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Should the Royals Absorb Eric Hosmer’s Contract via Trade?

This Hosmer reunion trade isn't what it looks like on the surface.

Welcome back to the 29 trades in 29 days series. Every day for almost the past month, I took a look at a new MLB team in an effort to find a trade package that made sense for the Kansas City Royals to hypothetically pursue. For some ground rules and an example, check out the first installment of the series. Today, let's cap off the series with a trade involving the San Diego Padres.

If you've stuck it out for all 29 of these trades, congrats to you. For those of you that haven’t been here from the beginning but have still decided to read this anyway, a big thank you goes out to you as well. With that being said, it’s time to get down to business.

The Padres, much like the New York Mets, have a complex when it comes to their in-state rivals and want to desperately prove that they belong in the same conversation. This isn’t a new thing either, as San Diego has been trying to buy a championship since 2015. Remember when the Padres "won" that offseason by acquiring James Shields, Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, B.J. Upton, Craig Kimbrel, and Will Middlebrooks?

The Padres were probably the most disappointing team in baseball this year, going from a sure-fire wild card team to finishing below .500 despite having a roster full of players that would make most teams envious. The real issues with the Padres lie with their starting pitching, as Yu Darvish, Chris Paddack, and Blake Snell all took steps back in the rotation. In the bullpen, it wasn’t much better. Emilio Pagan and Austin Adams and their north-of-4.00 ERAs polluted the Padres' pen for over 120 combined appearances.

But facts don’t need to get in the way of a good narrative. If you were to ask Padres fans — and possibly their front office — there is one man that is solely responsible for this season falling apart. In fact, the Padres might be willing to depart with their biggest prospects in order to expunge this liability from their team.

If you’ve been following this series from the beginning, then you know that the Royals should be more than happy to help a team in need if it means getting back quality players in return. Or, in this case, one of the best prospects in baseball.

The Trade:

San Diego Padres Receive: SS Nicky Lopez

Kansas City Royals Receive: 1B Eric Hosmer, SS C.J. Abrams

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If the Padres are going to take that big step forward next season, they’ll need to upgrade their pitching. That likely means removing Hosmer’s $21 million off their books so they can use that money to get a pitcher like Carlos Rodon or Marcus Stroman. They could also decide to make a run at an upgrade at first base if they truly feel like that's what is holding them back. But just because the Royals are acquiring an old friend in Hosmer, that doesn’t mean they should be friendly with the Padres in this deal.

If the Padres genuinely want Hosmer and his contract off the roster, they will need to pay for it. For the Royals, there is no other payment they should accept than Abrams, the Padres' top prospect. Abrams is currently ranked as the sixth overall prospect by MLB.com and possesses as many tools as Witt, who just took home Minor League Player of the Year honors.

Abrams’ top-of-the-scale speed is a game-changing tool that makes him an impact player on both sides of the ball. The strength Abrams has added to his ultra-projectable frame since signing shows in his ability to drive the ball and do damage from the left side, and scouts now like his chances of developing at least average game power to go along with a plus bat. Abrams’ speed and penchant for making hard contact give him both a high ceiling and floor as a hitter -- the latter a product of his ability to steal hits on the infield and stretch singles into extra bases.

-MLB.com

For the Royals, this move is about hedging their bets and assuming that Abrams's value will be greater in the next three years than Lopez’s. Lopez would offer the Padres something they don’t have: a leadoff hitter. In 2021, he would’ve been the leader on the Padres in batting average and second in both stolen bases and OBP behind only Fernando Tatis Jr. Despite his lack of power, he also would’ve ranked in the top five on the Padres in terms of OPS. This gives San Diego the option to put Lopez at second with Jake Cronenworth moving to first and keeping Tatis at shortstop. They could also move Tatis to the outfield and put Lopez at shortstop, then figure out first base when the time comes.

We’ve talked recently about trading players at the peak of their value, and this is no different. I might value Lopez’s ability to play fundamentally sound baseball and put together professional ABs, but I am willing to admit his ceiling is limited. What the Royals got out of him this year is probably as good as it’s going to get and if trading him now could help net them a future star in Abrams, they would be foolish to not do so.

As far as Hosmer is concerned, the perception of his contract is worse than it actually is. Yes, $21M this upcoming year is not pretty to look at nor deal with. But the cost goes down to $13M for the next three seasons and with the departure of Minor and Santana in 2023, the cost would be covered with $7M left to spare. For those of you wondering how this would affect a possible Andrew Benintendi signing: If the Royals cut Whit Merrifield in 2023 to save $10M, they should have no problem bringing back Benintendi on a new deal. Also, Hosmer should be more than happy to move to designated hitter to make way for Nick Pratto and would be more than happy to pass on his defensive knowledge to help Pratto win a Gold Glove one day.

The question is not whether Hosmer is worth $21M this season or if he’s worth $13M the three seasons thereafter. The question is whether the Royals, for that same amount of money, could bring in two players better than him and Abrams. Keep in mind the Royals just spent $20.5M on Minor and Santana. Offensively, Hosmer would’ve been top five for the Royals in batting average, on-base percentage, OPS, OPS+, doubles, and RBIs in 2021. The bat, while it may not be spectacular or flashy, is still solid enough to warrant an everyday lineup spot.

A young infield consisting of Pratto at first, Abrams and Witt up the middle and Adalberto Mondesi at third would be dripping with tools and potential. An infield consisting of four former top-100 prospects is something that many teams would kill for. The infield depth wouldn’t be anything to sneeze at as well, as Hosmer, Hunter Dozier and possibly Nick Loftin could offer good depth off the bench.

For the Padres, this trade allows them to move on from a “mistake” and pursue the starting pitching and first base replacements that surely will get them over the top this time around. For the Royals, it’s a move that might be ridiculed in the beginning but when they feature an infield that could develop into one as good as what Houston had this year, the only one laughing will be Kansas City.

Read More: Putting Together a Blockbuster Trade Package With the Mets