I’ve been hearing these rumblings about free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer being a target for the Boston Red Sox for months now. And now that we’ve entered the offseason, the rumors are racing once again. But in my opinion, Hosmer and the Red Sox just don’t feel like much of a match.
Hosmer is already 28, and coming off a season (as a first baseman, mind you) in which he hit .318/.385/.498 with 25 home runs. It wasn’t a bad year by any means, but it was also the finest offensive season of his career – his triple slash over his seven seasons in the majors is .284/.342/.439.
The Red Sox did not get much production from first base in 2017, which is why Hosmer is thought of as a fit. Their primary starter at first base this year was free agent Mitch Moreland, who struggled his way to a .246/.326/.443 line with 22 homers, inferior to Hosmer across the board.
But while Moreland struggled, he was far from the only member of the Red Sox offense to put together a disappointing offensive season. Center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr slid back to a .245/.323/.402 line following back to back above average seasons in 2015 and 2016 (though he spent half of the former season in AAA). DH Hanley Ramirez scuffled through the third year of his $88 million contract with a .242/.320/.429 line. Second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who will start the 2018 season on the DL, hit .293/.369/.392.
Yeah, Boston could use an upgrade at first base – but they could also use better offensive seasons from most of their lineup.
And it’s not as if Hosmer is going to come cheap, either. Hosmer’s agent, Scott Boras, has been hinting that his client wants a nine figure deal (deserved or not), and MLB Trade Rumors‘ predictions have Hosmer getting $132 million (from the Royals, of all teams) this winter.
The Red Sox actually do have money to spend this winter…kind of. Only six players have guaranteed contracts for 2018, but those six players will be making $115 million. Boston will also be paying Rusney Castillo and Pablo Sandoval a total of $30 million to not play for them, meaning that the Red Sox have $145 million in salary already committed following back to back seasons with a payroll of $197 million.
The fun doesn’t stop there in terms of salary, though. The Red Sox have 13 (yes, 13) players eligible for arbitration this offseason, including first timers Mookie Betts, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Christian Vazquez. Key contributors like Bradley, Xander Bogaerts, and Drew Pomeranz are also arb-eligible, and will receive raises on the $3.6 million, $4.5 million, and $4.45 million they all made last season.
You can see how this salary situation is already spiraling out of control for the Red Sox, even without adding Hosmer at (at the very least) $15 million per season. MLBTR’s arbitration projections have the Red Sox paying out $51 million to their arb-eligible players (though it’s likely some will be non-tendered this offseason), already pushing their payroll to the record levels of the last two seasons.
So yes, Eric Hosmer is a fit for the Red Sox…in theory. In reality, Boston will likely go in another direction to fill their hole at first base, perhaps with 24-year old prospect Sam Travis, who hit .270/.351/.375 with six homers in AAA this season before struggling over a 33 game stint in the majors. Bringing back Moreland is also an option, as is going with a cheaper free agent, like a Yonder Alonso, Lucas Duda, Logan Morrison, or even (again) Mike Napoli.
But Eric Hosmer? Don’t count on it. The math just doesn’t work for the Red Sox this winter.