How high is Eric Hosmer’s ceiling with the Red Sox?

May 17, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; San Diego Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer (30) breaks his bat on a line out during the sixth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
May 17, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; San Diego Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer (30) breaks his bat on a line out during the sixth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /

Four-time Gold Glove-winner Eric Hosmer will make his Red Sox debut Thursday

During Tuesday’s MLB Trade Deadline, Chaim Bloom straddled the line of buying and selling, reflecting his team’s middle-of-the-pack play.

The Boston Red Sox dealt Christian Vázquez, a core member of the team who had been with the organization since 2008, to the Houston Astros, and swapped reliever Jake Diekman for Chicago White Sox catcher Reese McGuire. But bucking trade deadline expectations, they did not deal away J.D. Martinez or Nathan Eovaldi, who were rumored to be key trade chips. Instead, they acquired Tommy Pham from the Cincinnati Reds and Eric Hosmer from the San Diego Padres.

For the Padres, the Hosmer trade was an expensive way (they’re paying the remaining $44M on his contract) to open a spot for fellow first baseman Josh Bell, whom they acquired with Juan Soto in their enormous trade with the Washington Nationals. Hosmer wasn’t the same player in San Diego as he was in Kansas City. From 2013-17, Hosmer won four Gold Gloves and a Silver Slugger, was an All-Star in 2016, and a World Series champion in 2015.

When Hosmer became a free agent after the 2017 season, he signed an eight-year, $144M deal with the Padres. At the time, it was their biggest contract in franchise history, and he did not live up to the hype.

In four and a half seasons in San Diego, Hosmer had a .265/.325/.422 slash line and a .737 OPS. He hit 69 home runs and 309 RBI in just under 600 games and 2500 plate appearances. His wRC+ hovered in the low 90’s to middle 100’s (except in the shortened 2020 season), and his bWAR ranged from -.5 to 1.3.

Hosmer was, by definition, a very average baseball player for the Padres, and you simply can’t be average when you are being paid $18 million per season. But he has a great opportunity now to wipe his slate clean in Boston. And thanks to the Padres paying off the majority of his contract, which is $43.56 million, the Sox will be paying the veteran lefty the minimum. They owe him $246,154 this year, and a combined $2.22 million over the next three years.

When the Sox made this trade, it seemed like much of the media and the fans viewed it as a net zero. The consensus is that Hosmer is a veteran player who’s reached his peak and that at best, he can competently play first base for the Sox.

With these low set expectations, Hosmer has the potential to easily exceed them. Hosmer has nothing to live up to here, and that could be the best thing to happen to him and his new team. Knowing he’s getting paid either way frees him to go out on the field and just focus on the game; I’d imagine that is all a baseball player would want. And in a place like Boston where the media and fans can tear you apart, it’s nice to come in with a low bar and clear it.

Although Hosmer is an average hitter, his 2022 numbers look above average in this Red Sox lineup.  His .272 average would rank 4th on the team, his .727 OPS and 107 wRC+ both 4th, his 14.9 K% 2nd, and his .60 BB/K 1st. Hosmer makes the lineup deeper, and he can hit anywhere. He can bat fifth or sixth, which is where he finds himself in his debut against his former team on Thursday night. He will have success behind the better hitters in front of him, including the recently-returned Rafael Devers. Hosmer has played 18 games in the six hole this year, and he is 23-63 (.365) with two home runs, ten RBI, and a .959 OPS. In 416 career plate appearances at that spot in the lineup, he has a .307 AVG and .851 OPS. Hosmer will slot right into the middle or lower end of the Red Sox lineup with less pressure than a spot higher up in the batting order.

Hosmer is typically a better bat against righties than lefties as a left-handed bat, but this season, he is crushing lefties. He is 31-94 (.330) against southpaws this year with a .796 OPS, and he’s joining a Red Sox team that is already crushing lefties (7th in wRC+ and 6th in OPS against lefties in 2022). Additionally, in 2022, Hosmer is 13-44 (.269) with two doubles, one home run, seven RBI, and a .769 OPS in what Baseball Reference describes as “Late & Close” games.

Although Hosmer was disappointing in San Diego, he was actually having his best season in a Padres uniform at the halfway point of 2022. His wRC+ stands at 107, which would be his highest in any season in San Diego except for the shortened 2020 campaign. His K%, which peaked at 24.4% in 2019, has declined significantly each season since, now down to 14.9%. This is big for a Red Sox team that strikes out 22.5% of the time, the 14th-worst rate in the majors. His BB%, which was down to 6% in 2019, has risen each year to 8.9% in 2022.

Hosmer is in the midst of a tough stretch right now, but he still has some good ball in him. In his first 31 games, he was 43-114 (.377) with four home runs, 23 RBI, 15 runs scored, a .994 OPS, and 180 wRC+. He was first in average and 5th in OPS and wRC+ in the entire MLB across that span. Although he’s currently in a slump, he still has the ability to hit and go on a tear.

Hosmer may also provide a nice veteran presence for the Sox. He’s been a mentor to Sox prospect Triston Casas, who will most likely replace him at first base down the line. His former Padres teammate, Tommy Pham, raved about him after his own Sox debut this week:

"“The group is going to love him. Everything he brings, his whole aura, his personality, his leadership, he’s going to fit right in. He’s going to fit perfect.”"

Hosmer is now under Sox control until 2025, which could really benefit the organization if he plays well. This is a low-risk, high-reward move by Chaim Bloom. If Hosmer doesn’t perform, Triston Casas can replace him soon. If he does perform and exceeds expectations, which he very well might, it will be a fantastic deadline acquisition. Hosmer has the potential to make this team a contender down the stretch in 2022.

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