Eric Hosmer and Freddie Freeman are extremely similar. Born six weeks apart in 1989, Eric is listed at 6’4″ and 220 lbs while Freddie is 6’5″ and 225 to throw us off the trail. Both play first base, and one of them just signed a big contract. It looks like Freeman is going to get and 8 year contract worth between $125 and 135 million. Now we have an idea what an extension for Hosmer would cost.
Freeman got a cup of coffee the year before Hosmer showed up and then played a full season in 2011 while Hosmer toiled in the minors for the first month. That changes things a little in their relative contract situations. Freeman is arbitration eligible this year and had the first free agency year slotted for 2017, and Hosmer is one year behind at 2015 arb elibible and 2018 for free agent status. The new Freeman contract is therefore buying out all arbitration years (14, 15, and 16), as well as 5 years of free agency.
Due to the length of the contract we are going to have to do a little guess-work. Based on this work from MLB Trade Rumors arbitration this year would have gotten Freddie $4.9 million. At 6 million or so per WAR (guessing) his 2013 would have been worth $30 million or so (5.4 bWAR and 4.8fWAR). Projections for 2014 are showing him worth another 4+ WAR, so his arbitration the next couple of years at that pace would be going up significantly.
Let’s give it a structure then of 5, 8, and 12 million for arb years, and then treat the rest as the buyout at 5 years and the remaining $100 million ($20 million per year). If you inflate WAR value by 5%, which is probably fairly conservative, $6 million per win in 2014 turns into 7 million by 2017 and almost 8.5 million by the end of the contract. In other words, during the non arbitration years Freeman only needs to be a 3 WAR player with a slight decreases in productivity for the duration to be worth his contract. That contract also ends when he turns 32, so good job Braves on grabbing only years prior to major declines in productivity.
Now to tie it back to Hosmer. Last year Freeman out OPSed Hosmer by almost 100 points, but if Eric approaches a .900 OPS this year he will be in a similar boat, albeit a year older, next off-season. It means that Hosmer’s arbitration years that are rapidly approaching are likely to cost the Royals somewhere in the $25 to 30 million
range since his projected stats for 2014 are not that far behind Freeman’s who might have been a little lucky last year. Then you need to tack $20 million or more for each year you want to buy out onto the deal. You want two of Hosmer’s free agent years now? It is going to cost you somewhere in the 6 years and $75ish million range. It might be a little cheaper since Freeman has slugged over .500 already at the big league level, but I bet Scott Boras doesn’t see it that way.
I do think Boras would be open to negotiating such a contract for Hosmer. That would sign him for his age 24 through 29, which would put him into free agency somewhere around his peak, meaning his best production levels might hit just before free agency and drive up his value. Is it worth it for the Royals to pursue such a thing? I absolutely think so. The gamble is paying $40 million or so for the last two years of the contract, but again, with inflation of the value of wins (and money for that matter) $40 million in 2018 and 2019 is likely to be about the right amount of money to pay for Hosmer’s numbers last year. That means that even if he doesn’t get any better it ends up being a good contract. The Braves took a bigger risk, but one that I think makes sense as long as the money is structured properly to take advantage of the inflation. As long as there are no major injuries (riskiest part?) or major skills declines, this sort of deal really works for both sides.