Foot, meet mouth. Mouth, foot.
All summer and into the fall I wrote about how much I wanted Eric Hosmer to return to Kansas City, and I actually believed it. I believed that Kansas City had the money, the sales pitch, and the accolades to bring back it’s star first baseman. I thought it made sense. I thought Eric Hosmer would want to return to the place that gave him one of the best sendoffs that I’ve ever seen for a professional athlete.
I was wrong, on many levels. While I still believe that the Royals have the money to afford Eric Hosmer, recent comments made by Dayton Moore suggest otherwise. I thought that Eric Hosmer would want to return to Kansas City. Much like a young man graduating from college and looking for that job in the big city, I was wrong again. Finally, I thought that it made sense for the Royals to aggressively pursue Eric Hosmer. At the time it did to an extent. I can now tell you, sort of definitively, that, no, it does not make sense for the Royals to bring back Eric Hosmer. Not at the price that he’s going to demand from other teams. Let me explain to you why, and why I should’ve seen this coming since June.
The Beginning of the End
On June 12 of this past year, the Royals drafted first baseman Nick Pratto out of Huntington Beach, California. Pratto was thought of as being one of the 2-3 best high school hitters in the entire draft. He immediately started drawing comparisons to Eric Hosmer and Joey Votto: a left-handed first baseman who hits the ball a ton, but may develop as power as he goes, rather than being a Mike Moustakas type of prospect who hit 30+ HR in high school.
Pratto projects to be an outstanding first baseman. Above average glove, well above average bat, well-rounded athlete (stole 10 bases in the AZL this past summer), and a better kid than baseball player. Still 19 years old, Pratto will take some time reaching the big leagues, but his selection in the draft should’ve been a huge red flag for folks like me who thought Eric Hosmer may return to Kansas City.
The End of the Beginning
When the Kansas City Royals called up Eric Hosmer for the first time back in 2011, I was one of the first people in line at the stadium. I can still remember dragging my mom to the team store and being one of the first people in Kansas City with my very own Eric Hosmer #35 jersey. At school the next day, my high school baseball coach asked me, “What are you going to do with that jersey once he changes his number?”
Fast forward 5.5 years and I’m now an assistant coach for that same baseball team (time flies). Me, that same high school coach, and another assistant were in the weight room talking about which free agents the Royals ought to sign first. The 2017 season had yet to get under way and everyone was anxious for Royals baseball. After some debating, I made the comment that, “The thing with Eric Hosmer, he’s got a ceiling that Moose and Cain will never tough. He could legitimately be a guy who hits .330 (BA) and 30 (HR).” My fellow coaches laughed at me.
Fast forward another seven months to October of 2017. The Royals season has come to an end and the Royals fans gave their “Core 4” one of the greatest send offs in professional sports history. Eric Hosmer was hitting .318 with 25 HR. He didn’t get to .330 and 30, but gosh almighty he gave it a run for its money. One of the five greatest players that I’ve ever seen dawn a Royals jersey (I was born in 1994) had just played out the years of control on his contract. He was set to hit free agency along with the rest of the Core 4 in what was one of, if not THE, greatest eras of Royals baseball history.
In what was one of Royals fans favorite debates at the beginning of the offseason, the question of whether or not the Royals could afford to bring back Eric Hosmer was all over town. I decided to jump in on this conversation by writing an article for FanSided (@KingsofKauffman on Twitter) detailing my belief that the Royals actually had enough money to bring back Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain (I’m not going to embarrass myself by putting that article in here. If you want to read it check out kingsofkauffman.com).
To be fair, I still believe this. The Royals came out recently and said that they’d lost some $60M over the last few seasons. Our friends Max Rieper and Shaun Newkirk over at Royals Review detail why you should be incredibly skeptical of comments like that.
Anyways, after the Boston Red Sox and San Diego Padres made it abundantly clear they were going to pursue Eric Hosmer in free agency, I began to see the writing on the wall. While I believe that the Royals CAN bring back Cain and Hos, that does not necessarily mean that they SHOULD bring them back, given their markets. If Boston wants to offer Eric Hosmer $180M, let them. Just because you can bring Hosmer back doesn’t mean he’s worth $180M. In my opinion, there may be only 1-2 players alive that Kansas City should ever consider giving a contract like that, and Mike Trout isn’t signing anywhere for only $180M.
This past Monday, December 11, the New York Yankees introduced the former National League MVP as the newest member of their team. The Yankees had traded with the Miami Marlins for the reigning MVP in what appears to be almost strictly a salary dump. Whether or not you liked the trade is a separate argument, what is fact is that Giancarlo Stanton is a New York Yankee.
In what has all of a sudden become a clear-cut 4-5 team race in the American League, the Kansas City Royals have no business trying to compete for the next 2-3 seasons. With dynasties like Houston and New York just being born, the Cleveland Indians still rolling for at least 2018, and the Los Angeles Angels teaming Mike Trout with Shohei Otani, the Royals decision to rebuild ought to be all but final by now.
That means that signing Eric Hosmer would be all but irresponsible. For the money that Hosmer would command, you could invest valuable assets into international free agency, the draft, and player development in order to expedite your rebuild. Yes, there is the school of thought that Hosmer could still be an integral piece to the puzzle by the time the next wave of Royals is ready to compete again. But are you counting on Eric Hosmer to still be an All-Star caliber hitter when he is 32? 33? Maybe. That’s definitely something that you’d have to consider before offering him a big contract.
The point remains, that would be a huge gamble for a team that is in one of the smaller markets in baseball. If you were to miss on Hosmer still producing at this level at 32-33, after having missed on the Alex Gordon contract, you’d be putting your organization in some serious debt to deal with for years to come.
The Giancarlo Stanton trade ought to make this decision much easier for Dayton Moore: let Hosmer walk. We had a great time in Kansas City over the last six seasons. Rebuild. Build a dynasty of your own that’s ready to dominate the AL for years to come once the Astros and Yankees begin to decline. Don’t sign Eric Hosmer and try to walk a line between rebuilding and relevancy. But if you do, please have a plan. Please don’t get caught half way between two decisions. Pick one, stick with it, and execute it. Royals fans will still be here ready to roll.
Photo Credits: MLB.com