The #hotstove has been downright frigid for most of the winter. The Winter Meetings did kick up some activity, but not the heavy-hitting kind. J.D. Martinez is still out there. So are Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta and Lance Lynn. A trio of former Royals remain on the market in Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer, with the latter the prominent name we’ve heard floated around. The Diamondbacks aren’t in the market for Hosmer, but his market should be important to the team nonetheless.
Hosmer came up at the tender age of 21 and has spent seven seasons in Kansas City where he helped the Royals win a World Series in 2015, ending the franchise’s 30-year drought. That was a memorable campaign, no doubt, and the first baseman played a large enough role in the team’s success. He managed a triple slash line of .297/.363/.459 in 2015, but he hit just 18 home runs in 158 games. His wRC+ of 124 was then a career high. In 2017, he turned it up a notch, hitting 25 home runs and posting a wRC+ of 135 in his walk year.
Unfortunately, 2016 also happened. So did 2014 and 2012. Hosmer has his own kind of “even year magic” going on and for all that he’s been, he hasn’t exactly been consistent.
The 28-year old has posted just 11.1 fWAR during his seven-year tenure in KC, highlighted above by peaks and valleys. That hasn’t scared teams off, apparently.
Report: The Royals have made a seven-year, $147 million offer to Eric Hosmer https://t.co/ztdYY8vq7q
— HardballTalk (@HardballTalk) January 3, 2018
The Padres reportedly offered Hosmer a seven-year contract worth $140 million. The Royals tacked an additional $7 million on to that figure when they made their latest offer. That seems like a lot of money for a guy with a track record of instability at the plate and limited power output as home run totals continue to escalate around him. 54 players hit more than 25 home runs last season. 16 of those players were first baseman. Hosmer doesn’t strike out much and can get on base at a good clip (at times), but $21 million per year for a first baseman who doesn’t hit for as much power as his peers seems like a lot. After all, power is traditionally the calling card at first and Hosmer breaks the mold a bit, though not necessarily in a good way. It should be noted that he also doesn’t rank as a good defensive first baseman by defensive metrics, for whatever that’s worth.
I bring all of this up because, well, the Diamondbacks are going to have their own quandary at first base sooner rather than later. Paul Goldschmidt will be with the D-backs through 2019 — barring a trade — which now doesn’t feel all that far away. Goldy is two years older than Hosmer, and with two years of team control remaining, he’ll be 32 when he hits the open market. That’s a full four years older than Hosmer is now, so an apples-to-apples comparison is out of the question. But let’s look at the same chart for Paul Goldschmidt.
It’s important to keep the scale of performance in mind here. Sure, Goldschmidt has had his own little dips in performance, but those have been variances between being an MVP candidate and simply an All-Star. Hosmer has fluctuated between All-Star and replacement level. In the same number of seasons (7), Goldschmidt has been worth 31.6 fWAR. That’s 20.5 fWAR more than Hosmer in the same timeframe as both debuted in 2011. By the way, Hosmer has played 124 more games than Goldy, too. So yeah, you could say that Paul Goldschmidt is a far superior player, which you surely know.
The simple question is this: if Eric Hosmer is soliciting offers of 7/147 right now, what will Paul Goldschmidt be offered two years from now when salaries are even higher? As noted above, he’ll be entering his age-32 season when he becomes a free agent, not his age-28 season as is the case for Hosmer. Those four years are a big deal. One could expect Hosmer to hold steady for the next five years or so, but will teams expect Goldschmidt to hold steady from the ages of 32-36? The 2017 NL MVP finalist hasn’t shown any particular signs of slowing down, and if he doesn’t taper off in the next two years, he should be in line for a massive payday.
Goldschmidt signed an extremely team-friendly extension back in 2014 and it’s unlikely he’d do it again. For all the financial security his extension gained him, he waived goodbye to a boatload of money in the process. If he were a free agent right now, which would be the case had he not inked his extension, he’d be a shoe-in to fetch more than Hosmer, Martinez or likely any other free agent available. Rightfully so, he should be looking to cash in the next time he hits the market.
The Diamondbacks can change all of that, though. The cash-strapped team is trying to contend again in 2018 before facing an eventual reality that will require parting with a multitude of big league pieces. Tough choices are ahead, but betting on Paul Goldschmidt might be the smartest thing they can do. The dilemma this offseason, at least publicly, has been whether to trade Zack Greinke in an effort to re-sign J.D. Martinez, but perhaps the dilemma should be whether to trade Greinke in an effort to, again, extend Goldschmidt. There’s reason to think he’ll age fairly well and he has the chance to be the rare Hall of Fame candidate to play his entire career as the face of a single franchise. On the field and off, Goldy is a huge asset for the organization.
