I was on a Kansas City radio station on Monday to talk about my new book, "Smart Baseball," when the hosts sprung a question on me for which I'd done no advance preparation: What kind of contract did I think Eric Hosmer would get in free agency this winter? On maybe two seconds of thought, I said, "Two years, $20 million."
I think that answer took the hosts aback. But if you think he's getting more than that, then you have to answer this question: Exactly what teams are going to pay him that kind of coin?
First base is an easy position to fill from within. You can always move a corner outfielder or third baseman there if his defense isn't up to snuff, or if he's blocked and you want to get his bat in the lineup. When teams go for first basemen in free agency, it's typically for stars whom they project to have a big offensive impact.
Hosmer isn't that guy. He has averaged just under 1 WAR per 162 games in his career, and he's barely above a league-average hitter over that span, with a wRC+ of 105 (100 is average). Since the start of 2016, Hosmer ranks 23rd out of 28 qualified first basemen in wOBA (weighted on-base average) and 23rd in wRC+ too. Advanced defensive metrics like UZR have typically rated Hosmer a well below-average defender, but even if you ignore that and say he's just average there -- he's a very good athlete with a plus arm, and I once thought he could play right field -- the bat is clearly below average for first.
And there just isn't demand in the market for a below-average first baseman. Look at what every team has lined up for first base for 2018 and you'll see there just aren't many teams who are going to be looking for help at that position.
(Editor's note: Stats are through Wednesday, May 3.)
American League East
Baltimore Orioles: Chris Davis' contract might be longer than the half-life of a proton. They also have Trey Mancini, who has hit well in the early part of this season and can't play anywhere other than first, and Mark Trumbo, who's really just a DH but blocks Mancini from playing there.