The GM's Office: Eric Hosmer

Wild-card berth in reach for Royals 

April, 26, 2013
4/26/13
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James ShieldsAP Photo/Orlin WagnerJames Shields has embraced the role as the Royals' staff ace.
Call it early, call it April, tell me there are still 143 games left in the 162-game schedule, but the fact is that the Kansas City Royals have developed into a legitimate wild-card contender.

They’re off to a relatively fast 11-8 start. They sit perched atop the American League Central. Some might say they’re just keeping the seat warm until the Detroit Tigers figure out their closer situation and Victor Martinez starts to swing the bat.

Well, if the Royals aren't a first-place team yet, they sure can play with the second- and third-best teams in any division of the AL, which means they’re good enough for a possible wild-card berth.

Why am I so confident that this team, which has produced only one above-.500 season since 1995, can actually make the playoffs this season? They finally have pitching.

Amazingly, they’ve had this start while most of their top young hitters have struggled. Third baseman Mike Moustakas is hitting just .154. Both first baseman Eric Hosmer and catcher Salvador Perez have yet to hit a home run; designated hitter Billy Butler, a career .299 hitter, is batting an uncharacteristic .254.

The Royals’ offense has been here before to start a season. But their rebuilt starting rotation is the main reason the Royals are in first place.

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HosmerPeter G. Aiken/US PresswireHe had a solid rookie year, but Hosmer is primed for true a breakout year in 2013.

There’s an old scouting adage: “He’ll tell us when he’s ready.”

While that mainly pertains to gauging minor league players and their major league readiness, it also applies to young major leaguers trying to live up to their potential and looking for that “breakout” season.

It’s that season when all the tools, talent and abilities come together to fulfill the many high expectations on all the scouting reports. It offers the talent evaluators confirmation that they got it right while proving the critics wrong.

Take a look at the breakout seasons Matt Kemp, Andrew McCutchen and Carlos Gonzalez enjoyed over the past several years. Long regarded as five-tool players with elite physical talent, their teams and fans waited and waited for the corresponding elite production to come. It happened for a 24-year-old Kemp in 2009, when he hit 26 homers with 101 RBIs and won his first Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards after slowly increasing his production since his major league debut in 2006. Likewise, the same explosion happened for Gonzalez in 2010 at age 24, and then for McCutchen in 2012 at age 25.

The 2013 season should be no different. Here are seven individuals, all just about the same age as our aforementioned trio, who have barely scratched the surface of their massive potential and are primed to be among baseball’s breakout players in 2013.

1. Justin Upton | OF | Age: 25

With six years of experience, Upton is primed to finally reach his potential. He’s different than Kemp, McCutchen and Gonzalez because he’s already had a successful start to his career that includes two All-Star appearances, a Silver Slugger Award and a top-five showing in 2011 NL MVP voting. He has the potential to produce 35 homers and 100 RBIs annually, but he has yet to put together a consistent year from start to finish that would really signify his arrival. Being traded to the Atlanta Braves might just be the trigger. Playing beside his brother B.J. and surrounded in the lineup with other elite young players such as Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman could spur him to bring his game to another level. The Diamondbacks didn’t believe in him and he will be motivated to show them that they were wrong to trade him.

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5 bold predictions for winter meetings

November, 30, 2012
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R.A. DickeySteve Mitchell/US PresswireJim Bowden thinks the New York Mets will end up trading R.A. Dickey at the winter meetings.

Despite my being a veteran of countless winter meetings, baseball's annual gathering still manages to surprise me. Whether it's a blockbuster trade or an out-of-the-blue free-agent signing, the winter meetings always provide a handful of happenings.

