On-the-rise Padres the best fit for Hosmer

Direction of franchise was important factor in 1B signing 8-year deal

February 20th, 2018

PEORIA, Ariz. -- On the back fields of the Peoria Sports Complex on Tuesday morning, Padres staff prepped for the first full-squad workout of 2018. In the nearby Colonnade room at Peoria Stadium, buttoned his home jersey and donned a Padres cap for the first time.

San Diego's 144-million-dollar man had arrived -- and just in time for the start of camp.

Spring Training information

The club formally introduced Hosmer on Tuesday morning, a day after the two parties put the finishing touches on a franchise-record eight-year contract. Hosmer spoke with the media for half an hour and got straight to work after that, taking grounders alongside his new teammates.

"Ultimately it came down to waiting and figuring out what the best fit was," Hosmer said. "I'm here and doing a press conference on the first day of Spring Training. ... I'm happy to get a deal done, talk to you guys and go play some baseball."

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The scene is a new one for Hosmer, who spent his first 10 professional seasons in the Royals organization. There, he won a World Series, two American League pennants and four Gold Glove Awards, while amassing a .284/.342/.439 slash line and 127 homers.

Hosmer has already helped bring an elusive World Series to one title-starved franchise. The Padres, he says, are on the same path.

"I just saw the direction the organization was going," Hosmer said. "I saw the people at the top of the mountain who were leading the organization. I bought into what they're trying to do here."

Hosmer's contract is worth $144 million with $105 million due before his opt-out after the 2022 season. It's easily the largest guarantee in Padres history, surpassing ' contract by $61 million and more than doubling ' record free-agent deal.

The contract includes a $5 million signing bonus, $20 million a year in salary from 2018-22 and $13 million a year in salary from 2023-25. Hosmer has a full no-trade clause through 2020, and he'll have a limited no-trade clause from 2021-25, though he will have 10/5 veto rights starting in 2023 if he remains with the Padres.

The reason for the commitment? Hosmer is viewed as the turning point for a franchise headed toward annual contention. At 28, Hosmer was the youngest major free agent available, and the Padres believe his prime will mesh perfectly with the arrival of their talented youngsters.

Already, Myers, , and are under team control through 2022. The Padres also own one of the game's elite farm systems, featuring six of MLB Pipeline's Top 50 prospects.

"In terms of the term and the length, that was what was really attractive about Eric," said Padres general manager A.J. Preller. "He's a 28-year-old free agent. Ultimately, we're looking at a guy that is going to bridge the current group and the future groups. ... He's going to be a stabilizing force for us. He's a pillar in the ground."

Added Padres manager Andy Green: "We feel great about where we are and having him in the fold. ... He fits in perfectly."

The Hosmer deal was made with one eye on the future. Any success for the Padres in 2018 would be considered ahead of schedule. That's where Hosmer's career trajectory comes into play.

"If it wasn't Eric, with all the qualities he has, I don't know that we'd have done this this year," said Padres executive chairman Ron Fowler. "But this guy checked every box. He's a good player, a leader in the clubhouse, has a lot of qualities that A.J. and Andy wanted. ... This guy was maybe the one guy that we were prepared to go after a year or two early. That's how good we think he is."

In San Diego, Hosmer will wear No. 30, a way to honor former teammate Yordano Ventura, who passed away tragically last offseason. (Hosmer's old number, 35, is retired in San Diego for legendary left-hander Randy Jones.) On Tuesday, Hosmer spoke of his desire to carry on Ventura's legacy, and he spoke lovingly about his seven seasons in Kansas City.

But for all his success there, Hosmer has made a few memories in San Diego, too. He earned All-Star Game MVP honors in 2016, and last spring, he starred at the World Baseball Classic. Hosmer was asked what he likes so much about playing in Petco Park.

"I think Petco Park likes me," he joked. "Every time I go there, it seems to work out."

It's his home office now. Over the next eight years, he'll undoubtedly make a few more memories in San Diego's East Village.