Padres Drastically Change Course With $144M Eric Hosmer Deal
New Padres 1B Eric Hosmer's eight-year, $144M deal "represents more than a record deal for one small-market franchise," as the "creative structuring could encourage other teams to pursue a similar blueprint," according to Dennis Lin of THE ATHLETIC. The pact "ties the bulk" of the $144M to Hosmer’s remaining prime of his career. Sources said that the 28-year-old will receive a $5M signing bonus on top of $20M annually through '22. At that point, he could "opt out of his contract and re-enter free agency." Exercising the clause would "amount to a sizable bet" -- Hosmer is owed $13M in each of the final three years of the contract -- but "depending on what transpires between now and then, it could be a bet well worth taking." But the "lure of opting out, in hopes of one final payday, could be strong." Essentially, Hosmer is about to secure a five-year, $105M deal that "contains insurance for both sides." The Padres "believe they are not mortgaging a chunk of their future, which turned out to be the case" after they acquired LF Matt Kemp and P James Shields for the '15 season. Both Kemp and Shields were "jettisoned" in '16, but the Padres continues to pay part of their salaries this season. As for Hosmer, his signing "will not raise" the Padres’ projected payroll beyond the $90M range (THEATHLETIC.com, 2/18). USA TODAY's Jorge Ortiz writes such a "sizable investment, especially coming from a club that had by far the lowest payroll in the majors to start last season [$34.5M], shows the Padres believe they’re approaching the pay-off stage of a revamping process that has featured some fits and starts." Padres RF Wil Myers: "Everybody here’s excited to see about a move like that, to see the Padres are very serious about what’s going on" (USATODAY.com, 2/18).
WHOLE NEW BALLGAME: In San Diego, Bryce Miller writes the Padres are "trying." The franchise "with a long-held and too-often-earned reputation as miserly caretakers of baseball" are "doing what everyone has demanded for generations." Miller: "These Padres aren't content being the Padres of old" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 2/19). THE RINGER's Michael Baumann wrote, "Not being embarrassed is a serious concern for San Diego." The Padres "haven’t had a winning record" since '10, and their "most interesting player over that time is a fictional back-end starter from a TV show that lasted 10 episodes." Baumann: "Hosmer’s fine. The contract’s fine. Neither are going to move the needle that much." But the state of baseball’s economics are such that clubs "deserve praise for making a good-faith effort to be competitive" (THERINGER.com, 2/18). YAHOO SPORTS' Tim Brown wrote under the header, "Padres Are More Than A Player Away From Being A Good Baseball Team." Brown: "Though we are sure the Padres will get it right one day, it doesn’t mean they will win that day" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/18).
GREAT SCOTT: The Wall Street Journal's Jared Diamond said of agent Scott Boras' effect on the slow free agent market, "I heard from a different agent this morning who said to me, ‘Maybe all of this is because of Scott Boras. Maybe as an industry we should put a little blame on Scott Boras.' I'm not saying I necessarily feel that way, but the fact is if there are other people on his 'side' in that world that wonder maybe if he's not negotiating in good faith, or he's not being willing to bend where he should" ("MLB Now," MLB Network, 2/16). SI.com's Jack Dickey wrote whether Hosmer's deal is "good news for anyone else in the game remains a puzzle." With "such soft demand for Hosmer’s services," the deal "stands out as an old-school Boras swindling." But the deal was "hailed by a number of smart baseball thinkers as a welcome development" who were "relieved to see the free-agent gridlock start to break" (SI.com, 2/18). In N.Y., Tyler Kepner writes the total value of Hosmer's deal "eclipses" offseason free-agent deals for Cubs P Yu Darvish and Brewers CF Lorenzo Cain. Those three deals "would seem to undercut the suspicions of collusion that have been whispered among players and agents this winter." But in Hosmer's case, Boras "paired a relatively young player known for his athleticism and leadership with a team eager to shed its status as an also-ran" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/19).
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN? ESPN.com's Buster Olney wrote, "Solid, established players are eventually going to be forced to accept deals for ugly terms." Many players would be "settling," but that is "preferable to an alternative available to all of those unsigned: to simply wait it out, perhaps until after the start of the season, to see if injuries or performance problems motivate teams to bid aggressively" (ESPN.com, 2/18). A's Exec VP/Baseball Operations Billy Beane said a reason for the slow free agency this year is because teams are "valuing the same things." Beane: "When the Yankees value their young players as much as the A’s or the Rays do -- wow. That’s what we have now." Beane added, "There was a time when we wanted young players, and big-market teams wanted proven players and could afford the cost. But now, we’re all valuing the same things. ... The big teams are run very wisely now. There are really smart guys who have capital. There’s no soft spots. ... It’s a very intelligent industry right now" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 2/16). Tigers 3B Nick Castellanos: "If I am thinking like an owner, this is the year everybody stands together to try and lower the market. So that when Bryce Harper and Manny Machado are free agents next year, their contracts become the new highest contract and their numbers and comparables are the new set line." In Detroit, Chris McCosky wrote the next round of collective bargaining after the '21 season "could get chippy." Tigers P Alex Wilson: "It’s going to be a rough one. There is going to have to be a budge from the owners’ side. We need these (unsigned free agents) out there playing. I don’t care what the market says or anything else. At some point, you have to at least budge enough to meet in the middle" (DETROITNEWS.com, 2/17).