However, experience does offer me a little insight into what could happen. Last year, we saw the Los Angeles Angels reel in Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, and the Miami Marlins signed Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes and Heath Bell. And, well, we know how that turned out. So here are my five bold predictions for the winter meetings:

1. The New York Mets will trade R.A. Dickey

With the Mets extending third baseman David Wright for eight years for about $138 million, I expect them to then turn around and trade right-hander R.A. Dickey to the Kansas City Royals or the Los Angeles Dodgers or Angels for two good prospects. Wright is the face of their franchise, their version of Chipper Jones or Derek Jeter, and it was essential they get him locked up. With the Tampa Bay Rays’ extension of Evan Longoria this past month and the Washington Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman sewn up, as well, this was a relatively simple negotiation for general manager Sandy Alderson. In regards to Dickey, it’s more about selling high on an overachieving pitcher and being realistic on when the Mets will be ready to contend. Although the public thinks it could be sooner, realistically, the Mets won’t be contending until at least 2015.



2. The Cleveland Indians will make more trades than any other team

The Indians are waiting for the top free agents to sign. Once that happens, teams that lose out will be calling them to make deals. The Indians have the highest-quality tradable players currently on the market. Right fielder Shin-Soo Choo is one of the most underrated right fielders in baseball. He’s a complete player and is about to enter his free-agent walk year. He is represented by Scott Boras, which means it’s unlikely he’ll sign a contract extension before testing the open market. Therefore, once Josh Hamilton, Cody Ross and Nick Swisher have inked deals, the clubs that missed out will attempt to trade for Choo.

Several teams are pursuing shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, including the Arizona Diamondbacks, Detroit Tigers and Oakland Athletics. If anyone of those teams puts together the right package of young starting pitching, it might be able to pry him loose. Closer Chris Perez is well respected throughout the game as a straight shooter who speaks his mind without filter, which is fine unless you’re always bashing the ownership, the front office and the fans. His trade value is at an all-time high, and now is the best time to get the best return. With starting pitching always at a premium, the Tribe also will listen to offers for Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez. The bottom line is the Indians will be an interesting team to watch in Nashville.


3. The Miami Marlins will sign a free agent and give him a full-no trade clause

The Marlins’ trades of Buehrle, Reyes and Bell this offseason have left agents with such a bad taste in their mouths that many of them are saying they won’t even talk to the Marlins on behalf of their clients. Interestingly, a year ago, the Marlins all but had Albert Pujols signed, but their refusal to include a no-trade clause allowed him to make the right choice and sign with the Angels. If he had signed with the Marlins, he probably would be with the Toronto Blue Jays today. The Marlins are under scrutiny from the commissioner’s office and the players' association to spend rather than pocketing what look to be significant revenue-sharing gains the next few years. The Marlins need to step up and surprise baseball by adding a significant free agent and will have no choice this time but to change their policy and give a full no-trade clause so players they sign won’t have to worry about being dealt in a year.


4. The Royals will finally trade for an elite starter, and fans will rebel

Royals general manager Dayton Moore is in a Catch-22 situation. Royals fans have been begging for the team to trade for a top-of-the-rotation starter instead of their continued plan of back-of-the-rotation innings eaters such as Jeremy Guthrie, Bruce Chen, Ervin Santana and Luke Hochevar. But it will cost Moore one of the young, talented position players he has. Moore definitely feels the pressure and is doing everything possible to make such a trade this coming week in Nashville. Even though I think the best move would be to sign a free agent such as Kyle Lohse or Anibal Sanchez and keep his position players intact, I predict that the Royals are going to trade Wil Myers, Alex Gordon or Eric Hosmer to get their top-of-rotation young starter. If and when they do this, Royals fans will show their disapproval. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.


5. The Texas Rangers will re-sign Josh Hamilton to a four-year contract

Some believe Hamilton and Rangers definitely will part ways, but I'm making the bold prediction that he'll stay. Despite all the reports that the Rangers won't go more than three years on a deal for Hamilton, I fully expect them to give him a fourth year with a club option for a fifth at an average annual value of approximately $23 million. There has been interest in Hamilton from several teams, including the Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies, Milwaukee Brewers, Seattle Mariners, and Baltimore Orioles.

His family lives in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and plans to stay there regardless. Having been to two World Series in the past three years, Hamilton and the Rangers have unfinished business of bringing a world championship to Rangers fans, and both parties know the best way to accomplish that is for them to try again together rather than apart.

