Lefty? Check. Drafted with third base in mind? Check. Photo Credit: Denny Medley-US PRESSWIRE

Locking Up Eric Hosmer


Eric Hosmer: Ballplayer. Photo Credit: Steven Bisig-US PRESSWIRE

As of right now, the Royals are still negotiating with Alex Gordon on a contract extension. It may or may not get done right away, but either way, the Royals have stated interest in keeping him around, and Gordon is interested as well. It’s a matter of getting to the table and agreeing to terms. Since Gordon isn’t a free agent for another two seasons, there’s no rush.

As soon as the Gordon extension situation is resolved, be it by an arbitration hearing, an agreed 2012 salary or extension, the Royals should shift to the next item on the agenda: extending Eric Hosmer.

Eric Hosmer is the most likely player the Royals will have on their roster who could win an MVP award. He’s the rare prospect who has a downside that most figure is still going to be star caliber (barring injury, of course) but with the upside to be a very special hitter.

He’s young, personable, good-looking. He’s marketable. If you go to Royals.com, the player featured on the background isn’t Gordon. It’s not Joakim Soria. It’s not Billy Butler. The player the Royals chose to be the standard bearer for “Our Time” in 2012 is Eric Hosmer.

The idea of signing Hosmer to a long-term deal isn’t a revolutionary one. After he started to take off in 2010, I’m sure the Royals started to note that he’d be the player they thought they were drafting in 2008, someone noted as “the top high school bat in the draft” with immense power potential. His strong start in Omaha in 2011 where he leapfrogged Mike Moustakas on the way to the big leagues and his solid overall rookie season likely tell the Royals that they made the right choice in selecting him third overall in 2008.

After George Brett retired, the Royals collected players that showed the talent and production to become the next big face of Kansas City baseball – Johnny Damon (who infamously appeared in a commercial with Brett where they fought over whose highlights to watch), Mike Sweeney, Carlos Beltran and Gordon (dubbed the next George Brett before he’d even signed for his bonus with the Royals). They lost Damon when it became clear that they wouldn’t be able to retain him under his contract demands. They had to trade Beltran when a contract extension fell through due to a dispute over a million dollars or so. Not per year, but over the life of the contract.

The Royals did manage to sign Sweeney to an extension. A big slugging first baseman and an all-around nice guy, he was the type of ballplayer who makes a marketing department’s job easy. The Royals, perhaps cursed, chose the wrong star to extend, as Sweeney ran into back problems that limited his ability to stay on the field and diminished his production. After a career year, Sweeney signed a deal for 2003-2004 that allowed him to become a free agent if the Royals didn’t reach .500 or better. In 2003, they did just that, locking him up until 2007. Unfortunately for the Royals, right when Sweeney seemed to be blossoming into one of the premier hitters in the league, he was starting to experience back troubles and he never really got back to the same level as before.

There’s risk in signing a player to a long term deal, but in the case of Hosmer, he’s younger than Sweeney at the time and Hosmer didn’t come up through the minors as a catcher either. Let’s assume he won’t suffer any debilitating back problems.

Hosmer is a Scott Boras client. Boras doesn’t like negotiating extensions unless it turns out to be lucrative, like Carlos Gonzalez‘s seven year, $80 million deal.

Buster Olney reported that according to an agent he spoke to, it would take a ten year deal worth $80-90 million to lock him up. As Mike Axisa noted on MLB Trade Rumors, once Hosmer’s arbitration years (and he’ll have four due to being a Super Two player) finish up, the Royals could end up paying him similar money to another Super Two player, Hunter Pence, who has received $20.8 million in three years of arbitration and, by Axisa’s estimate, will reach around $32 million after four arbitration years.

So if that’s a similar path for Hosmer’s arbitration (and it may be more if he outperforms Pence or if salaries continue to rise and figures exchanged end up inflating the cost), let’s say the Royals pay him the league minimum in 2012 and 2013 (totalling around a million) then his $32 over four years, and that’s $33 over six seasons. If we say the extension would cost the Royals $85 million over ten years, that leaves an extra four years and $52 million and keeps Hosmer in Kansas City through 2021 (which sounds absurd to be citing that as a year).

For the type of production we could see from Hosmer, $13 million a season when he’s 28 to 32 years old isn’t that bad, especially considering what the market may look like by that time. David Glass, oft-criticized owner of the Royals, has suggested that the Royals need to extend players from this group of potential stars.

Unfortunately, Boras isn’t the type of agent to allow a Tampa-style deal. Evan Longoria‘s famous extension is unlikely to happen again. Longoria was called up to the big leagues on April 12, 2008. He signed a six year deal for a total of $17 million within a week. The Rays hold two options on him for 2015 and 2016. They worked a similar deal with top prospect Matt Moore that pays him a bit more up front and gives them team options from 2017-2019. Matt Moore, the game’s top prospect according to several outlets, is not guaranteed more than $10 million in any year of the deal (though incentives are in place that could make the deal surpass that in the final year). Neither Longoria nor Moore were Boras clients.

