Healthy Hoskins soon to be 'bored' no more

January 29th, 2024

MILWAUKEE -- Healthy? Check.

Motivated? Check.

After signing with the Brewers, is ready to roll into the next phase of his power-packed career.

“I’m pretty bored as a competitor, not having played in so long,” Hoskins said.

The Brewers formally introduced the slugging first baseman on Monday, three days after finalizing a free-agent contract that could be worth anywhere from $16 million for one season to $34 million over two seasons to $48 million over three seasons, depending on whether Hoskins exercises an opt-out following the first year, and whether the sides agree to pick up a mutual option following the second year.

That kind of flexibility worked for both sides since Hoskins underwent an ACL repair in his left knee last March and missed the 2023 season. He and agent Scott Boras sought an opportunity with a contender for Hoskins to re-establish himself as an impact hitter -- he hit 36 home runs per 162 games with the Phillies from 2017-22. The Brewers, meanwhile, needed right-handed power and somebody who could play first base.

“Milwaukee was always a great paper fit,” Hoskins said.

How’s his health?

“It’s been a nice offseason for me in the sense of it’s one of my first in the last couple of years where I haven’t felt like a rehabber,” Hoskins said. “I really have been on a normal offseason strength program.

“There’s definitely still some things that I’ve had to accomplish over the offseason to progress with the rehab, but Feb. 1 will be coming up on 10 1/2 months, 11 months, so by the time I get to Arizona for spring -- I’m sure I’ll be eased back in because it’s been a year since I’ve been on the field, but I really should have little to no limitations once the games start, which is exciting for me. I’ll be stoked to get on the field.”

While fielding offers, Hoskins said he only considered contenders. He liked that the Brewers have been to the postseason in five of the past six years. He liked the idea of hitting at American Family Field, where in a small sample of 42 plate appearances, he owns a .342/.405/.790 slash line. And he liked the idea of no longer digging into the batter’s box against Corbin Burnes, Freddy Peralta and what has been a tough Brewers pitching staff.

The Brewers have fielded incoming calls about Burnes as he heads into his final season before free agency. Shortstop Willy Adames, too. But since they remain with the team a little more than two weeks before pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training, investing in Hoskins on a short-term, high-dollar contract made sense as Milwaukee seeks to defend the National League Central crown.

“When there are opportunities,” Brewers GM Matt Arnold said, “we want to try to strike.”

With Hoskins in the fold, the Brewers have four players earning eight-figure salaries -- Christian Yelich, Burnes, Adames and Hoskins -- and a projected Opening Day payroll of $117 million, according to Fangraphs’ estimate. When you add estimates for call-ups, benefits and other costs, Fangraphs estimates the Brewers’ payroll for luxury-tax purposes at $149,533,081. That represents a rise from the end of last year.

“We’re trying to win as many games as we can here this year and in the long run, and so that’s a tricky thing for us to balance,” said Arnold, whose biggest investment this winter was an eight-year, $82 million guarantee for top prospect Jackson Chourio, a record for a player who has yet to spend a day in the Major Leagues. “When you’re able to [bring] veterans here with the type of track record that Rhys has, that’s really exciting. Candidly, I wasn’t sure we were going to be able to access a player like him.

“I couldn’t be more excited to have this type of profile here because he fits so well. It’s just the type of player that we’ve needed.”