Royals calling up top prospect Eric Hosmer

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It’s certainly a few weeks earlier than they preferred to do it, but the Royals revealed Thursday that they’re calling up Eric Hosmer to take over as their first baseman.

Kila Ka’aihue, who was hitting .195/.295/.317 with just six RBI in 82 at-bats, is getting sent down to open up a spot.

Hosmer was tearing up PCL pitching, hitting 439/.525/.582 with three homers for Omaha. He had a 16/19 K/BB ratio in 98 at-bats, and he was even 3-for-3 stealing bases.

The 21-year-old Hosmer was selected third overall in the 2008 draft out of a Florida high school.  He started slow and batted just .241/.334/.361 with six homers in 434 at-bats for two A-ball teams in 2009, but he blossomed last year, hitting .338/.406/.571 with 20 homers between high-A Wilmington and Double-A Northwest Arkansas.  That led the Royals to promote him to Triple-A to begin this year, and his remarkable first month followed.

As discussed here last week, the Royals didn’t want to go to Hosmer so early because doing so means he’ll surely be eligible for arbitration after 2013 if he stays in the majors.  Promoting him now figures to cost the Royals several million dollars over the next seven years, since he’ll be eligible for arbitration four times, rather than the usual three.

The Royals, though, are trying to rebuild a fanbase, and it didn’t look like Hosmer had anything left to learn in the minors.  Calling him up now figures to put some extra fannies in the seats, and the Royals could sign him to a long-term deal at some later date to mitigate the salary damage.  Credit the franchise for making the move rather than waiting the extra month.

As for Ka’aihue, well, he had what was probably his one big chance and failed to take advantage.  At 27, he’s not necessarily going to be buried for good.  The Royals, though, won’t have any further need for him if Hosmer can establish himself.  Japan might be his eventual destination.

Nick Markakis: ‘I play a kids’ game and get paid a lot of money. How can I be disappointed with that?’

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Earlier today, the Braves inked veteran outfielder Nick Markakis to a one-year deal worth $4 million with a club option for the 2020 season worth $6 million with a $2 million buyout. Though Markakis is 35 years old, he’s coming off of a terrific season in which he played in all 162 games and hit .297/.366/.440 with 14 home runs and 93 RBI in 705 trips to the plate. Markakis had just completed a four-year, $44 million contract, so he took a substantial pay cut.

Per David O’Brien of The Athletic, Markakis asked his kids where they wanted him to play and they said Atlanta. O’Brien also asked Markakis about the pay cut. The outfielder said, “I’m not mad at all. I play a kids’ game and get paid a lot of money. How can I be disappointed with that?”

This seemingly innocuous comment by Markakis is actually damaging for his peers and for the union. Baseball as a game is indeed a “kids’ game,” but Major League Baseball is a billion-dollar business that has been setting revenue records year over year. The players have seen a smaller and smaller percentage of the money MLB makes since the beginning of the 2000’s. Furthermore, Markakis only gets paid “a lot of money” relative to, say, a first-year teacher or a clerk at a convenience store. Relative to the value of Liberty Media, which owns the Braves, and relative to the value of Major League Baseball itself, Markakis’s salary is a drop in the ocean.

That Markakis is happy to take a pay cut is totally fine, but it’s harmful for him to publicly justify that because it creates the expectation that his peers should feel the same way and creates leverage for ownership. His comments mirror those who sympathize first and foremost with billionaire team owners. They are common arguments used to justify paying players less, giving them a smaller and smaller cut of the pie. Because Markakis not only took a pay cut but defended it, front office members of the Braves as well as the 29 other teams can point to him and guilt or shame other players for asking for more money.

“Look at Nick, he’s a team player,” I envision a GM saying to younger Braves player who is seeking a contract extension, or a free agent looking to finally find a home before spring training. “Nick’s stats are as good as yours, so why should you make more money than him?”

Contrast Markakis’s approach with Yasmani Grandal‘s. Grandal reportedly turned down a four-year, $60 million contract offer from the Mets early in the offseason and settled for a one-year, $18.25 million contract with the Brewers. Per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, Grandal said on MLB Network, “I felt like part of my responsibility as a player was to respect the guys that went through this process before I did. Guys like Brian McCann, Russell Martin, Yadier Molina, These are guys who established markets and pay levels for upper-tier catchers like me. I felt like I was doing a disservice if I were to take some of the deals that were being thrown around. I wanted to keep the line moving especially for some of the younger guys that are coming up … to let them know, if you’re worthy, then you should get paid what you’re worth. That’s where I was coming from.”

Grandal’s comments are exactly what a member of a union should be saying, unapologetically. The MLBPA needs to get all of its members on the same page when it comes to discussing contracts or labor situations in general publicly. What Markakis said seems selfless and innocent — and I have no doubt he is being genuine without malice — but it could reduce the bargaining power players have across the table from ownership, which means less money. They are already being bamboozled, at least until the next collective bargaining agreement. They don’t need to be bamboozled any more.