If Eric Hosmer is the player the Royals think he is, he needs to be the focal point of their budgeting over the next year and every year after if no deal is reached.

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Tags: AL Central Alex Gordon Baseball Eric Hosmer Evan Longoria Kansas City Royals KC KC Royals Mike Sweeney MLB Royals

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  • benjammin9287

    Mike, there is no way you can give a player who hasn’t even played a single full season, a 10 yr, 85 mil deal. You just can’t do it. Too risky.

  • michael.allen.engel

    @benjammin9287 It was risky for Milwaukee to extend Ryan Braun with an 8 year deal when he hadn’t played a full season and, looming suspension notwithstanding, it’s turned out well for them.

    Generally, I think you’re right, but in this case, with it being THE guy the Royals will be building a lineup around, going big should be an option. The contract length and amount are one agent’s idea of what it would take – it may not take that much if Hosmer feels good where he’s at and feels the money is right.

    Braun got 8 years for $45 million before they reworked his contract last April – I doubt Boras will go for anything that club-friendly, but if he did something like 8 for $60M, that’d be fine. If Hosmer is the hitter 95% of the world expects him to be, it’s a steal, considering the Royals will be paying him when he starts hitting arbitration (and gets four years of it, too).

  • benjammin9287

    Mike, there is no way you can give a player who hasn’t even played a single full season, a 10 yr, 85 mil deal. You just can’t do it. Too risky.

  • michael.allen.engel

    @benjammin9287 It was risky for Milwaukee to extend Ryan Braun with an 8 year deal when he hadn’t played a full season and, looming suspension notwithstanding, it’s turned out well for them.

    Generally, I think you’re right, but in this case, with it being THE guy the Royals will be building a lineup around, going big should be an option. The contract length and amount are one agent’s idea of what it would take – it may not take that much if Hosmer feels good where he’s at and feels the money is right.

    Braun got 8 years for $45 million before they reworked his contract last April – I doubt Boras will go for anything that club-friendly, but if he did something like 8 for $60M, that’d be fine. If Hosmer is the hitter 95% of the world expects him to be, it’s a steal, considering the Royals will be paying him when he starts hitting arbitration (and gets four years of it, too).

  • buhrmanbt

    I hear you, but don’t you think it’s about time the Royals take a risk on something? The other side of the coin is they continue to be a farm team for the Red Sox, Yankees,….etc. As soon as Hoz has a big year, Boras will be in his ear telling him how much the Yanks will pay him to replace Teixeira. I’m ok with them going big because the last time we were in the playoffs was in 1985. I’ll say it again…1985. That’s almost enough time to pay off a 30 year fixed mortgage. It’s time to go big…even if it’s risky.

  • buhrmanbt

    I hear you, but don’t you think it’s about time the Royals take a risk on something? The other side of the coin is they continue to be a farm team for the Red Sox, Yankees,….etc. As soon as Hoz has a big year, Boras will be in his ear telling him how much the Yanks will pay him to replace Teixeira. I’m ok with them going big because the last time we were in the playoffs was in 1985. I’ll say it again…1985. That’s almost enough time to pay off a 30 year fixed mortgage. It’s time to go big…even if it’s risky.

  • benjammin9287

    Mike, I’m being a bit contradictory here b/c a few weeks ago, I got into a discussion w/ Scott McKinney on the same subject. I asked him if he would sign Hosmer tomorrow for 8/70M and he said he wouldn’t. I decided that was the edge of my threshold, but I would pull the trigger on that deal. I gotta draw the line somewhere, so i would really have to think about it if Boras was firm on 85M and in the end, I think I would pass.

    I will agree that it would have to be no less than 8 yrs b/c for the contract to have relative value, it would have to buy out at least 2 FA seasons. The Braun example is a good one in KC’s favor, but the difference between 45 and 85 is too much to make the potential risk worth it at this point.

    We all want to believe in what we have in Hosmer, but we can’t know yet. There are way too many examples of players never coming close to their ceiling potential after early flashes. The example that immediately comes to mind for me, is Jason Hayward. I know he had some injury issues, but he had a terrible year. If he was so clearly ailing, why didn’t they sit him for much longer? My guess is, they asked him and he said he was able to play. Players play injured all the time. Its an essential part of baseball. Hayward will likely be alked to play banged up again many times over the next 15 yrs. Was last season a fluke? Hard to know. Another example I see is Colby Rasmus. He was also a super prospect who had a breakout season, but hasn’t come close to duplicating since. His #s last year (albeit also some injuries) were horrific in not a few PAs… I concede to hand picking examples here.

