In what may be the defining offseason of general manager Matt Klentak’s career, the Philadelphia Phillies will certainly operate with Rhys Hoskins in mind. Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reported earlier this month that the Phillies have considered trading first baseman Carlos Santana this offseason in an effort to re-open first base, Hoskins natural position. (Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports noted over the weekend that such a trade is unlikely.) Regardless of where he plays, Hoskins will be a Phillie in 2019 and beyond, and the Phillies will approach a free-agent class that is scheduled to include Bryce Harper and Manny Machado looking to build a lineup around Hoskins.
One topic that hasn’t been discussed involving Hoskins is the possibility of a long-term deal with the 25-year-old this offseason. But as Matt Gelb of The Athletic noted, it’s not something Hoskins and his new agent, Scott Boras, are opposed to discussing this offseason:
Hoskins, last week, said he would welcome the chance to reach a long-term agreement with the Phillies. Hoskins will not reach free agency until after the 2023 season. Boras said he is open to dialogue this winter about a contract extension, but the decision is his client’s. There is no harm in listening, even if a match between the two sides is unrealistic.
Of course, just about any person in any profession is willing to discuss the possibility of making more money and having longer job security with their employer. Just like with Aaron Nola, it would make sense for the Phillies to opens the lines of communication with Hoskins and Boras this offseason. But as Gelb said, striking a deal doesn’t seem likely.
Consider this: in 2008, Ryan Howard’s first year of arbitration eligibility, he made $10 million after winning his arbitration case. It was a record, at the time, for how much a player made after winning his arbitration case. The Phillies won the World Series in 2008, an honor Howard was able to add to his National League Rookie of the Year and National League MVP. Prior to the 2009 season, the Phillies reached a three-year/$54 million deal with Howard, which bought out the final three years of his arbitration eligibility at an average annual value of $18 million. And then in April of 2010, over a year-and-a-half before he could reach free-agency, the Phillies awarded Howard with a five-year/$125 million contract.
There were some missteps on the Phillies part, perhaps, in how they handled Howard financially. Hoskins may not win a league MVP or World Series title in the near future. But when you factor in inflation, Hoskins is going to be financially taken care of during his arbitration years if he continues to perform how he has offensively in his young career. He and his representation won’t be in a rush to sign a deal of any length unless it’s on their own terms.
It’s also worth pointing out that when Hoskins is eligible for free-agency after the 2023 season, he’ll be entering his age-31 season. There’s no question that between now and 2023, the Phillies will pay Hoskins accordingly. But whether it’s the position he’s playing now or not, Hoskins is a first baseman. There are examples of first baseman given major contracts after their 30th birthday – Howard, Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols – that didn’t work out well for varying different reasons. Adrian Gonzalez’s seven-year/$154 million deal – which he signed with the Boston Red Sox at age 29 – produced mixed results. Miguel Cabrera is a future Hall of Famer, but it’s fair to say the Tigers might like a mulligan on the eight-year/$248 million deal that Cabrera has that runs through age-40. Joey Votto’s 10-year/$240 million deal with the Cincinnati Reds has aged pretty well thus far, but the 35-year-old is still guaranteed $132 million, so it may be too early to call that deal a success.
The feeling you are left with is that while the two sides may feel each other out this offseason, any sort of extension isn’t overly likely. It’s possible that at some point in the coming years the Phillies and Hoskins will sign a deal that buys out some (or all) of his arbitration years, as the Phillies did with Howard prior to the 2009 season. But neither side seems to have a reason to agree to anything beyond 2023 at this juncture.
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