MLB Free Agency: Eric Hosmer a risky signing

Eric Hosmer might be one of the best hitters available, but is he might not be worth his $200 million price tag.


In a free agent class full of powerful and impactful hitters, Eric Hosmer is considered one of, if not the best, free agents available. And while he appears as one of the best free agents available, there are several reasons why any team that is looking to purchase him should approach with caution.

Hosmer’s Strengths

After recording a 4.1 WAR in 2017, Hosmer demonstrated that he can be a productive player, mainly due to his hitting. In 2017, he hit for a .318 AVG, .385 OBP and .498 SLG. His contributions to the offense helped the Royals score runs, as he recorded a .376 wOBA and a 135 wRC+.

He walked in 9.8 % of his plate appearances, slightly more than the league average 8.5 %, while striking out in only 15.5% of his plate appearances, significantly better than the league average 21.6 %. He also showed reasonable power by hitting 25 home runs.

Even though he does not have great speed, he runs the bases reasonably well. In 2017, he recorded a baserunning runs above average (BsR) of 1.8. Throughout his career, he has only recorded a negative BsR twice, in 2014 and 2016. Hosmer’s baserunning might be a minor strength, but for someone who gets on base so frequently, good baserunning is essential to help a team score runs.

Hosmer also brings factors that cannot be measured, such as experience and charisma to the clubhouse. Hosmer was a leader for the 2015 Kansas City Royals when they won the World Series. Having an experienced leader such as Hosmer can help other players become more comfortable and perform during October when results matter most.  

Hosmer’s Weaknesses

Hosmer had a terrific season in 2017, but he has had some struggles with consistency. While he also had terrific seasons in 2015 (WAR: 3.5) and 2013 (WAR: 3.2), he had replacement level seasons in 2016 (WAR: -0.1) and 2014 (WAR: 0.0). He is one of the most coveted free agents, demanding a massive contract, yet he performed at the level of a monotonous minor leaguer that team’s call-up when a player gets hurt. And in those years, his bat suffered badly.

WARAVGOBPSLGwOBAwRC+
20133.2.302.353.448.350120
20140.0.270.318.398.31498
20153.5.297.363.459.355124
2016-0.1.266.328.433.326102
20174.1.318.385.498.376135

Additionally, his splits against left-handed pitchers are worrying. Against righties, he is one of the most dangerous in the league. But against lefties, he is merely average (despite what his batting average says), meaning that if a team wants to neutralize him in a late game, high leverage situation, they can bring in a lefty and significantly increase the probability of success against him.

vs L (2017)vs R (2017)
AVG.284.335
OBP.327.410
SLG.433.528
wOBA.324.400
wRC+99151

Hosmer also hits a lot of ground balls for a power guy in the middle of the lineup. He has only hit ground balls less than 50% of the time once in his major league career, while the major league average for GB% has remained steady at around 45%.

This trend is concerning because even though ground balls result in hits more frequently, Hosmer is not best utilizing his power he has by hitting the ball in the air.

Hosmer GB%MLB GB%
201149.744.4
201253.645.1
201352.744.5
201451.244.8
201552.045.3
201658.944.7
201755.644.2

And then there is his glove. Hosmer does not field the first base position well. In 2017 and 2016, he was terrible under both of the statistical models of UZR and DRS, largely due to his poor range.

DRSrPMUZRRngR
2016-6-11-8.4-11.2
2017-7-7-0.3-4.4

Hosmer’s poor defense is the most concerning part of his weaknesses. Even at 28, he is trending towards becoming a DH, which is automatically a problem from the NL.

But it is also a problem for AL teams. Paying $200 million over six or seven years is quite an investment for a player who ultimately relies on his hitting, especially when his hitting remains somewhat inconsistent.

Possible alternatives

If a team is looking for a productive first baseman, Carlos Santana provides an excellent alternative to Eric Hosmer. Santana’s splits against lefties and righties are less extreme, and he defends first base fairly well. Though he may not have had the same impact as Hosmer at the plate last season, he still provides more than adequate production from the offensive side of the plate.

2017Eric HosmerCarlos Santana
WAR4.13.0
DRS
-710
UZR-0.34.8
wOBA
.376.350
wRC+
135117
wOBA vs L
.324.335
wOBA vs R
.400.359
wRC+ vs L
99106
wRC+ vs R151129

If a team is looking for just a power bat and they do not mind which position, they should instead turn to JD Martinez. He is asking for a contract similar to Hosmer’s demands. Even though Martinez also has suspect defensive abilities, Martinez hits better than Hosmer.

2017Eric HosmerJD Martinez
WAR4.13.8
DRS-7-5
UZR-0.3-7.7
wOBA.376.430
wRC+135166
wOBA vs L.324.531
wOBA vs R.400.402
wRC+ vs L99235
wRC+ vs R151147

Eric Hosmer has talent, especially at hitting the baseball. But with his multiple flaws, signing him to a $200 million could be one of the riskiest moves general manager could make, especially when other players could provide similar value.

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