Five trades for David Wright

November, 1, 2012
11/01/12
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David WrightSteve Mitchell/US PresswireDavid Wright is the face of the Mets, but it's feasible that he could be somewhere else next season.
After the New York Mets picked up David Wright's $16 million club option for 2013 earlier this week, the club is officially on the clock. The Mets have exactly one year of control left to lock down the face of their franchise. In essence, Wright is to the team what Derek Jeter is to the New York Yankees or Chipper Jones was to the Atlanta Braves.

However, Wright’s long-term future in New York is hardly guaranteed.

First, discussions between Wright’s agents -- Sam and Seth Levinson -- and the Mets have been slow and grinding. Most negotiations with this team usually plod along, but the Mets also have shown the same cavalier attitude they demonstrated in the failed Jose Reyes negotiations in 2011. Not a good sign.

Second, for those who think the Mets won’t let the face of the franchise walk away, remember that current Mets general manager Sandy Alderson is the one who said goodbye to future Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman while in San Diego. Alderson also allowed then-Padres manager Bruce Bochy to depart for the NL West rival San Francisco Giants, where he would go on to win two World Series titles. In 1992, Alderson also traded Jose Canseco to the Texas Rangers in a blockbuster that was headlined by Ruben Sierra. Arguably the best trade of Alderson’s career might end up being the swap of All-Star outfielder Carlos Beltran to the Giants at the July 2011 trade deadline for top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler, who should join the Mets’ starting rotation in 2013.

Needless to say, Alderson isn't afraid to trade star players.

That said, I still think the Mets and Wright will have a news conference sometime between now and the winter meetings next month in Nashville, Tenn., to announce a seven-year extension in the range of $18 million per season. If the Mets aren’t willing to commit, they don’t need to worry because most other teams will be. To trade Wright, the assignee club would have to ask for a window to sign him first because no team will fork over top prospects to the Mets without the assurance that Wright will sign a long-term deal.

Just in case the negotiations fall apart with the Mets, here are five trade partners that would make sense for Alderson.

1. Boston Red Sox


The Red Sox have money off the books after trading Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Adrian Gonzalez to the Los Angeles Dodgers in August. Wright’s swing would be ideal for Fenway Park, and he would instantly change the culture with his leadership ability. He would give the Red Sox a new, fresh franchise face to go with Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz. The discussion by Alderson would have to start with young third-base prospect Will Middlebrooks and one of Boston's top starting pitching prospects, such as Allen Webster, who recently was acquired from the Dodgers, or Matt Barnes, the Red Sox’s first-round selection in 2011 out of the University of Connecticut.


2. Los Angeles Angels


This conversation would have to commence with top first-base prospect C.J. Cron, a middle-of-the-lineup bat who was the Angels’ first-round selection in the 2011 draft out of the University of Utah. Cron possesses incredible power and has a chance to be an impact bat with the ability to drive in 100 runs. The second player in the deal would have to be fleet-footed outfielder Peter Bourjos, who became expendable with the emergence of Mike Trout. Bourjos has Gold Glove defensive ability with special range. However, how much he’s going to hit is still debatable. Of course, with a deal like this, the Mets would then have to try to trade incumbent first baseman Ike Davis for another need.


3. Arizona Diamondbacks


The Diamondbacks have tremendous depth in young starting pitchers. The roll call is impressive: Tyler Skaggs, Trevor Cahill, Patrick Corbin, Daniel Hudson, Wade Miley and Ian Kennedy. Therefore, they might be willing to make former No. 1 pick Trevor Bauer available for Wright, especially given that some of the Arizona field staff is frustrated with Bauer’s stubbornness and work plan.

Bauer has struggled with his command and control in the zone, and it might take time before he reaches his full, unlimited potential. To acquire an arm of this caliber and team it with Matt Harvey and Wheeler would establish an impressive young rotation capable of competing with the Washington Nationals’ elite young starters. The Mets should ask for a second player, as well, possibly center fielder Adam Eaton, a player who’s not blessed with special tools but can hit and really play the game with blue-collar grittiness.


