Back in July, there was a rumor that, among the Padres’ many efforts at the Trade Deadline, they were going to try to move first baseman Eric Hosmer and his contract. Since doing so would be possible only if the Padres, in addition to eating a big portion of that contract, sent along a quality prospect or two, I did some speculating about how the Cubs should get in on that.
Nothing really came of it, though, as the Padres held onto Hosmer, did not add to their rotation at the deadline, and then swooned as hard as any team outside of Chicago in the second half.
BUT IT TURNS OUT that the Cubs and Padres *did* have conversations about Hosmer back in July, as Jon Heyman noted a couple weeks later, and as Sahadev Sharma raises again today. While it’s interesting enough to learn about what was discussed and what might have happened, it’s important to note it because of what it suggests about the Cubs’ willingness to take on a bad contract to “buy” a prospect, AND what could happen with the Padres, specifically:
But Hoyer could also take advantage of his limited payroll commitments by being creative and taking on contracts that are weighing down other teams. The Cubs and Padres briefly talked last summer about a deal built around Eric Hosmer and Anthony Rizzo where San Diego would include a prospect. It never got very far along, but perhaps that’s something that could be revisited if the Padres can make it worth Hoyer’s time.
Obviously Rizzo is long gone, but the thrust of a deal would remain the same. It would be about getting a very good prospect return in exchange for taking on some of the four years and $60 million remaining on his deal. We’ve talked about that principle generally, and it’s something the Cubs are in a uniquely strong position to do right now.
Ideally, you consider these kinds of deals where you could still use the big league player, even if you’re accepting that he’s on a wildly overpriced contract. Could the Cubs actually use Hosmer?
Well, from a positional perspective, sure. With the DH arriving in the National League next year, the Cubs can be considered, at the moment, to be wholly without a first baseman. Frank Schwindel and Alfonso Rivas could operate as a platoon there if the Cubs stayed entirely in-house, but Schwindel could just as easily see time at DH, and Rivas could just as easily see time at Triple-A Iowa. There’s a spot there for Hosmer at first base.
But would Hosmer even justify starts at first base? Hosmer, 32, is not some kind of super elite defensive first baseman (he’s adequate), and his bat has been famously average overall since arriving in San Diego (which, for a non-elite defender, is unacceptable at first base).
That said, he’s always hit righties much better than lefties (120 wRC+ against righties, 79 against lefties), and that trend has held in recent years. He might still be a decent bat against righties, so if you were talking about a platoon situation – and maybe you get more sophisticated than pure L/R to use him in even better match-ups – it’s not the worst option in the world.
If the Padres ate enough of that salary to turn Hosmer into, say, a $12 million per year guy? Again, overpriced. Without question. But tolerable?
On the whole, Hosmer is probably less “useful” to the Cubs than an equivalent outfielder or shortstop or reliever or starting pitcher would be. I’m sure he fits better with the Cubs than most teams, but even for the Cubs, there would have to be a recognition that he might become a bench-only guy by 2023, and then a possible release candidate the year after that.
In other words, acquiring Hosmer would have to be about the prospect return. And it would have to be significant, since Hosmer’s value is so small in his own right. If you argued that Hosmer was worth, say, two years and $10 million in free agency, then you’re having to bridge an ENORMOUS gap with prospect currency. We’re talking clear top 100 types. You can bet the Cubs would want 2020 number 8 overall pick Robert Hassell, and maybe much more.
That is all to say, this is a pretty tough one when you start drilling down. I love the idea of the Cubs leveraging their unique position to be able to pick up prospects, but I just think Hosmer’s value is so diminished at this point that the volume of prospect currency the Padres would have to send is going to be too much for them to realistically play ball.
This is worth keeping an eye on, though, since there were talks in the past and it’s the TYPE of move each of the Padres and Cubs are going to want to make. Maybe the Cubs see certain platoon values in Hosmer that I can’t see on a superficial review. Maybe they want another high-contact bat. Maybe they love his presence in the clubhouse. And maybe the Padres really are willing to include so much cash and prospect currency that the Cubs wouldn’t even care if they had to release Hosmer within a year.