Eric Hosmer: Is He Worth $100 Million?

eric hosmerBy all accounts, Royals First Baseman Eric Hosmer will not seek an extension with the Royals once the season begins and is therefore ready to take on free agency after the 2017 season. While at first glance, it may seem like a foregone conclusion that hitting the open market with at the age of 27 with a world series title under his belt will net him at least a $100 million contract, there is enough evidence to show that a $100 million contract for Eric Hosmer might be an overpay, but nonetheless will still happen. Here’s why:

 

His offense is good, not great. 

Homer’s mediocre 2016 was actually inflated by an excellent first half in which he hit .299/.355/.476 with 13 HR and 49 RBI in 87 games. Things turned south in the second half, when in 71 games he hit .225/.296/.380 despite hitting 12 HR and driving in 55 runs. This reflects how Hosmer sacrificed his average for home run power, which negatively impacted his overall game in the second half of last year.

His move away from hitting line drives and transition into more of a ground ball hitter (58.9% rate last season, third straight season where this increases, over his career % of 53%) is a cause of concern moving forward, and his 21.4% Homerun to FlyBall ratio is an unsustainably high number that will come back down this year (13.4% career ratio). With this being said, its hard to envision Hosmer cracking 20 Homeruns again with his increased tendency to hit the ball on the ground and HR/FB ratio that will inevitably return to his career marks.

A Gold Glover, but not by defensive metrics.

While Hosmer has generally been viewed as a good defender at first, with a few gold gloves to his names, his 2016 defensive metrics post major red flags towards sustained defensive success at the position (-8.4 Ultimate Zone Rating “UZR”) indicates the he struggled mightily on defense in 2016. A 1.0 UZR in 2015 also indicates that his defense is trending in the wrong direction, and while at the age of 27 this can still be fixed, it is definitely a cause for concern moving forward. Since his debut in 2011, Hosmer’s highest Defensive WAR in a single season: -0.3. This number has continued to decrease since 2014 and doesn’t fare well looking forward.

He has the Intangibles (sorry Brian Kenny).

While Hosmer may not put up the big numbers you expect from your prototypical first name, he is a solid player in his own right. He has constantly proven the ability to serve as the leader and voice of the Royals and that in itself in something the would be welcome by most major league ball clubs looking to invest in his services. His young age also plays in his favor, with teams willing to grossly overpay for players hitting the open market before their age 30 seasons (just ask Jeyson Heyward).

Player Comparison

Here’s two stat lines from 2011-2016:

Eric Hosmer: .277/.335/.428 – 10.1 WAR – 102 HR 407 RBI

Player B: .288/.374/.484 – 22.0 WAR – 138 HR 515 RBI

Player B, in his defense, might be the most underrated player in baseball: Freddie Freeman. Following his 4th major league season he was able to secure an 8 Year 135 Million dollar contract with the Braves at the age of 24.

Eric Hosmer will be hitting the open market at the age of 28 with a World Series title under his belt, and an agent with the reputation for getting his players above market value contracts: the great Scott Boras. With an average of a 1.5 WAR per season and wins valued at approximately $7 million per season, Hosmer’s true value can be approximated to be about $10 million per season. 

Free Agent Market Analysis 

Eric Hosmer will learn the importance of economics once he becomes a free agent this offseason. The relatively weak supply of available first baseman in free agency, Lucas Duda being his only true challenger for big money, and high demand across the league for first baseman following the 2017 season (Mets, Red Sox, Brewers, and even the Royals, to name a few) indicate the development of a favorable market for Hosmer’s services. His perception as a well-rounded player good at various things rather than one dimensional player that’s great at one thing (Chris Carter with Homeruns) should also give teams bidding for his services more confidence moving forward as he enters his mid 30’s through the end of his contract.

Therefore: I predict that Eric Hosmer will land a 7 Year/120 Million dollar contract, despite a strong effort from his camp to secure an 8th year. This gives him an AAV (Average Annual Value) of $17 Million per season. This gives him a higher AAV than Freddie Freeman despite lower production; however, Freeman signed his contract after his age 24 season which bought out 3 arbitration eligible years. For Hosmer to financially justify this contract, he would have to produce a WAR of around 2.5 per season for the next 7 years, which while not completely out of the question, doesn’t seem like a foregone conclusion given some negatively trending advanced offensive and defensive metrics over the past few seasons. However, with a good market and great agent, Hosmer should have no problem securing just one of the various $100 million dollar contracts that will be given out for the 2017 MLB Free Agent class.

 

 

 

 

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