seasons, he’s hit .290 with an .810 OPS and averaged 30 doubles, 23 homers and 98 RBIs per 162 games. That’s a hitter who can play in the middle of any batting order in baseball.

At 27, a team can sign him to a lengthy contract without having to worry about paying for seasons when he’s too old to earn his salary. He’s a three-time Gold Glove winner at first base, so there’s no concerns about needing to use him as a designated hitter any time soon.

Hosmer also brings a great deal of postseason experience. He played a key role in Kansas City’s improbable 2014 season, where they challenged the heavily favored Tigers for the division title until the last day of the season, then rolled from the wild-card game to the World Series.

Kansas City lost to the San Francisco Giants, but Hosmer had an .822 regular-season OPS as the Royals won the Central Division in 2015. He followed that with 17 RBIs in 16 postseason games as the franchise won its first World Series in 30 years.

All of that is an important part of the reason why Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain are still in Kansas City. The Royals were in position to have a fire sale at the trade deadline, with several key players hitting free agency after the season. Trading them could have brought in numerous prospects to lay the foundation for the next contending team at Kaufmann Stadium.

KANSAS CITY, MO - JUNE 24: Kansas City Royals First base Eric Hosmer (35) takes a swing at the ball during the MLB regular season game between the Kansas City Royals and Toronto Blue Jays, on Saturday June 24th, 2017 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, MO. (Photo by Nick Tre. Smith/Icon Sportswire)

(Photo by Nick Tre. Smith/Icon Sportswire)

Instead, those same veterans played well enough to keep the Royals in contention in 2017 – something no one expected. Instead of crushing the fanbase by giving up on the season by trading away several important players from the World Series champs, the front office decided to add some pieces to the pitching staff and make one more run.

The Royals haven’t taken full advantage of the opportunity – they’ve lost eight of their last 10 games, including four in a row – but they are still only four games behind Cleveland in the division and a game behind Tampa Bay for the second wild card.

Hosmer has played every game this season after playing 158 in each of the last two. That durability is crucial to the Royals’ chances, and will also make him even more attractive on the free-agent market.

It is tough to make a prediction at this point about where Hosmer will end up this winter, or how much money he is going to make. He’s an outstanding hitter, but even a Gold Glove winner at first base doesn’t get paid for his glove.

However, given the average amount of inflation from year to year, it is likely that the market will be about $8 million per WAR this winter. Hosmer averages a little over 3.0 WAR for a full season, so based on that alone, he would project to a five-year contract of about $125 million.

Obviously, in real-world terms, that’s an insane amount of money – he would jump from making $12.25 million this year to $25 million next season – but that’s now the going rate for a star player.

There will be a lot of teams with interest in him, but don’t write off the possibility of him returning to his hometown of Miami, as the new ownership group splashes out some big money.

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