The Cubs are reportedly close to a deal with Eric Hosmer, a left-handed hitting first baseman who fills a couple of needs for Jed Hoyer. The 33-year-old hit .268 with 27 extra-base hits including eight home runs, 44 RBI, and a .716 OPS in 104 games last season playing for the Padres and Red Sox (14 games). I’m the contrarian in the crowd, but I think this is a good signing and improves on the 2022 three-ring circus that was Frank Schwindel, Alfonso Rivas, and P.J. Higgins.
Hosmer will give the Cubs a lefty presence in the lineup and allows the team a fallback in case Matt Mervis struggles as a rookie. It’ll cost Chicago the league minimum and Hosmer can be cut at any time without much damage to the roster or the payroll. He will also get a chance to work as a DH.
The addition of Hosmer makes the Cubs a better team, though it is not the marquee signing most fans wanted. Let’s face it, the first base market was pretty weak this year. José Abreu was the big fish and Hoyer reportedly offered the 36-year-old a two-year contract, but he signed with the Astros for three years. Josh Bell signed with the Guardians for two years at $33 million, a nice deal for a player that slashed .192/.316/.271 after the trade deadline. No thanks.
Hosmer is arguably the third-best available at the position and he’ll cost the Cubs $720,000. Hoyer’s other options were Brandon Belt, Miguel Sano, Yuli Gurriel, Trey Mancini, and Luke Voit. You will not find a less inspiring group of first sackers, so it’s hard to say Hoyer punted on the position. If Mervis and Hosmer prove to be uninspiring as well, the front office can chase Rhys Hoskins, C.J. Cron, or Max Muncy ($10 million club option) next season.
Getting Hosmer on a discount gives the Cubs a number of additional options. For instance, if Hoyer wanted to try to pry third baseman Rafael Devers away from the Red Sox, he has more payroll space available. He can also include Patrick Wisdom or Christopher Morel in the deal. That won’t be enough, but Boston seems prepared to lose Devers (along with 100+ games this season), and Wisdom would be a nice transitional piece, just like he has been in Chicago. Morel could give the Red Sox a cheap, multipositional option with a knack for getting big hits.
Hosmer’s contract also saves money that could be used to extend Nico Hoerner and/or Ian Happ. I know that seems like a frugal sentiment and it’s also one I am usually against. But I’d rather have Happ and Hosmer than just Abreu or Bell. If you look at all of those contracts in terms of AAV, Hoyer has protected his option to extend either or both incumbents. If Hosmer signs, the Cubs are getting a league-average player for almost nothing. It’s a small upgrade, but a left-handed hitting insurance policy that is worth 1.1 wins is much better than last year’s triumvirate that provided a negative impact (cumulative -0.6 WAR) to the lineup.
Finally, Hosmer represents a continuation of Hoyer’s commitment to defense as the first baseman has four Gold Glove awards. That said, defensive metrics aren’t as kind to him as league managers and coaches are. Still, it’s another upgrade over last year’s first base clown car. There’s value in Hosmer’s deal even if you have to sift through a little bit of dust to find it. Financial flexibility is the obvious key, or as we call it in these parts, intelligent spending.
Cubs News & Notes
- Brennen Davis will enter camp with no limitations just there months after being shut down due to a stress reaction in his back.
- The trade market is going to heat up at some point, and the Cubs could go that route to add offense.
- Reliever Brad Wieck is returning to Chicago on a two-year deal, though he will spend the first year rehabbing from Tommy John surgery
- The Cubs are betting Drew Smyly has one good fight left in him. If you want a back-end starter who’s likely to throw 100 innings or more with a reasonable chance of better-than-replacement-level rate stats, two years and $19 million is about what you should expect to pay.
- Rafael Ortega inked a minor league deal with the Yankees.
- It’s been a meticulous process to be sure, but Chicago is one of the most improved teams heading into the 2023 season.
- The Padres and Cubs are considered the favorites to land starter Pablo López in a trade with the Marlins.
- The Cubs are ranked 19th in MLB.com’s first power rankings of 2023.
- I haven’t talked much about the Tucker Barnhart signing, but I am happy that the front office no longer has to consider a trade with the Blue Jays for one of Danny Jansen, Alejandro Kirk, or Gabriel Moreno. If you want to credit Hoyer for an under-the-radar accomplishment, it’s that he has essentially bought another year or two of development for the systems catchers and outfielders.
Odds & Sods
I hadn’t seen this before this morning but I love the analysis of Jameson Taillon. There’s a little John Lackey in Taillon. If Jon Lester continues to be a mentor to Justin Steele, the pairing of Steele and Taillon should be fun.
When Jameson Taillon got traded to the Yankees we talked about all he’d been through to get there, including cancer and two Tommy John surgeries
Here we are two years later and he gets his big breakthrough with the Cubs 👏 pic.twitter.com/J7pfPiBsTm
— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) December 7, 2022
Devers and the Red Sox agreed on a contract for 2023, thus avoiding arbitration.
The two sides are also engaging in extension talks according to reports.
Korean star Jung-hoo Lee will be posted to MLB after the 2023 season.
The pickings are very slim among baseball’s remaining top free agents.
Former Giants GM Brian Sabean has rejoined the Yankees front office as an executive advisor to Brian Cashman.
I love the Cubs “On Deck” video series and wait with bated breath for each new episode to drop. Mervis and Owen Caissie are up next.
New year, new prospect profiles.
On Deck: Episode 4 coming this week. pic.twitter.com/9imDWxIuis
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) January 3, 2023
Wednesday Morning Six-Pack
I’m going to use this space this morning to speak about Damar Hamlin. I’m sure you’ve all heard the news about the Bills’ defensive back.
- Hamlin appears to be making progress.
- The defensive back died and had to be resuscitated on two occasions, once on the field and once in the hospital.
- There is a big difference between cardiac arrest and a heart attack. Both are scary, life-threatening incidents, but electronic dysfunction comes without warning signs.
- Commotio cordis is rare, with fewer than 30 cases reported every year, according to an article in the National Library of Medicine. The phenomenon has been seen in youth baseball and in lacrosse when balls strike players in the chest. The main worry for survivors is brain damage from lack of oxygen when the heart stops pumping blood.
- Hamlin’s toy drive has exceeded $6.25 million as of this morning. The initial goal was $2,500 dollars.
- Skip Bayless was a bit of an ass on social media and put the NFL, the game, and potential playoff seeding above Hamlin’s health. Shannon Sharpe put Bayless in his place. Bayless was upset his producers allowed Sharpe to discuss his tweets.
They Said It
- “One of my first road trips was to Chicago when I was with Pittsburgh, and I think it was a Friday day game with (Jake) Arrieta on the mound when he was untouchable. And I remember just taking a step back and feeling the environment. There’s nothing better than a day game at Wrigley in the summer. I remember thinking at the time, like, ‘This is the big leagues right here. This is the show.’” – Taillon
Wednesday Walk-Up Song
Prayers up for Hamlin.