Agent Scott Boras laid out a case for Eric Hosmer on Wednesday, describing the free-agent first baseman as an elite talent that can help a team reach “Playoffville,” the place where all franchises aspire to live.
In a lengthy session with reporters at the general managers’ meetings at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando, Boras dwelled upon the “Playoffville” theme, stating that teams should welcome paying higher “property taxes” if they wish to live among baseball’s upper crust. In a colorful performance of salesmanship, Boras said Hosmer, a 28-year-old who helped the Royals to a World Series championship in 2015, profiled as “Playoffville Federal Express.”
“For any franchise,” Boras said, “whether you’re a ‘now’ team, you’re a ‘two-year’ team, or you’re a ‘three-year’ team as far as when you hope to arrive to Playoffville, he’s been ‘Playoffville Federal Express.’ He can be overnight delivery — one-day, two-day, whatever. He fits every franchise.”
Boras’ gushing praise was hardly unexpected. In free agency, hyperbole is the coin of the realm. Yet the comments offered a window into the market on the final day of meetings in Orlando. Hosmer is a free agent for the first time after posting the best season of his career in 2017, his seventh in Kansas City. Along with Arizona slugger J.D. Martinez, Hosmer projects as one of the top two position players on the market, just ahead of teammates Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakas, also represented by Boras.
In 162 games, Hosmer batted a career-high .318 with a .385 on-base percentage and 25 homers. In the last month, he has been awarded both a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Award, voted as the top offensive and defensive first baseman in the American League by a collection of managers and coaches.
The market for his services, however, remains somewhat intriguing for two reasons: An inconsistent offensive track record — he ranked just better than replacement level in 2016 — and a potential lack of competition.
A large percentage of big-market teams, including the Cubs, Dodgers, Blue Jays, Braves and Phillies, already have solutions at first base. When asked about Hosmer’s market on Wednesday, Boras predictably pushed back against that narrative.
“Eric Hosmer has a very dynamic market,” Boras said. “When a guy has just finished his 27-year-old season, and you’ve won a Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, you have a (World Series) ring on your finger, you’ve been to the World Series twice, you led the WBC (team) to the championship, you’re the All-Star MVP — who in their right mind does that at 27 years of age?”
The Royals are expected to pursue Hosmer this offseason, hoping to re-sign a franchise pillar who remains young enough to be part of the club's next rebuilding process. Their chief competition, at the moment, remains unclear. The Boston Red Sox are among the list of big-market teams in need of an upgrade at first base, while Boras indicated Wednesday that the market could expand, though he did not cite any specific teams, adhering to usual practice.
As he answered questions for nearly 40 minutes, Boras stuck to a common talking point: Major League teams, he says, are not spending enough of their revenues on major-league players. And clubs continue to pocket the money made on the rising value of franchises.
“Your opportunity to win increases substantially when you have more good players,” Boras said. “And the players are fully aware. The owners are aware. It’s good business to pay players — elite players — to the level of their revenues and the level of their increase in franchise value.”
The Royals’ franchise was valued at $950 million in 2017, according to Forbes Magazine. Owner David Glass purchased the club for $96 million in 2000. The club has fielded record payrolls for the last six seasons, including close to $146 million in 2017. But general manager Dayton Moore has said the payroll budget for the last two seasons has reflected anticipated playoff revenue. It is expected to decrease next season as the club transitions into the first stages of a rebuild.
“The last two years, we haven’t made the playoffs, and we’ve had the highest payroll in the history of the Kansas City Royals … and it hasn’t worked,” Moore said in September. “So it’s ultimately my responsibility to examine why and make better decisions going forward.”
For now, though, the Royals remain hopeful that Hosmer can fit in their future. That hope will likely hinge on where his market settles in the coming weeks. On Wednesday, Boras searched for metaphors as he touted his free agent clients. He cited the prodigious slugging of Martinez, the youth of Moustakas — a 29-year-old third baseman who could also command significant interest from clubs — and the playoff success of Cubs starter Jake Arrieta.
“A big squirrel with a lot of nuts in his trees,” Boras said.
He also touted the pedigree and leadership of Hosmer, who helped the Royals to two playoff appearances in his seven seasons and a world championship in 2015. Hosmer, he said, was a player who could help a team to October.
“Playoffville,” he said. “We’re going to move to the new neighborhood. Going to that neighborhood is probably going to provide a higher property tax. But it’s going to provide more benefits to all of our loved ones.”