Some Red Sox odds and ends from Peter Gammons

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Now that Peter Gammons is officially back covering the Red Sox as a part of his NESN gig, he probably feels a lot more comfortable simply working the Boston sources he’s cultivated for thirty some-odd years, and we get the benefit of it.  He was on WEEI the other day and offered the following Sox tidbits:

  • Forget the renewed interest in Jason Bay stuff. Not happening. They made their best offer last summer, it was no better (and maybe worse) than what the Mets have out there now, and it’s not getting any better. My thought: if Bay does go back to the Sox anyway, how much of an eff-you is that to the Mets? Then again, given how long he’s left them hanging on their current offer, the eff-you is already implied;
  • No matter how much people want it to happen, the Sox and the Padres haven’t even talked about potential players that would be involved in an Adrain Gonzalez deal.  As I and many others have noted in the past, Jed Hoyer is the one GM in baseball who can’t be hoodwinked by Theo when it comes to Red Sox prospects, so rather than the Padres and Sox being ideal trading partners, they’re actually horribly matched;
  • Better bet for a big bat in Boston: an early-season Detroit Tigers swoon followed by a trade for Miguel Cabrera.  Yes, he’s more expensive than Gonzalez, but because of that he could no doubt be more easily had;
  • Jacoby Ellsbury is going to play a lot of left field.  Reason: it will help save his legs, and since Mike Cameron is in the fold, it won’t mean much of a defensive hit. Ulterior motive I’m totally making up but which seems plausible: Ellsbury as a left fielder would have lower arbitration comparables than Ellsbury as a centerfielder.  Though I’ll admit, I don’t know that the Sox really think that way;
  • Daisuke Matsuzaka is in “unbelievable shape.”  I don’t suppose that fitness will translate into him working any faster, will it? I’d like to be able to watch one of his starts without falling asleep one of these years.
  • Some wishy-washy talk about how Mike Lowell could be an important contributor and presence and all of that.  I still think they pay for him to to go someplace else.

Lots of other Red Sox dish at the link.  Plenty to chew on with your holiday leftovers.

Eric Hosmer’s eight-year, $144 million contract isn’t that bad

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Late Saturday night, Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that the Padres and first baseman Eric Hosmer agreed to an eight-year, $144 million contract, the new largest contract in club history. According to Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports, the contract includes an opt-out after the fifth year. Further, Hosmer will average $21 million per year for those first five years and $13 million for the final three years, so it’s severely front-loaded.

Hosmer, 28, had a career year last season, playing in all 162 games while batting .318/.385/.498 with 25 home runs, 94 RBI, and 98 runs scored in 671 plate appearances. Per Baseball Reference, Hosmer accrued 4.0 Wins Above Replacement, only one of six first basemen to do so. At No. 6, he was 0.4 WAR behind Anthony Rizzo and 0.4 WAR ahead of Logan Morrison.

Wil Myers had previously told the Padres he would accept a position change if the club were to sign Hosmer. He will be moving to the outfield as a result. The Padres now have a logjam in the outfield, so Jose Pirela could move moved to the infield. How the Padres plan to handle that situation remains to be seen.

The general consensus about the Hosmer signing once news broke was that it is laughably bad. Back in November, Dave Cameron — ironically now in the Padres’ front office — called Hosmer a “free agent landmine.” That thought hasn’t really changed among many writers. For example, using restraint, Dennis Lin of The Athletic calls the deal “a big gamble.” MLB Network’s Brian Kenny said Hosmer has at least three “red flags.”

FanGraphs projects the Padres to finish 71-91, so adding Hosmer isn’t likely to transform the club into a contender on his own. That being said, the Padres’ payroll was only at $70 million prior to the Hosmer signing, so the contract won’t hamstring them going forward. If the young nucleus of players — including Manuel Margot and Hunter Renfroe — perform as expected, the Padres could be a threat in the NL West relatively soon with plenty of cheap, cost-controlled players and having some experienced veterans like Hosmer and Myers could be useful for their intangibles — pennant race/playoff experience, clubhouse presence, leadership, etc.

Hosmer has had three seasons of 3.5 WAR or more, according to Baseball Reference. He’s had four between -0.5 and 1.0. Now entering his age-28 season, it’s hardly a guarantee he’ll be an All-Star-caliber player in 2018, let alone in 2022 when he is 32 years old. From a strict dollars-to-WAR standpoint in a complete vacuum, one could’ve done better than Hosmer at eight years, $144 million.

The Padres, however, aren’t a small market team; they just operate like one. Forbes valued the club at $1.125 billion last April. The Padres don’t have the financial muscle of the Dodgers or Yankees, but paying Eric Hosmer $18 million on average for the first five years of his contract won’t come close to hurting the organization in any way, shape, or form. More importantly, signing Hosmer shows the rest of the team and the fans a commitment to being legitimate, bumping the payroll up towards $90 million. That now dwarfs teams like the large-market Phillies, who opened up spring training with just over $60 million in player obligations.

In the grand scheme of things, the Hosmer signing is also a good sign given the standstill in the free agent market. Many veteran players — even reliever Fernando Abad, who posted a 3.30 ERA last season — had to settle for minor league contracts instead of guaranteed major league deals. Many others, including the likes of Jake Arrieta and J.D. Martinez, remain unsigned. The rumor that Hosmer wanted more than seven years and close to $150 million was laughed at last month. Agent Scott Boras was still able to get his client the deal he wanted, which could bode well for those still teamless. Martinez’s patience may yet be rewarded like Hosmer’s was; money may once again start flowing in the free agent economy.

In summation, the Eric Hosmer contract is good if: you are Eric Hosmer, related to or a friend of Eric Hosmer, a teammate of Hosmer’s, Scott Boras, a current or soon-to-be free agent, a Padres fan, and a baseball fan in general. The Hosmer contract is bad if: you are a penny-pinching owner of a Major League Baseball team, or someone who cares more about $/WAR than an actual good product being put on the field.