4. Kansas City Royals


The Royals could use a veteran leader in the clubhouse to develop all of their great young players such as Eric Hosmer, Salvador Perez and Alex Gordon. Wright would bring them that leadership. Alderson could start the conversation asking for young third baseman Mike Moustakas, who could give the Mets a minimum of 20 home runs and 80 RBIs at third base for minimal cost.

However, a second player in the deal would be the key. Although Kansas City can’t afford to trade any of its top young pitching prospects or top position prospect Wil Myers (unless it was getting front-line pitching back), the Royals might be willing to include Cheslor Cuthbert or 2010 first-rounder Christian Colon to make a deal like this. However, given that the Royals’ only real need is starting pitching, it is doubtful they would want to spend this type of money -- or trade this kind of talent -- on anything but starting pitching.


5. Texas Rangers


I know this does not look like a fit because the Rangers already have the best overall third baseman in baseball in Adrian Beltre. However, if Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli leave in free agency, Texas will have to add another impact bat for the middle of its lineup. The Rangers have never been afraid to ask players to change positions -- just ask Michael Young -- so it’s probably worth making the phone call to see whether they would consider a Mike Olt, Derek Holland and Craig Gentry type of deal for Wright. Olt would solve third base; Holland would improve the rotation; and Gentry would give them a tremendous defensive center fielder with blazing speed and a bat that is still developing.

To be sure, the possibility of any of these five trade ideas actually coming to fruition is slim. Indeed, 98 percent of all deals that are discussed are never made, but the Mets must do their due diligence and Alderson must do himself that favor and explore all possibilities to maximize Wright’s value and price tag. If Wright’s value is highest by returning to the Mets -- and I think he'll re-sign when all is said and done -- you can count on that price tag to be in the neighborhood of seven years and $126 million.

And for Mets fans, who can’t stand the thought of the face of their favorite franchise in another uniform, that’s a bargain.

Teams set for quick turnarounds in 2013 

September, 6, 2012
9/06/12
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Chase HeadleyMark J. Rebilas/US PresswireThe Phillies should acquire Chase Headley if Chase Utley isn't moved to third base in the offseason.

As the pennant races come down the stretch, many teams already have set their sights on 2013. There are three that stand out to me as poised to make a quick turnaround. In fact, two of the three teams won their division in 2011, and all three have set themselves up well -- whether by acquiring players or jettisoning them at the July 31 trade deadline -- for 2013. With just a couple of additional pieces, as well as some star players returning to form and a precocious prospect or two, these three teams will be in the postseason hunt next year.


Arizona Diamondbacks


Arizona’s 94-68 record and NL West title in 2011 were driven mainly by MVP candidate Justin Upton and Cy Young Award candidate Ian Kennedy. Only a year later, however, both have struggled mightily. Arizona might not even finish .500, leaving management no recourse but to retool. As such, the left side of the infield has been traded, with Ryan Roberts sent to the Tampa Bay Rays and Stephen Drew to the Oakland Athletics. But that retooling also has left the Diamondbacks in great position to jump right back in the race in 2013.


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Earlier this week, Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said he’s already talked to the team’s new ownership about a contract extension for outfielder Andre Ethier. At 30, Ethier is a two-time All-Star, has earned Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards and is in the prime of his career. He currently leads the majors in RBIs with 23. He also leads a list of seven players who should be signed to contract extensions now. Most of these players are in or are entering their most productive years, or perhaps are talented young players whose stardom is easily projectable. So it might behoove teams to stay ahead of the market and lock them in now.

1. Andre Ethier, RF
With the Dodgers’ $2 billion sale from Frank McCourt to the group led by Magic Johnson, Stan Kasten and Mark Walter -- the CEO of Guggenheim Partners -- officially closing in less than a week, one of the team's first orders of business should be to extend Ethier. He is the only legitimate protection for Matt Kemp the Dodgers have in the middle of their lineup. And with a farm system that will offer very little offensive help, this is an important signing. Further, the Dodgers’ new ownership might also want to have a conversation with Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw. They control his rights through 2015 but might want to start talks with him to stay ahead of a rapidly ballooning market for starting pitching.