So what does a fair extension look like? If Goldshmidt is something like a 4.5 to 5-win player right now and we’re conservative with his decline, perhaps we peg him for 25 to 30 wins over the next seven years. With his skill set, it wouldn’t be a shock to see him worth an average of 3.9-wins through his age-35 season. On the front end, he’ll be worth more. On the back end, he might fall below. That number feels right, and while that’s no deep, statistical analysis, we’ll roll with it for now. That kind of production is worth north of $200 million if you buy into the $/win framework (which has its issues), but even if you don’t that figure highlights the notion that Goldschmidt, even in decline, is a commodity with high value.
If Goldschmidt were on the market right now, he could command something like $25-28 million per season. MVP-caliber players don’t become free agents very often, especially in their prime which is where Goldy currently resides. So a contract for seven years and $180 or $195 may be a bit on the conservative side. Of course, he’s still under contract and owed $11 million this season and $14.5 million in 2019. That $25.5 million is a sunk cost, however, and can be factored into a possible extension almost like a discount since the team will be paying him that money anyways.
Would bumping his $11 million salary this season to $18 million and his 2018 salary from $14.5 million to $22 million convince him to sign for $24 million per season for five years after that? If so, that would effectively expand the team’s payroll by $134.5 million over the next seven years. It’s a guarantee of $160 million total, but remember, their pretty much committed to $25.5 of that money anyways and a seven-year, $160 million deal for Goldschmidt would likely be well below what he could currently reap if he were a free agent. The team shouldn’t pay him like he’s a free agent now — because he’s not — but this type of deal does get them a bit of a discount as compared to market rate. As you can tell, we’re thinking aloud here and these figures are subject to slight changes, but the point remains: an extension is always cheaper than bidding on the open market, an idea a team like the D-backs are all too familiar with.
Another option is to let Goldschmidt play out the rest of his contract, then look to re-sign him. For argument’s sake, let’s presume he continues to produce like a 4.5 to 5-win player over the next two seasons. What would he fetch then? Would a team be willing to go seven years on a contract? Only six? Decline years might lay ahead, but if he enters his walk year coming from a strong campaign, would someone be willing to spend $27 million, $28 million, or even $30 million on him? Salaries aren’t going down between now and 2020. If he were to get a deal worth $27 million per season over six years, he’d get $162 million guaranteed.
The Diamondbacks can save themselves something like $16 million over the life of the deal by doing the extension outlined above, but get a year less of team control. That said, the year of team control they’d be giving up would be Goldschmidt’s age-38 season and that’s one worth passing on if given the choice. Does saving $16 million and mitigating some age-related risk make it worth their while? Is that worth betting he holds up and doesn’t decline or have a major injury in the next two years? I’m sure the team has their own models of how he’ll age and produce over time, and I’m sure this is a question they’ve broken down far more thoroughly than my spitballing here. Still, it’s worth our consideration.
Of course, there’s still a huge impediment on the books. Zack Greinke and an extended-Paul Goldschmidt can’t coexist on the same roster under the current payroll restraints. Offloading Greinke is paramount without taking too much back in the way of bad contract. To a lesser degree, the same can be said of Yasmany Tomas. Inking Goldshmidt in advance of offloading either of their bloated contracts would force their hand likely decrease their leverage in a deal to move Greinke (they have basically no leverage now with regards to Tomas). Everyone knows the purse strings are tight and the sharks would smell blood immediately. Mike Hazen is smarter than Kevin Towers in this regard (and probably a few others), not undercutting his own market with poor timing or public comments.
A deal to move Greinke seems unlikely at this point, but little has happened this winter. Some team will miss out on Darvish, Arrieta, and Lynn. Can the D-backs take advantage and swing a deal? If they did, they’d be saving the cash needed to re-sign Goldschmidt and perhaps have enough left over to add one piece back to the rotation, though likely a back-end type to keep the seat warm for a guy like Anthony Banda or, dare I say, Jon Duplantier. Shelby Miller will be back at some point, too. Losing Greinke would be a blow to the team’s pitching staff, but it could be mitigated to some degree.
It’s hard to say just how much of a priority re-signing Paul Goldschmidt is. Private conversations may or may not have happened. Dealing Greinke would surely have to happen first, and finding a team to take him on Arizona’s terms has likely proven difficult. But the winter’s not over, the bidding continues and opportunities may arise that haven’t as of yet. Mike Hazen hasn’t tipped his hand much to date and I don’t expect him to anytime soon. But keeping Paul Goldschmidt in Sedona Red seems like a prudent long-term play, especially if they can save some cash through another extension.
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