Reports have surfaced that the Kansas City Royals have the largest offer on the table for free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer. This could have a big impact on the Milwaukee Brewers.
Rumor has it that first baseman Eric Hosmer has two seven-year offers on the table. The Royals are said to have outbid the Padres by $7 million as it stands right now. If Hosmer chooses to remain with the only organization he’s ever known, it could have widespread impact on the rest of the off season.
The Royals want to cut payroll this off season. That’s difficult to do if they sign a player to a contract paying them $21 million annually. Money needs to be taken from somewhere, especially when beginning a rebuild.
Market-wise, Kansas City is in the same boat as the Milwaukee Brewers, which can be restrictive when playing at the top of the free agent market. Not too long ago, the Brewers were faced with the free agent loss of another top tier first baseman in Prince Fielder. Fielder signed his big contract with Detroit. He ended up not being worth the money before retiring early due to a neck injury.
But if Kansas City is able to bring back their franchise cornerstone, the impact will not only be felt on the free agent market. Those of us at Reviewing the Brew have been big fans of some of Kansas City’s best trade chips.
If Hosmer stays in KC, Danny Duffy leaves Kansas City. There’s no other way to cut payroll after bringing back Hosmer. Royals GM Dayton Moore has been reluctant to move Duffy, but he was really close to dealing him during the Winter Meetings. The quality of the offers was very strong in early December. And now, with no movement of any top of the line starting pitchers, there figure to be a lot of suitors for Duffy.
Milwaukee Brewers GM David Stearns was known to have interest in Danny Duffy and very likely still is. If it comes down to a bidding war for Duffy, the Brewers have the prospect capital to win out. Whether or not Stearns is willing to give up the prospects needed to win a bidding war remains to be seen.
Duffy is owed roughly $15 million per season for the next four years, which, for a frontline starter, really isn’t bad. It would be an affordable contract from the Brewers standpoint and the Crew has the ability to pay the prospect price in a trade.
While a Hosmer signing would put Duffy on the trade block, that may not be the case with second baseman Whit Merrifield. Merrifield is the same age as Hosmer and is under team control for the next five seasons. The Royals plan to return to contention near the end of those five years. With Hosmer back, there’s little need to move the other part of the right side of their infield.
If the Royals re-sign Hosmer, why would they move the cheapest, most affordable player they have? They would need to get an absolute haul to consider moving Merrifield in that case. Which means the price to get Merrifield increases with a Hosmer contract.
Stearns could try to get creative and package Merrifield with Duffy in a potential trade, but that would result in a much larger package in both quality and quantity. Again, the Brewers have the ability to pay the price, but the desire to pay it is the major question.
Kelvin Herrera‘s name doesn’t come up often, but he might make sense for the Milwaukee Brewers. Although he’s coming off the worst year of his career with a 4.25 ERA, he’s been one of the most effective setup men in baseball the past several seasons.
He wouldn’t cost too much prospect-wise since he’s coming off a bad season. He also only has one year of arbitration remaining before hitting free agency next winter. The Milwaukee Brewers currently have a need for a setup guy for closer Corey Knebel. Herrera would fit that role perfectly.
Milwaukee may not be the best place for Herrera before he heads on the open market. However, with a projected $8.3 million salary in arbitration, he could move away from Kansas City if Hosmer comes back.
Scott Alexander & Ryan Buchter
Both of these left-handed relievers are in the same situation as Merrifield. They haven’t yet hit arbitration and are under team control for awhile. Kansas City doesn’t have an inclination to move them for anything less than a haul. As relievers, the definition of a haul is diminished slightly.
Scott Alexander is the more appealing asset given that he’s 26 and under control for five more seasons. The groundball specialist would be a great fit in any bullpen.
Ryan Buchter, however, may be the more attainable asset. He’s only under control for four more seasons and is already 30 years old. Still, he posted good numbers against both righties and lefties.
Buchter doesn’t have the best control and has more fly ball tendencies which can get him in trouble, especially in Miller Park. While Alexander is the best option, the Royals wouldn’t need to cut the near-league minimum salaries of relievers in the event of a Hosmer return.
Impact of a trade
If Hosmer re-signs with Kansas City, Duffy and Herrera seem to be on their way out. With a desire to cut payroll, adding $21 million per season for Hosmer means cuts need to be made elsewhere. With Herrera’s projected $8.3 million salary and Duffy’s $15 million moved out of the way, the Royals clear $23.3 million of payroll.
Longer term assets such as Merrifield and Alexander are less likely to get traded in the event of Hosmer returning. Rest assured, if Hosmer stays, everyone will be calling Royals GM Dayton Moore with offers for Duffy, Merrifield, Herrera, and others. It may be a battle for Duffy, but the Milwaukee Brewers can win if they choose.
The slow moving market this off season has left a lot of the market unchanged. At some point, someone has to give. Hosmer signing with the Royals would provide a spark for both the free agent and trade market.