Eric Hosmer Says He'll Enter Free Agency Without Royals Contract by Opening Day

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistFebruary 20, 2017

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 20: Eric Hosmer #35 of the Kansas City Royals reacts after the end of the top of the sixth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on September 20, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Jason Miller/Getty Images

With one more year remaining on his current deal, Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer is already looking ahead to 2018. 

Hosmer told Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal on Sunday he'll enter free agency next winter should he and the Royals fail to agree to a new contract by Opening Day.

"I don't know if it's going to heat up now in spring training," he said. "But during the season, I don't like being bothered with that stuff. If something doesn't happen here, I don't see anything during the season really happening."

According to Rosenthal, the Royals expect the 27-year-old and agent Scott Boras will want a 10-year deal.

Rosenthal noted Prince Fielder and Joey Votto signed for nine and 10 years, respectively, but that Hosmer hasn't compiled an offensive profile similar to those two players. 

Prince Fielder vs. Joey Votto vs. Eric Hosmer (Pre-Free Agency)
PlayerPAAVGOBPSLGOPSOPS+HRRBIWAR (Combined
Fielder4,210.282.390.540.92914323065616.8
Votto3,790.314.419.541.96015515753033.8
Hosmer3,722.277.335.428.76310710247210.1
Source: Baseball-Reference.com

In addition, neither situation has arguably justified such a significant investment.

Fielder's offense declined after he signed with the Detroit Tigers, and a neck injury forced him to retire last year. Votto's production has been more steady, but the rebuilding Cincinnati Reds are still saddled with his contract for another seven seasons, which is an albatross on their payroll.

Hosmer should be wary of overestimating his value on the open market. 

He had a career-high 25 home runs and 104 RBI in 2016, but his WAR fell to minus-0.2 from 3.4 in 2015, per FanGraphs.

His .266 batting average was the second-worst of his MLB career. He also dropped off significantly defensively. According to FanGraphs, he ranked 16th among 17 qualified first basemen in defensive runs saved (minus-six) and 15th in Ultimate Zone Rating per 150 games (minus-6.1).

Edwin Encarnacion was in a similar position to Hosmer last offseason. Poised to be one of the top sluggers on the free-agent market, he turned down a four-year offer from the Toronto Blue Jays last November that was worth around $80 million, according to FanRag Sports' Jon Heyman.

Encarnacion eventually signed with the Cleveland Indians for three years and $60 million. The contract has a $20 million club option in the fourth year, but Encarnacion, 34, has slightly less long-term stability than if he would've accepted Toronto's offer.

Assuming he and the Royals don't agree to a long-term extension, Hosmer will be one of the top first basemen available in free agency in 2018. However, that alone may not be enough to ensure he can have his contract demands met. 

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