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Breaking down the best fit for Hosmer

First baseman drawing plenty of interest from multiple clubs
January 4, 2018

Eric Hosmer is pretty universally adored in baseball circles. He's a good player, a smart player, a leader, a winner, a spokesman -- all those lovely adjectives you look for. He also happens to be coming off his best offensive season.But when you attach a $200 million figure to Hosmer's

Eric Hosmer is pretty universally adored in baseball circles. He's a good player, a smart player, a leader, a winner, a spokesman -- all those lovely adjectives you look for. He also happens to be coming off his best offensive season.
But when you attach a $200 million figure to Hosmer's name, as his agent Scott Boras did earlier this offseason, well, the adoration drops a bit. Hosmer was probably the top position player in this open market, but his free agency has lingered into 2018 because of a high price tag, the difficulty of valuing his intangibles and a simple dearth of clubs looking for a first baseman.
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So, where will Hosmer ultimately land? Let's address the strongest possibilities.
Royals
Like Alex Gordon before him, could Hosmer be playing this long waiting game just to wind up where he began? USA Today has reported that the Royals have offered Hosmer seven years and $147 million. The Royals love him. The fans love him. He is an icon in Kansas City sports, and that's not a status to be taken lightly.
The Royals are retooling. Of that there is no doubt. But at 28, Hosmer is young enough to potentially be a part of this club's next true competitive window. Hey, maybe Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain linger in the market long enough that Dayton Moore decides to get the band back together.
But look, if we remove all emotion from the equation, there is potential opportunity cost in bringing Hoz back, for both parties. If all three of those guys sign contracts worth at least $50 million elsewhere, the Royals recoup three compensatory Draft picks immediately after the first round, which is important currency for a club in transition. And if things don't break right, if Kansas City finds itself mired in mediocrity for a while (the post-World Series glow has resulted in win totals of 81 and 80 games the past two years), Hosmer might find that "hometown" love has its limitations.

Padres
It was easy to be dismissive of the Padres' rumored interest in Hosmer early in the offseason, as we've certainly seen cases before of teams being floated as suitors purely for the benefit of the player's market. Quite obviously, Hosmer's arrival alone would not be enough to count the Padres as a clear contender in 2018. But the Friars are very much in on Hoz, reportedly, per USA Today, to the tune of seven years and $140 million.
General manager A.J. Preller knows what the Royals know -- that Hosmer is a guy who can make an impact on and off the field. It's easy to compare this situation to what we witnessed when the Nationals signed Jayson Werth to a seven-year, $126 million deal before the 2011 season. The Nats then, like the Padres now, were not ready to win, but they were ready to add a veteran who could have a positive impact on their young and emerging core. And as with K.C., Hosmer's age means it's reasonable to assume he'll have some good years left in him by the time S.D. is truly built to win. But the Padres only had three two-win (per Baseball Reference WAR) position players last year, and one of them was first baseman William Myers (who was moved from the outfield for a reason). So this is all a little bit weird.

Money talks. And with Kansas City in particular, familiarity talks, too. So maybe Hosmer isn't spooked by the specter of playing for a club whose 2018 contention efforts are less-than-earnest. But if he wants to win right now, let's talk about the ...
Cardinals
Though we haven't yet heard a dollar figure, as we have with the Padres and Royals, the Cards are still in on Hosmer, according to MLB Network Insider Jon Paul Morosi. If that's true -- and the Cards are cool with the idea of moving Matt Carpenter back to third base (or a super utility role) in lieu of adding a third baseman -- this would seem to be the best fit for this player at this specific time (and not just because Hosmer wouldn't have to change his Missouri license plates).
The Cards have won 86 and 83 games the past two seasons, which, by their lofty standards, is an abomination. As a result, they have been one of the more aggressive teams in an otherwise slow-moving marketplace, swinging a big trade for Marcell Ozuna in the outfield and adding Luke Gregerson to the bullpen. There is still more to be done if St. Louis is going to narrow the gap between it and the Cubs, but there is room in the long-term budget for a major free-agent foray, and the Cardinals can offer Hoz a better standings projection situation than the Padres or Royals can.
Making Hosmer the signature piece of your lineup is an iffy proposition, given the inconsistency of his offensive production. But pairing him with Ozuna changes that equation. Hosmer isn't your prototypical power bat at first base, but his .385 on-base percentage last year is indicative of his ability to extend innings and lengthen a lineup. The Cards could still use some of that.

The "mystery" market
When the Red Sox replaced Mitch Moreland with … Mitch Moreland, that eliminated one of the most obvious opportunities for Hosmer. The Phillies signed Carlos Santana, the Indians added Yonder Alonso, the Nats signed Matt Adams and the Mariners traded for Ryon Healy. A market that was loaded with first basemen and short on contenders who weren't set on first base means there aren't many obvious spots for Hosmer at this stage.
But here are a few purely speculative possibilities:
Rockies? They could have Ian Desmond in the outfield to accommodate a first baseman, which is what surprisingly ended up happening when the now-free-agent Mark Reynolds recorded 30 homers and 97 RBIs in 2017. But the Rox committed so much money to their bullpen ($106 million for Wade Davis, Bryan Shaw and Jake McGee) that it's hard to see them making another big-ticket acquisition of this ilk.
Blue Jays?Justin Smoak had a career year, but is it repeatable? Possibly not, but Toronto is primarily looking for outfield help.
Angels? They've been able to reshape their roster without drastically raising their payroll, and Hosmer represents a likely upgrade over the current Albert Pujols/C.J. Cron/Luis Valbuena hodgepodge. But another long-term expenditure doesn't seem to be on the horizon.

Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.