The Cubs officially announced Friday that they have agreed to terms with first baseman Eric Hosmer on a one-year major league contract. Terms were not disclosed, but Hosmer will earn the league minimum of $720,000 because the Padres are still on the hook for the remainder of his salary for the next three seasons. In order to make room for Hosmer on the 40-man roster, right-handed pitcher Mark Leiter Jr. has been designated for assignment.
The 33-year-old Hosmer has a pretty full trophy case from his time in Kansas City, including an All-Star appearance, four Gold Gloves, and a World Series title. That led him to an eight-year, $144 million deal in San Diego that the Padres are now eating over $40 million of just to move on. There had been rumors for at least the last year that the Cubs or another team would try to “buy” prospects from San Diego in exchange for taking on Hosmer’s contract, so you can imagine why the guy might not have been all that happy there toward the end.
Though his defense is no longer elite and power isn’t one of his hallmarks, Hosmer does at least have one of the highest groundball rates in the game. Wait, that’s only a good thing if you’re a pitcher. While it’s typically very bad for hitters and may still be moving forward, new shift limitations could end up benefiting Hosmer more than other lefty batters who have different batted-ball profiles.
Since Hosmer debuted in 2011, only 20 players (min. 1,000 plate appearances) have hit the ball on the ground more frequently than his 54.5% career rate. He’s been at 55.5% and 56.8% the last two seasons, putting him 10th in MLB during that span. If Hosmer can continue to hit the ball relatively hard, however, a lot more of those grounders to the right side should sneak through for hits.
He’s no longer an impact hitter, but he should be an above-average offensive producer who provides a high floor with a pretty low ceiling. When you’re talking about a one-year contract for the league minimum, that’s a good return. Now I just have to keep hoping the Cubs see this as a way to support Matt Mervis at first base/DH rather than keeping Mash in the minors.
I was mildly surprised to see Leiter on the other end of this move because he was really good for the Cubs out of the bullpen and felt like one of those underrated guys they like to have around. He signed a minor league contract with Chicago in December of 2021 and went 2-7 with a 3.99 ERA and three saves in 35 games for the Cubs. If we remove his four starts, he had a 2.87 ERA with 3.4 K/BB on the strength of a really nice split-change.
I’m not entirely sure whether Leiter can reject an outright assignment in the event that he clears waivers, but it seems really likely the Cubs end up working out a trade.