UPDATE: It’s happening, according to Jesse Rogers. Eric Hosmer to the Cubs.
The specifics of the signing will be fascinating, because Hosmer’s deal with the Padres – which they are paying – runs for three more years. Will the Cubs have to spend more than the big league minimum to entice Hosmer to choose them, given the possibility that he’ll be stuck with that team for three years, even though signing for just one? Will he get a no-trade clause? So on and so forth.
Hosmer figures to get the first look as the Cubs’ full-time first baseman, although the low-cost nature of the signing and the presence of Matt Mervis *SHOULD* mean that the Cubs don’t have to give Hosmer a particularly long leash if he isn’t producing.
Also, for what it’s worth:
- Chicago Cubs first basemen in 2022: .232/.304/.348/86 wRC+
- Eric Hosmer in 2022: .268/.334/.382/104 wRC+
The Cubs will have to open up a 40-man roster spot to finalize the deal with Hosmer.
*original post follows*
The reports last week had me thinking there was a lot of smoke here, and then this weekend, Jon Heyman indicated there was progress. So this has felt inevitable for a little while: Eric Hosmer and the Cubs are close to a deal.
The free agent first baseman is having his contract paid by the Padres, so if the Cubs do complete this deal, they will be on the hook only for the league minimum ($700,000), unless they had to offer some kind of sweetener.
The Cubs need a first baseman capable of supplying AT LEAST league-average offense, and that’s about what Hosmer can provide, together with a below-average glove and an extreme groundball rate (after the Cubs worked so hard to lower theirs…). Ultimately, the Cubs just need someone there who can hold down the fort until Matt Mervis is ready, and/or who can coordinate with Mervis on starts. Hosmer, a fellow lefty, is not ideal for that second part, although there is the DH spot available.
That all sounds negative, but I don’t hate the idea of the Cubs signing Hosmer. As I wrote before:
I know that Hosmer is not among our favorite first base options for the Cubs, even in a limited market, but let me take this opportunity to put on The Positivity Hat and talk about why it might not be the worst move in the world:
1.) Hosmer doesn’t have a great bat for a first baseman, but he still has an above-average bat. Hosmer was exactly a league average bat by wRC+ in his five seasons with San Diego, but the last three seasons he was actually at .271/.335/.407/107 wRC+. He doesn’t provide much power, as he’s more of a contact guy, but you wonder if he would get a modest boost from the new shift rules.
2.) Hosmer is a lefty, who is a career .287/.353/.457/119 wRC+ hitter off of righties. This one cuts both ways, because ideally you’d have a righty at first base to (eventually) platoon with Matt Mervis and/or take off some of his load as he adjusts to the big leagues. But on the other hand, the Cubs could just straight up use another lefty bat. Mervis *will* be a lefty bat for them eventually, but you’d hate to rush him if you don’t have to.
3.) Hosmer’s ugly contract situation over the years probably distorted our perception of him as a baseball player a bit. The contract went south almost immediately, but that’s kind of a separate issue from “can this guy improve your lineup?” And now the contract is not an issue.
4.) Which, by the way, is the biggest plus on Hosmer: because he’s still being paid out by the Padres for THREE more years, any team signing him is on the hook only for the big league minimum ($700K), and you could theoretically retain him at that price for all three seasons. If Hosmer is still a useful player – even in a part-time role – that’s a pretty valuable guy to have on a league-minimum deal. At 33, it’s possible Hosmer declines too rapidly for anything beyond 2023 to matter, but, again, the PADRES are the ones who have to pay him. So if it doesn’t work out in 2023, no harm, no foul. You release him and move on.
5.) For the Cubs, adding Hosmer – instead of spending, say, $10 million on Mancini – would mean the Cubs have over $9 million available to spend on another bat or another reliever or even a trade piece some team wants to move. If the Cubs do have a budget (let’s be real, they do), then it might be a situation where Hosmer + Other Guy > Mancini.
Hosmer is also seen by many as a good leader in the clubhouse, and the guy doesn’t strike out. There are legitimately good things here, although it’s kinda gonna depend on what else the Cubs do post-Hosmer.
Also, I suppose it’s important to remember that, because of the cost, the Cubs really don’t have to be beholden to Hosmer if it just isn’t working. It’s almost like a waiver claim.
Oh, another thing. Eric Hosmer’s projection for 2023 at ZiPS is .286/.340/.431/107 OPS+, which, yeah, sounds about right. An upgrade for what the Cubs figured to have at first base (non-Mervis edition), but not an impact bat. But also won’t block Matt Mervis, so … shrug? Is it okay? It’s still fine.