With the signing of Alex Gordon to a four year contract extension with a player option for a fifth a lot of talk and tweeting has gone on with regard to trying to get Eric Hosmer inked long-term as well.    Long-term is a relative term when talking about Hosmer.   Without doing anything but going to arbitration four times, the Royals will have Hosmer under team control through the 2017 season.

Given that, one might wonder why all the talk of a long-term deal.   After all, why not keep Hosmer on the cheap and spend money to fill other holes?   Why not make Hosmer truly prove himself over the next two to four years and then, once he is the superstar we think he will become, make a safer play for a long-term deal?

Well, first off, arbitration does not always equal cheap.   Ryan Howard, with two years of major league service under his belt, was awarded $10 million in arbitration back in 2008.  If Hosmer is the real deal, he could be the Royals’ highest paid player (on an annual basis) by 2014 despite what the Royals may want to do.

Secondly, Eric Hosmer’s agent is Scott Boras.   I have to be honest: I don’t hate Boras like many do.  If you were a player, you would freaking love Scott Boras.  If Scott Boras was your attorney, you would love him.  If you are a small market team, then Boras is not your guy.   He advocates playing the market:  if a player is good/great, go year to year and when you finally reach free agency, strike it big.

You want to wait until you are certain that Eric Hosmer is the real deal?  Then you have zero chance of signing him beyond 2017.   While Boras clients typically do not give up any of their free agency years, it is not an absolute.  Carlos Gonzalez signed a seven year $80 million deal with Colorado before the 2011 season with just over 300 major league games on his resume.   It can happen, but you better strike early.  Otherwise, the best the Royals can hope for is some two or three year deal that does not go beyond 2017 whose only purpose is to mitigate the arbitration hits.

You want Eric Hosmer in a Royals’ uniform beyond 2017?  Then you better strike early and you better strike big.   Scott Boras does not pick up the phone for a an 8 year/$80 million deal – not with Joey Votto’s new contract hanging out there in space.   Not when his client will be just 28 when he hits free agency after the 2017 season.   

Fast forward to 2017.   What do you think the Angels might pay for Hosmer as Albert Pujols slides into permanent DH territory?  Or the Yankees with Mark Teixeira deep into his late thirties?  What if 2017 happens to be one of the years where the Marlins are in ‘buy mode’?   Would they not love to bring the Florida born Hosmer back home for a championship run?  The market for what we hope to be a perennial All-Star by then could be ridiculously feverish.  Hell, Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera will both be in their mid-thirties by then. What would Detroit pay to not have Hosmer bashing against them anymore?

We, of course, have no idea what the revenue situation will be in baseball in 2017 and more particularly what state the Royals will be in.   If The Process goes as planned, Kansas City will be a team that has contended for four or five years in a row.   Attendance will be up, merchandise sales will be up and, with any luck, the Royals will be one of the ‘hip’ teams, like they were in the seventies and eighties.   All of that will come into play, but that is then and not now.

What we know right now is what the Royals have committed in salary over the next few years:

  • 2013 – $33.75 million (Butler, Francoeur, Gordon, Chen, Arguelles, Escobar, Perez and 750k buyout of Soria)
  • 2014 – $23.5 million (Butler, Gordon, Arguelles, Escobar, Perez)
  • 2015 – $29.75 million (Butler, Gordon, Escobar, Perez – assumes club option exercised on Butler)
  • 2016 – $19.75 million (Gordon, Escobar, Perez – assumes Gordon exercises player option, club exercises Escobar option)
  • 2017 – $10.25 million (Escobar, Perez – assumes club option exercised on Perez)
  • 2018 – $5 million (Perez)

Obviously, that is some decent change for a small handful of players.   Throughout the 2013 to 2018 era, Mike Moustakas will hopefully emerge and could himself get costly via arbitration.  If Dayton Moore is living right, Lorenzo Cain will do the same and eventually Wil Myers.   Then there’s the pitching.  

What if Luke Hochevar really becomes the guy we saw in the second half of last season?  Do you lock him down for a three or four year period and, if so, at what cost?  One has to hope that someone from the Duffy/Montgomery/Dwyer/Lamb/Odorizzi group becomes good enough to get really expensive (I’ll take two personally and sell some Walmart stock to pay for them!).

All of the above (with the exception of Hochevar, maybe) are a step or two or even three behind Hosmer:  both in timing and potential.   If Hosmer emerges this season as a star, my inkling is that Dayton Moore has one winter to hit Scott Boras with a deal that he might consider.   One chance to make the most daring, easily the riskiest and yet possibly best deal of Dayton Moore’s career.

The Reds were not budget minded or logical, but they ensured that Joey Votto will be a Red for every meaningful year of his career.  They paid out the nose in no small part because they watched Votto post four big seasons before making their move.  The Royals could theoretically lock up Hosmer for ten years – ten younger years than Votto’s deal – and do so for much less money if they act sometime in the next ten months.

Ten years – $160 million.

That’s a number.  That is three times what the Royals would have ever committed to a player.   That is a number that just might make Scott Boras pick up the phone – especially if you call him at the end of July.   It is a horrible, horrible risk.   Hosmer could get pull happy and hit .231 in 2015.  He could suffer a lingering wrist injury that zaps his power and turns his upside into Casey Kotchman (no offense, Casey, you are fine major league ballplayer, but not worth $16 million a year).

That’s a number and a commitment that will make the grumpy old baseball men grumble and spit.  It is a number that might make the bloggers miles from ‘the dirt’ wonder exactly how you fill out the rest of the roster.   It is  a number that cannot be calculated using Polk Points and would be difficult to rationalize on the side of a Pop Tart carton.

Yet, it is a contract, that could be an absolute steal for the Kansas City Royals.   Even better if Moore could convince Boras and Hosmer to take a little less in 2013 and 2014 (say $7 million) and a little more in the last two years.   It is a contract that could change the face of the franchise and how it is thought of throughout the rest of the country.

Assuming Eric Hosmer has a big season in 2012, it is a contract that I would offer well before the start of next spring.

xxx