HBT Weekend Wrapup

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Stuff you may have missed while you sat by the trailer drinkin’ beer with your grandma at the state park:

  • A-Rod is OK after taking a BP liner to the leg. Thankfully this gave us all a chance to slam A-Rod again. My favorite: Wallace Matthews at ESPN New York,
    who described the incident — which was caused when FOX’s Joe Buck said
    hello to A-Rod, who returned the greeting — thusly: “a player who once
    again just can’t seem to help himself when it comes to
    courting, and being courted by, the lure of cheap celebrity.”  As if
    Matthews wouldn’t have slammed A-Rod for being “an aloof prima donna who
    has no time for the press or his fans” had he not acknowledged Buck’s
    greeting.
  • The Rangers will try to lock up Cliff Lee this season.
    I’m going to guess that the difference between their losing bid and the
    Yankees winning bid will be less than the difference between What Chuck
    Greenberg could have paid for the Rangers last spring but ended up
    paying for them last week due to the bankruptcy gambit. I also will
    guess that no one will make the connection at the time and will instead
    use the occasion to write more “the Yankees are trying to buy another
    championship” articles.
  • Torii Hunter got a four-game suspension
    and, in a rare move, didn’t appeal it. I guess his union rep explained
    that it would be hard to convince the league that it was Brandon Wood
    who threw all of those balls on the field during his temper tantrum.
  • Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Erik Bedard underwent season-ending surgery
    (note: his season never began). Drew’s post on it asks “what’s next?”
    in the headline. The only possible answer: Bedard and Ben Sheets team up
    to fight crime.
  • The Pirates fired
    pitching coach Joe Kerrigan and bench coach Gary Varsho. Kerrigan isn’t
    a huge surprise in that the pitching has been bad. Varsho more so
    because, really, I thought the benches in Pirates’ dugout had been
    performing at or above expectations.
  • The Dodgers DFA’d Garret Anderson. You have to think this is the end of the road, as there are only so many GMs who will give a guy a contract based on accomplishments that are 7-8 years old.
  • The good news: the Rays haven’t lost one pitcher to arm trouble this year. The bad news: they’ve lost two.
  • Mark Prior: Don’t call it a comeback! He won’t be back for years!

And now let us plow into the week.

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.