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Spring studs and duds 

April, 4, 2012
4/04/12
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HosmerPeter G. Aiken/US PresswireEric Hosmer's explosive spring hints at a huge season for the sophomore first baseman.

There has never been a proven statistical correlation between spring training and regular season performances of players or teams.

That doesn’t mean players who are poised for breakout seasons won’t show you early indications or an aging veteran won’t show signs of decline or a young prospect can’t make an impact in spring training’s six-week period. Managers and general managers historically make more mistakes with spring training evaluations than at any other time of year because of the spectrum of competition in camp, ranging from Class A to the big leagues, all playing in games together.

Statistics are one way to look at players, but scouting evaluations and the naked eye will often tell you more. Here are some of my evaluations of several spring training studs and duds. Depending on which list he’s on, 2012 might spell either boom or doom for these eight players.

Studs

Eric Hosmer, 1B
Hosmer put together an impressive rookie season last year, batting .293 with 19 home runs. However, based on what I saw this spring, Hosmer isn’t just another talented first baseman. This player is special. He is an elite first baseman who clearly fits in the same talent category as first basemen such as Adrian Gonzalez and Joey Votto. From what I saw this spring, Hosmer’s bat speed, barrel awareness, use of the all fields, pitch recognition and swing path are very similar to Votto and Gonzalez. Likewise, he’s also a plus defender. Hosmer’s not Albert Pujols, but putting up Pujols-type numbers in a couple years is a distinct possibility.


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First basemen lead the way for the position-player rookies, with three of the top four on the list, including newly promoted Eric Hosmer of the Kansas City Royals. None of the position players are lighting it up, but the talent is there. Here are scouting reports on the top 12 (click on the player links for updated stats):

1. Eric Hosmer, 1B, Kansas City -- Hosmer has great hand-eye coordination, which allows for above-average pitch recognition. He has light-tower power to all fields that comes from explosive hip torque and strong wrists and forearms. Hosmer will be a high OPS player who someday could have 30-40 home run production and compete for the Triple Crown. Also, he will eventually compete with Mark Teixeira and Adrian Gonzalez for a Gold Glove at first base.

2. Hank Conger, C, LA Angels -- Conger is the Angels' best offensive catcher, with potential for 15-20 home run power from both sides of the plate. He has great makeup and aptitude, and his ability to call a game and his pitch sequencing continue to improve. He has a strong arm and in time will end up as the Angels' No. 1 catcher. Having the opportunity to learn from Mike Scioscia and Jeff Mathis will expedite his development behind the plate.

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The Kansas City Royals’ decision to call up Eric Hosmer today is a strong indication that they believe they can contend this year. Why? Because of the timing of his promotion, Hosmer will now be on pace to be Super Two arbitration-eligible player in the winter of 2013-2014, making this a potentially expensive decision to make now. If they had waited until mid-June to call him up, they could have avoided arbitration with Hosmer for another year.

[+] EnlargeEric Hosmer
Ron Vesely/MLB Photos/Getty ImagesComing to a big-league ballpark near you: Eric Hosmer.
Eric is a special talent, and I believe he is here to stay as the long-term solution for the Royals at first base. He has great hand-eye coordination, which allows for above-average pitch recognition. He also has 30-40 home run power that comes from explosive hip torque and strong wrists and forearms -- his swing is loud and violent on the sweet spot.

If you throw him middle/away, he loves to go the other way, and he’ll go that way with tremendous power on fastballs and secondary pitches. Teams will try to throw hard inside to him, but he has lightning quick bat speed, and if he knows you’re going there, the light towers are in range, because Hosmer has serious whack in his bat. In the field, Hosmer also has above-average range at first base, and might even win a Gold Glove before his 30th birthday.

Put all of that together, and Hosmer will develop into a hitter not only is capable of winning a batting title but -- perhaps even more impressively -- an OPS crown someday. To me, it’s always an exciting day in baseball when future stars are born. Welcome to the Show, Mr. Hosmer!

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