    Also, regarding Braun, it must be now assumed that his career #s have been inflated artificially at least to some degree. Clearly they were last year (please don’t start up a discussion about how his test was somehow in error. If it was, than we must give the same benefit to all failed tests of the past 20 yrs b/c everybody who failed, claimed the test was faulty at least initially).

    In conclusion, I think the likely best chance scenario for extending Hosmer, is to wait 2 yrs,then assuming he puts up the digits we expect, try to sign him to something like 6 yrs/ 80-90M. It might cost a bit more that way, but not that much considering he will only make a few mil over the next 2 (500 grand, then at most say, 3 mil for 1st yr arb) and we would have the assurance of his now further established resume.

    Let me know what you think.

  • benjammin9287

    Mike, I’m being a bit contradictory here b/c a few weeks ago, I got into a discussion w/ Scott McKinney on the same subject. I asked him if he would sign Hosmer tomorrow for 8/70M and he said he wouldn’t. I decided that was the edge of my threshold, but I would pull the trigger on that deal. I gotta draw the line somewhere, so i would really have to think about it if Boras was firm on 85M and in the end, I think I would pass.

    I will agree that it would have to be no less than 8 yrs b/c for the contract to have relative value, it would have to buy out at least 2 FA seasons. The Braun example is a good one in KC’s favor, but the difference between 45 and 85 is too much to make the potential risk worth it at this point.

    We all want to believe in what we have in Hosmer, but we can’t know yet. There are way too many examples of players never coming close to their ceiling potential after early flashes. The example that immediately comes to mind for me, is Jason Hayward. I know he had some injury issues, but he had a terrible year. If he was so clearly ailing, why didn’t they sit him for much longer? My guess is, they asked him and he said he was able to play. Players play injured all the time. Its an essential part of baseball. Hayward will likely be alked to play banged up again many times over the next 15 yrs. Was last season a fluke? Hard to know. Another example I see is Colby Rasmus. He was also a super prospect who had a breakout season, but hasn’t come close to duplicating since. His #s last year (albeit also some injuries) were horrific in not a few PAs… I concede to hand picking examples here.

    Also, regarding Braun, it must be now assumed that his career #s have been inflated artificially at least to some degree. Clearly they were last year (please don’t start up a discussion about how his test was somehow in error. If it was, than we must give the same benefit to all failed tests of the past 20 yrs b/c everybody who failed, claimed the test was faulty at least initially).

    In conclusion, I think the likely best chance scenario for extending Hosmer, is to wait 2 yrs,then assuming he puts up the digits we expect, try to sign him to something like 6 yrs/ 80-90M. It might cost a bit more that way, but not that much considering he will only make a few mil over the next 2 (500 grand, then at most say, 3 mil for 1st yr arb) and we would have the assurance of his now further established resume.

    Let me know what you think.

  • jim fetterolf

    @michael.allen.engel @benjammin9287 Ben, Michael, you both make a good case. I admit I’m on the Hosmer bandwagon and wouldn’t go ballistic over a ten year, $90 million deal, but would prefer to do it after this season. With the talent we have coming on, this is going to be a theme we revisit over the next few years as we approach our upper payroll limit dictated by market size. I would suggest that for both Hosmer and Gordon that a little front-loading would be a good thing, smooth out the spikes later when there is more competition for the payroll dollar from Moose, Perez, Duffy, Monty, JaKKKe, et al.

  • jim fetterolf

    @michael.allen.engel @benjammin9287 Ben, Michael, you both make a good case. I admit I’m on the Hosmer bandwagon and wouldn’t go ballistic over a ten year, $90 million deal, but would prefer to do it after this season. With the talent we have coming on, this is going to be a theme we revisit over the next few years as we approach our upper payroll limit dictated by market size. I would suggest that for both Hosmer and Gordon that a little front-loading would be a good thing, smooth out the spikes later when there is more competition for the payroll dollar from Moose, Perez, Duffy, Monty, JaKKKe, et al.

  • benjammin9287

    @jim [email protected] So, let me get this straight Jim, you want KC to sign Hosmer to a ten year 90M contract AFTER this year? So, basically thats 11 yrs, 90.5 mil….Sorry man, but you live in a fantasy land. I thought we were trying to be realistic here….You remind me of a friend of mine that suggested the Chiefs should trade Larry Johnson for 2 first round draft picks during his last season here.

  • benjammin9287

    @jim [email protected] So, let me get this straight Jim, you want KC to sign Hosmer to a ten year 90M contract AFTER this year? So, basically thats 11 yrs, 90.5 mil….Sorry man, but you live in a fantasy land. I thought we were trying to be realistic here….You remind me of a friend of mine that suggested the Chiefs should trade Larry Johnson for 2 first round draft picks during his last season here.