Conventional wisdom says that you trade away good players to contending teams in order to receive prospects and/or money in return. But what if you could swing a trade to get a player from a contender while also getting prospects? That could be the case with Eric Hosmer, who still has four years at $18 million AAV on the eight-year, $144 million deal he signed with San Diego ahead of the 2018 season.
Hosmer will turn 32 in October and currently boasts a 96 wRC+, his third season out of four with the Padres in which he’s been below average. And you could attach an asterisk to last year’s 127 due to the short season. His 0.9 fWAR in 2020 brings him to a net zero for the Padres after negative showings in every other campaign with them. According to FanGraphs, Hosmer has created negative value both in the field and at the plate in three of the last four years.
That’s not a guy anyone would be looking to trade for under normal circumstances, but the Padres want to add talent while being somewhat mindful of payroll for the stretch run. That means trying to cut a little money from the budget if they can find a way to do it. Ken Rosenthal and Dennis Lin of The Athletic reported Monday that Hosmer’s name “has surfaced in recent trade discussions” as San Diego tries to create space on the roster and in the budget.
Because Hosmer’s production has been so poor, especially relative to his price tag, Rosenthal and Lin said the Padres “likely would have to attach significant prospect value” in order to move him. That’s where the Cubs come in, though this is a bit of a speculative stretch spurred by and
The Cubs’ payroll is only around $159 million this season, $40 million less than last year, and their luxury tax figure is about $28 million below the $210 million threshold. More importantly, they’re only on the hook for $43.5 million in actual obligations and less than $60 million toward the luxury tax for 2022. Regardless of what happens with the CBA, you can rest assured they’ve got plenty of room to accommodate Hosmer’s unwieldy deal.
They’d have even more room if Anthony Rizzo is traded, though that’s primarily about the roster spot because replacing Rizzo with Hosmer would be like putting square tires on your car. Even with his diminished offensive production, the Cubs’ captain has posted above-average wRC+ marks with positive fWAR. He’s also a tremendous asset to the community and organization, though Hosmer is a beloved presence in the locker room and would at least be solid in that sense.
This wouldn’t make sense as a straight-up swap, but you can see how it’d work if the Cubs really plan to move Rizzo rather than re-signing him. They could get prospects in return for Rizzo and along with Hosmer, thereby boosting the farm system and keeping a proven veteran at first base. Or they could just cut Hosmer, eat the remaining $59 million on his deal (actual, not AAV), and find a new first baseman.
That latter scenario probably isn’t a possibility given Tom Ricketts’ avowed distaste for “dead-weight losses,” but Hosmer’s recent production means he’s actually more valuable to the team by not playing. While I’m sure a lot of you might want to lump Jason Heyward into that same category, he’s produced positive value every season. Yes, even in 2021.
As unlikely as this is, I don’t think we can completely rule anything out as Jed Hoyer tries to find a path forward to a new competitive window.