Winter was supposed to usher in sweeping changes for Kansas City Royals baseball. The band was breaking up, and going their separate ways. The Royals were pegged to take a couple steps back before they could move forward again. The dreaded ‘r’ word–re-building.
So far, the only thing winter has ushered in are pipe-bursting frigid temperatures, and faux Kansas City Chiefs postseason optimism.
This offseason has been stunningly silent. The ONLY free-agent the Royals have been linked to with any degree of seriousness–Eric Hosmer. But then stepped in the San Diego Padres.
During the Winter Meetings we were told the Padres were making a serious push for Hosmer. Then the Red Sox were entering the sweepstakes, which would signal the end of the Padres and Royals chances at signing Hosmer.
The Red Sox came to their senses, and signed a player (Mitch Moreland) of similar production for a fraction of the projected cost of Hosmer. Presumably, to save financial capital for a run at free agent J.D. Martinez.
When the Red Sox bowed out of the Hosmer sweepstakes, the Padres stepped back in. On January 2nd, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reported that Hosmer has a 7-year $140 million deal on the table from the Padres.
Twenty-four hours later, Bob had to update that story to reflect the news of another team’s efforts to sign Hosmer.
The San Diego #Padres have offered Eric Hosmer a 7-year,$140 million contract but look who’s pulling out all stops to keep him? The #Royals who are offering even more. https://t.co/AIh5ZBTCsI via @USATODAY
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) January 3, 2018
More specifically, Nightengale alleges the Royals have offered Hosmer $147 million over seven years.
And all of the sudden I don’t know how to feel. I suspect I’m not alone. After months of dead silence on the Royals front, I was coming to terms with the Royals likely embarking on a full-scale re-build.
A full-scale rebuild means not only saying goodbye to Hosmer, Moose and Cain, but also current Royals players like Whit Merrifield, Danny Duffy, Kelvin Herrera, and…gulp…Salvador Perez.
I’m a Hosmer fan. I like that he’s a good player, a great teammate, and by all accounts he’s a good guy off the field. I realize that doesn’t matter to many people, but it does to me, and I think Royals GM Dayton Moore has illustrated that character is an important trait to him as well.
A talented player like Hosmer wanting to have that rare legacy career with one team is something that should be celebrated (if it comes true). Inking a lucrative seven-year deal with the Royals would make Hosmer a Kansas City legend.
That kind of deal means the Royals can start clearing a spot for Hosmer in their Hall of Fame. To be honest, I’d be ready to hire someone to start working on a Hosmer statue, perhaps of his iconic slide into home during the 2015 World Series, to put out in front of Kauffman Stadium.
Wow. How cool is that?
I don’t know how to explain this, but signing Hosmer to that type of deal is like ordering a Route 44 anything from Sonic. No human on Earth needs to consume 44 ounces of anything in one sitting, much less a soft drink, limeade or slushie.
On the other hand, you’re telling me they’ll give me 44 ounces of cherry slushie AND put Nerds candy in it? Um, yeah, sign me up.
Me: The Royals don’t need Hosmer right now. They don’t need to fork over $147 million for anything. The list of people I’d give this type of lucrative deal to while being in the position the Royals are currently in begins and ends with Mike Trout.
Let Hosmer walk, and bring in a hometown kid like Logan Morrison to fill the void. Is it really going to matter who plays first base if Ian Kennedy and Jason Hammel are carrying your rotation?
This isn’t a knock on Hosmer. Like I’ve said, I’m a fan. But fans need to understand that rebuilding in today’s baseball climate is different than when Dayton Moore did it the first time.
Back then, a steady diet of trading veterans for prospects, and/or getting draft pick compensation for departing free agents was the route to go. That path has changed. Teams now have to deal with qualifying offers and actually losing draft picks.
Look at the free agency landscape today. Many, myself included, were already counting the number of draft picks the Royals were going to receive when Hosmer, Moustakas and Cain signed long-term deals elsewhere. And how is that working out?
The market for Hosmer has shriveled, and we hear precious little about ANYBODY being interested in Cain or Moustakas. Actually, we hear the opposite. We hear the concerns about Cain’s age, and Moose’s soft physique.
All of the sudden it is a very real possibility that Cain and/or Moose sign smaller, short-term deals, which potentially negates the draft pick compensation the Royals were entitled to. The only player that virtually guarantees a draft pick compensation for the Royals is Hosmer.
To beat this dead horse a little further, with regard to MLB’s new free agent compensation rules, here is what has to happen for the Royals to actually benefit from losing a good player:
- The Royals must extend a qualifying offer to said player. This year, that amounts to a 1-yr./$17.4 deal. And for this offseason, the Royals extended qualifying offers to Hosmer, Moustakas and Cain.
- The player must reject that deal, and elect to pursue free agency.
- A team must sign said player to a deal greater than $50 million.
- In doing so, the team signing said player foreits draft pick(s), which varies depending on whether that team exceeded luxury tax thresholds last season or benefited from revenue sharing.
- And if ALL of this happens, the Royals will receive a “sandwich pick” between rounds 1 and 2.
As you can see, that’s a lot to consider when you have concerns about a player’s increasing age and declining defensive prowess (in reference to Cain), or a young’ish players increasing waistline (Moustakas).
Also me: I have believed two things since the 2017 season ended:
- A complete rebuild is the correct route for the Royals to get to the next stage, which is a long-lasting run of success (winning seasons). That means dealing anything of value, and yes, that means trading Salvy.
- It would be cool to see the Hosmer commit to the Royals, and the Royals to commit to Hosmer for the long-term. Make him a legacy Royals player (No, not like George Brett. Stop with that garbage. Even if Hosmer played out the length of this alleged contract, he’d be seven years short of what Brett did.)
Where this gets real tricky is that if the Royals actually did sign Hosmer for a long-term deal, that should not alter a plan to rebuild. In other words, even with Hosmer on board, the Royals should still look to deal Duffy, Merrified, Herrera, Perez, and literally anyone else that would get them noteworthy prospects in return.
Signing Hosmer, and keeping all else intact, is not an option. He’s not a good enough player to overcome the current rotation or bullpen deficiencies the Royals have, and lead them to success. Even Mike Trout isn’t that good. And signing Hosmer also means there is no financial capital to adequately address those deficiencies.
The die hard Royals fan in me, and the Hosmer fan in me wants to see this deal gets done. He’s been a good representative of the Royals, and would be the perfect guy to help usher in a crop of young talent and teach them to win.
The amount of dollars involved in any Hosmer deal means very little to me. It isn’t my money, but also it truly doesn’t matter. If they paid Hosmer a billion dollars, and surrounded him with the players they have now, they’re still going to lose. If they paid Hosmer a billion dollars, and they don’t draft good players, acquire good young talent, and develop that talent, they’re still going to lose.
If you’re a Royals fan, and a Hosmer fan, there’s really nothing to hate about this deal. Yes, it is a gamble. All long-term contacts are. Gil Meche, Billy Butler, Alex Gordon…Hell, the Royals are due for one these deals to pan out…..Right? /nervous laughter/
Photo Credits: Charlie Riedel—AP Photo