The meeting will come soon, if it hasn’t happened already, and it does not figure to last long. It will focus on the basics — the plan, the dollars, the years, and more — and then the offseason will continue. In some ways, it will be mere formality.
The Royals will convene with agent Scott Boras and discuss the future of first baseman Eric Hosmer. The contents of the meeting will underscore the core theme of the most intriguing offseason in years.
The Royals, in the midst of transition and facing an exodus of stars, are still focused on re-signing Hosmer to a long-term deal. As the calendar pushes toward December, they will attempt to do something that the industry once deemed unlikely: Sign a homegrown star for more than $100 million and acquire a pillar for the franchise’s next rebuild.
Royals general manager Dayton Moore acknowledges the challenge. The market for Hosmer could explode beyond numbers that make sense in Kansas City. Club officials cannot predict the future, nor will they publicly close the door on a reunion with third baseman Mike Moustakas, also a Boras client, and center fielder Lorenzo Cain, the other two members of the big three. Yet as Moore and his top lieutenants spent their second day at the GM Meetings at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando on Tuesday, they prepared to monitor the market for Hosmer while acknowledging the possible roadblocks.
“We’ll see what the market dictates,” Moore said. “We’ll stay engaged with our current free agents. But I’m not sure if it’s at the levels that everyone’s talking about. It may be extra challenging for us, truthfully.”
The challenge will come via the possible competition. The Boston Red Sox are in need of a first baseman and a middle-of-the-order bat. They are thought to be interested in Hosmer and free agent J.D. Martinez, a power-hitting outfielder who hit 45 homers in 2017.
Other suitors could surface, too, teams that could outbid the Royals and end Hosmer’s tenure in Kansas City. The Yankees are seeking to stay under the $197 million luxury tax and have a young first baseman in Greg Bird. But they are also still the Yankees. And Boras remains a master at marketing and selling his players.
For now, Moore is hopeful the market will stay in a realistic range.
“The truth of the matter is, it wouldn’t surprise me if some of our players received offers that are beyond our level,” Moore said.
The case for Hosmer remains a simple one. He batted a career-high .318 with a .385 on-base percentage and 25 homers this season. His .882 OPS ranked ninth among American League hitters. His 4.1 wins above replacement ranked first among AL first baseman, according to the FanGraphs version of the statistic. And the metrics offer just a slice of the package.
Inside the clubhouse, Hosmer offers leadership and stability. At age 28, he is young enough to sign a long-term deal in Kansas City and be part of the organization’s next window to contend.
The Royals will seek to sell Hosmer on this vision. A return to Kansas City may not offer the best opportunity to win right away. This seems obvious. Even if Hosmer signs a long-term deal, the club will likely seek creative ways to rebuild and restock the organization with talent, aiming to contend again by 2020 or 2021. Yet the Royals can offer the chance to burnish a legacy that was first established with consecutive World Series appearances in 2014 and 2015, a parade in downtown and a deep connection to a fan base starved for success.
For now, the Royals remain open to all possibilities. If the market for Hosmer escalates beyond their means, they will likely eschew significant expenditures this offseason and seek to start a full-scale rebuild. They are unlikely to pursue Moustakas or Cain as a sole acquisition this offseason.
Moustakas is likely to seek a contract close to $100 million, while Cain will turn 32 in April. In addition, the Royals have a possible internal replacement at third base in Cheslor Cuthbert.
“When we assess our team, we’ve got to do it in the context of what we have on the horizon,” Moore said. “Who do we have that can possibly transition into the major leagues? And that’s going to dictate how aggressively we pursue certain free agents.”
For now, the ideas and plans are simply “concepts”, Moore says. The Royals met with many agents this week. They entertained many scenarios.
“There’s not a clear vision in what we can accomplish at this point,” Moore said. “There’s no clear path.”
The market for Hosmer could dictate that path. For the moment, the Royals will wait on their future.