Eric Hosmer's Career Disintegrated in Stunning Fashion
The Chicago Cubs designated Eric Hosmer for assignment on Friday, five months after the Boston Red Sox released him. That followed the San Diego Padres paying $44 million of his salary in a trade to Boston last year. Hosmer is a former All-Star, who was a revered clubhouse leader on a World Series champion and massively respected around Major League Baseball. In a few short years he's become unplayable. It's been a stunning fall.
Hosmer was never a darling of the analytics crowd as a hitter, and rightfully so. He was a heavy groundball guy from the left side and in the world of the shift, that type of approach was poison to stats. His final year with the Kansas City Royals, in 2017, was the best of his career. He hit a career-high 25 home runs and drove in 94 runs, while posting career-highs in batting average (.318), on-base percentage (.385) and (at the time) slugging (.498). His .882 OPS would be the best he'd ever post and his fWAR (3.8) was similarly his best. Those numbers earned him a Silver Slugger and he also took home his fourth Gold Glove Award at first base.
That performance earned him an eight-year, $144 million deal from the Padres, who were looking for a clubhouse leader on a team that was poised to have a lot of young talent. The idea was that even if Hosmer reverted back having one good season every two, his leadership would help the young guys and he'd play great defense at first. He promptly fell off a cliff.
The Padres thought they were getting an elite first baseman and instead his awful work around the bag was meme'd to death. His offense never lived up to those 2017 numbers and since signing that contract his relative value has swung wildly in the wrong direction. In 2018, his fWAR was -0.5, in 2019 it fell to -0.9, in the shortened 2020 season it was 0.8, in 2021 it was 0.6 and between San Diego and Boston in 2022 it was 0.3. In 31 games for the Cubs in 2023 it was -0.4. All-in-all, since signing that big contract with the Padres in 2018, Eric Hosmer's fWAR is -0.1. That's just sad.
Remember, this is a guy who was a no-brainer inclusion on Team USA's 2017 World Baseball Classic-winning squad and was named to the All-Tournament team. He was an All-Star and had been a huge clubhouse presence on the Kansas City Royals' 2015 World Series-winning club. He was 28 when he signed that deal with the Padres and should have been in the middle of his prime. The fact that he fell apart and couldn't even come close to maintaining his value is pretty stunning.
The biggest issue for Hosmer is that he never altered his extreme groundball approach at the plate. With the baseball world embracing launch angle, he never did the work to adapt. Instead he stuck with what had worked in the past. This season with the Cubs, his average launch angle was 0.5 degrees, lower than his already low career average of 3.2 degrees. His inability to change with the times has ultimately led to his career falling apart.
It's hard to see another MLB team picking Hosmer up. Maybe he'll get a minor league shot, or maybe he'll head overseas. He's got plenty of money from that massive contract, so maybe he ends up retiring and moving into coaching or broadcasting. Either way, at 33, Hosmer's once-sparkling career has completely disintegrated.