On February 19th, the San Diego Padres signed first baseman Eric Hosmer to an eight-year deal, averaging $20 million a year for the first five years. Hosmer also reportedly has an opt out clause after five years.
Signing Hosmer changes the complexion of the Padres and the National League Western Division. From the beginning of Petco Park in 2004 until now, the Padres have struggled offensively. The 28-year-old left-handed first baseman should give the Padres a legitimate power threat in the middle of the lineup.
Hosmer was a member of the Kansas City Royals’ core that enabled the Royals to win a world championship in 2015. Most baseball-knowledgeable people thought the Royals wouldn’t break up their young core, but they haven’t been competitive either in ’16 or ’17. The Royals are a small-market team, so they couldn’t retain the services of Hosmer, who had a brilliant ’17 with a career-high batting average of .315 with 25 home runs.
For a long time, the Padres needed a power hitter with an acceptable batting average to be a factor in the NL Western Division. Adrian Gonzalez, their native son, proved a left-handed power-hitting first baseman could be successful at Petco Park. However, during an ownership change in 2010, the Padres traded Gonzalez to the Boston Red Sox. Since then, the Padres have lacked a consistent power source.
In ’17, the Padres scored the least in the Major Leagues. Everyone who had followed the Padres knew their offensive production needed to improve to be competitive, but many people thought the Padre organization probably wouldn’t have the financial resources to obtain the necessary hitter to improve their offensive production. During this past offseason, not many trades occurred. The Padres appeared to be satisfied with their youth movement. It was unlikely for the Padres to compete for a playoff berth.
Wil Meyers, 2013 American League Rookie of the Year with the Tampa Bay Rays, is coming off a miserable ’17 offensive performance. Although Meyers hit 30 home runs in ’17, his batting average of .243 and his OBP of .328 didn’t help the Padres with their offensive production. His 180 strikeouts killed many rallies. Although he was originally a right fielder, the Padres tried to make him a first baseman in ’17. The experiment didn’t work well for the Padres or Meyers. The acquisition of Hosmer will enable the Padres to move Meyers back to the outfield.
The Padres also obtained right-handed third baseman Chase Headley from the New York Yankees. Headley has been a Padre before. He will help the offensive production even though he doesn’t have much power. He will stabilize the problematic third base. Now the Padres have a potent middle of the lineup with Hosmer, Meyers, and Headley.
With their improved offensive production, the Padres should be able to handle their young pitching staff’s growing pains. Hosmer’s first base defensive skills will help the Padres improve their below-average defense. With the improved defense at the corners, the young pitchers won’t need to face extra hitters because a fielder won’t commit as many errors as they did in ’17.
Clayton Richard highlights the Padres’ starting rotation. At 34, Richard knows how to attack the strike zone. At times in ’17, he was brilliant, but at other times, he struggled and was undermined by his defense. The addition of Tyson Ross, coming off an awful season with the Texas Rangers, should help the Padres’ starting rotation.
With the starters not being forced to face as many as they did in ’17, it should lessen the stress on the bullpen. The Padres have a great closer Brad Hand, but getting the ball to him in the ninth inning with a lead was a problem. If they can score more and commit fewer errors, the Padres might not have to expose the weak under belly of the team, the middle relief, less than in the past few years.
The Hosmer signing helps to strengthen both the Padres and the Giants respectively. It appears the National League Western Division will be highly competitive.