MLB trade grades: Red Sox acquire Eric Hosmer after he rejects trade to Nationals

MLB trade grades: Red Sox acquire Eric Hosmer after he rejects trade to Nationals

Bradford DoolittleESPN Staff Writer

  • Sports reporter, Kansas City Star, 2002-09
  • Writer, Baseball, Baseball Prospectus
  • Co-author, Pro Basketball Prospectus
  • Member, Baseball Writers Association of America
  • Member, Professional Basketball Writers Association

The trade: The Boston Red Sox acquire 1B Eric Hosmer, IF Max Ferguson, OF Corey Rosier and cash from the San Diego Padres for LHP Jay Groome.

The Padres’ landmark deal to acquire megastar Juan Soto not only stole the deadline show, but because it also included getting Josh Bell — removing the most alluring first base option from the deadline trade market. It also made Hosmer an awkward fit as a bench player in San Diego. Now, Hosmer moves across the country to a team that may or may not be in the midst of contention.

Let’s dig in.

This is a short-term upgrade for the Red Sox, a move that dovetails with the team’s straddle-the-fence deadline approach. It’s also kind of a head scratcher, or at least it became that with the news that lefty pitcher Jay Groome was heading to the Padres. Boston is sacrificing some controllable talent, though at least they aren’t adding much to their future payroll commitment. All they are doing is taking a league-average player off the Padres’ hands for the cost of a decent pitching prospect.

Hosmer was an above-average hitter during his time in San Diego, though his offensive value was more than offset by positional adjustments. In plain English, it’s not that he didn’t hit at all, it’s that he didn’t hit well enough for a first baseman. Add in fielding metrics that have never lined up with the defensive reputation of the four-time Gold Glove winner, and Hosmer finishes his stint with the Padres with a 3.9 Baseball Reference WAR (bWAR).

Yet for the Red Sox, with financial considerations from their end more or less a non-factor, Hosmer is an upgrade. It would be hard for him not to be. Through Monday, Boston’s first basemen this season — mostly Bobby Dalbec and Franchy Cordero — ranked 28th in Fangraphs WAR (minus-1.9) and 26th in OPS (.662). Hosmer is at 1.3 bWAR and a .727 OPS. So he is indeed an upgrade.

If the Red Sox do turn things around and squeeze into the postseason, they get a player who enjoyed some high-stakes success with the Royals, though that was a long time ago at this point. Hosmer struggled during his only postseason appearance for San Diego in 2020.

More than anything, because Hosmer is under contract through the 2025 season, this feels like a stinging indictment of how Boston feels about Dalbec’s chances to turn things around any time soon, unless they see him as a platoon partner for Hosmer long term. Hosmer’s numbers against lefties this season have been way better than Dalbec’s, for what that’s worth. Longer term, Boston’s future at first base is likely still in the hands of prospect Triston Casas, who reached Triple-A this season but is still finding his way at that level.

When Casas is ready, Hosmer’s presence should not stand in the way, since his upside-down contract isn’t really Boston’s problem. And if J.D. Martinez is no longer around, then the Red Sox will have plenty of DH at-bats to fill.

Giving up Groome is a relative surprise. The 12th overall pick by Boston back in 2016, Groome’s climb up the minor-league ladder has been slow. Kiley McDaniel rated him as Boston’s No. 8 prospect before the season and gave him a 45 FV.

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McDaniel explains the slow burn, writing, “Groome has had a winding road, going from one of the best prep pitching prospects in recent years to sliding on draft day because of a Tommy John surgery. He still has an above-average breaking ball, gets into the mid-90s and has some starter traits with a four-pitch mix. Groome is trending up from some of those lows, but he’s a more useful pitcher in a couple of different roles than as an impact starter.”

Groome was the price that Boston had to pay to get out from under most of Hosmer’s contract. The Red Sox also took a couple of fliers in the deal in Ferguson (40 FV) and Rosier (35+ FV).

Me? Stepping back, I’d rather have just stood pat with Groome, Casas and Dalbec all in hand and let the Padres find somewhere else to send Hosmer.

Grade: C

For the Padres, this move can be looked at as the completion of the Soto trade. Hosmer could veto a trade to Washington, so he did. But Boston reportedly wasn’t on his no-trade list, so the Padres are ostensibly paying him to no longer be on their roster. This is kind of a fitting end to a free-agent contract that was signed with so much mutual enthusiasm but never quite worked out. Given the Padres’ tet-a-tet with the luxury tax, paying most of his deal is tough. But if Groome works out, this deal would be worth the trouble.

This content was originally published here.

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