Brewers finalize two-year deal with Hoskins

January 26th, 2024

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers picked up a big bat to fill the biggest hole on their roster, finalizing a two-year, $34 million agreement with former Phillies first baseman on Friday that includes an opt-out after the first season and a mutual option for 2026.

It'll be a redemption tour for Hoskins, who was a fan favorite in Philadelphia before missing all of last season after tearing his left ACL in Spring Training. The injury interrupted what had been a terrific run of production; from the date of his Major League debut in August 2017 through the end of 2022, Hoskins ranked among the National League leaders in home runs (fourth, 148), RBIs (fourth, 405), extra-base hits (fourth, 304), walks (fifth, 388), total bases (seventh, 1,195) and doubles (eighth, 149).

That's just the production the Brewers were looking for as they considered first base candidates.

"We are excited to add the power bat, leadership and experience of Rhys Hoskins to our lineup," Brewers GM Matt Arnold said in the club's announcement of the deal, which was finalized after Hoskins passed a physical exam in Milwaukee. "Rhys is a proven winner who has worked tirelessly to get back on the field, and we look forward to his return to action this season."

According to reporting from the Associated Press, Hoskins will earn anywhere from $16 million in one season to $48 million over three seasons under the terms of the deal. Per the AP, he gets a $12 million base salary in 2024 and an $18 million salary in '25, with a chance to opt out following year one. If he does opt out if the contract at that point, Hoskins would get a $4 million buyout payable Feb. 1, 2026, the AP reported.

If Hoskins doesn't opt out and remains with the Brewers for 2025, then there would be an $18 million mutual option for '26. If that option is declined, the AP reported, Hoskins would get a $4 million buyout.

Though there were rumors he might return to the Phillies for the playoffs last season, Hoskins never did make it back to the field. The righty-hitting slugger was a potential pinch-hitting option if the Phillies made the World Series, but he was not on the NLCS roster and could only watch as Philadelphia fell to Arizona in seven games. Hoskins’ knee should be fully healed for 2024, but he might be rusty from the long layoff.

But even a rusty Hoskins is a solid option. The first baseman, who turns 31 on March 17, owns a career .846 OPS and a slugging percentage of just below .500. He has averaged 36 home runs per 162 games, topping out at 34 homers in his first full season, 2018. Hoskins’ production dipped a bit in 2022, as he posted a .246/.332/.462 slash line with 30 homers and 79 RBIs.

Statcast metrics still looked favorably on Hoskins’ hitting in his most recent season. He ranked in the 70th percentile or above in nearly every offensive category, including expected wOBA (75th), barrel rate (78th) and chase rate (81st). Hoskins led the National League with 116 walks in 2019, although his once-elite walk rate came down in 2021 and ‘22. While he is an above-average hitter, Hoskins is a poor defender, ranking 33rd of 36 qualified first basemen in Outs Above Average in 2022.

That would make him an outlier on a Brewers team that led the National League in defensive runs saved last season, and got even better in the second half thanks to Trade Deadline pick-up and Gold Glove Award finalist Carlos Santana at first base. Hoskins’ bat appears worth the trade-off; Brewers first basemen ranked 28th of 30 teams last season in wRC+ (81), which is an overall measure of offensive production, and also ranked 28th with a .681 OPS.

Hoskins could also help with another problem: hitting lefties. He owns a career OPS of .921 against left-handed pitchers, who have held the Brewers to an .704 OPS in 2021 (23rd), .674 in 2022 (23rd) and .730 in 2023 (16th).

While Hoskins has also played some left field in his career, the Brewers will play him at first base and occasionally use him as the designated hitter. The Brewers have typically spread DH duties around rather than employ one batter in that role.

A fifth-round Draft pick out of Sacramento State in 2014, Hoskins performed well enough in the Minor Leagues to earn some hype as a prospect by the time he made his debut in 2017. All he did that year was slug 18 home runs in 50 games, including a record 10 homers in his first 17 career contests. Despite batting just .159 in his postseason debut in 2022, Hoskins provided pop for the Phillies, slugging a three-run shot off Spencer Strider in the NLDS and homering four more times in the Phils’ NLCS win over the Padres.