For many non-Padres fans, the Eric Hosmer to San Diego connection may seem strange. The Padres are a small-market team in the gruesome NL West with no real hopes of competing in 2018. What’s the point of signing a player to a $100+ million contract if you’re still atleast a year of competing?
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Of course Padres’ fans know that San Diego’s fantastic farm system is about ready to break through at the MLB level and that Hosmer is thought of to be a leader for the youth movement. But even with that in mind, some fans may still be confused as to why the Padres would make such a commitment.
It’s still yet to be seen if the Padres are going to land Hosmer, as the team is currently “split” on acquiring him. However if they were to do so, there’s certainly a precedent for it.
The Early Years
Going into the 2011 season, the Washington Nationals signed Jayson Werth to a seven year/$126 million contract. This came after the 2010 season in which Washington went 69-93 and was just one year removed from back to back 100 loss seasons.
In his first year with the Nats, Werth appeared in 150 games, hitting .232 with 20 home runs, 58 RBIs and 19 stolen bases. Washington didn’t reach the playoffs, but they showed they were close, finishing the year at 80-81.
Werth’s first season is almost identical to what the Padres’ front office and their fan base would expect out of Hosmer. Of course they’d want more production with the bat, but getting the team to about .500 is a current goal of the team. Hosmer may be signed a year early, but if he is able to help the team win in his first year, he’s most certain to help even more with better players around him.
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Washington’s 2012 season wasn’t great for Werth, but amazing for the Nationals. The outfielder got hurt, only appearing in 81 games, hitting .300 with five home runs, 31 RBIs and eight stolen bases. The Nats finished 98-64 and while they lost in the division series, made their first postseason since 1981 when they were the Montreal Expos.
The 2012 season also marked the debut of superstar Bryce Harper. That rookie season he hit .270 with 22 home runs, 59 RBIs and 18 stolen bases on his way to the NL Rookie of the Year award.
Obviously Harper is one of the best prospects of the modern era, however it could be argued that Werth’s veteran leadership helped make the transition smoother. Playing the outfield, Werth could’ve helped teach him how to field pop-flys at different ballparks as well as what to expect with major league pitching.
Hosmer would expected to do the same thing with top prospect Fernando Tatis Jr. While they don’t play the same position, they do share an infield. Hosmer could help Tatis learn how to play in the major leagues and show him what a championship pedigree is all about.
In 2013 the Nationals went 86-76 yet missed the postseason. Werth appeared in 129 games, hitting .318 with 25 home runs, 82 RBIs and 10 stolen bases. He also led the team in overall WAR at 4.6.
In signing Hosmer it’s all about success in the playoffs, so seeing the Nationals miss the postseason despite the strong year from Werth is disheartening. However if San Diego is going to spend $100+ million, it isn’t the worst thing to see their star player succeed.
The Nats made the playoffs again in 2014 after going 96-66 but were unable to make it past the Division Series once more. Werth appeared in 147 games, hitting .292 with 16 home runs, 82 RBIs and nine stolen bases.
Again, it’s important for Hosmer to find playoff success if signed in San Diego. However it’s clear that the Nationals have improved with his bat being one of the main reasons.
The following season marked arguably Werth’s worst with the team. He appeared in just 88 games, hitting .221 with 12 home runs and 42 RBIs. The Nats went 83-79 and failed to reach the postseason.
It’s important to note that Werth was 36 during the 2015 and that Hosmer will not hit that age assuming his signs a six year deal. However if Hosmer starts to battle the injury bug more often, a long-term deal could hurt the Padres. If he starts to struggled towards the back end of the contract San Diego could be strapped for cap space limiting their possibilities in free agency.
Werth was able to redeem himself in 2016, hitting .244 with 21 home runs, 69 RBIs and five stolen bases over 143 games. The Nationals went 95-67, yet they lost again in the division series.
In 2017, Werth’s last season with the Nats, Washington went 97-65, making the playoffs, and you guessed it, losing in the division series. Werth ended his time with the Nationals appearing in 70 games, hitting .226 with 10 home runs, 29 RBIs and four stolen bases.
So what can we learn from all this?
Clearly Jayson Werth made the Nationals a better team. He didn’t do it by himself, but he was able to provide Washington with a big bat and help change the culture for a team desperate for playoff wins.
The Nationals took a chance on Werth after a losing season, but he was able to be a leader as they finished their rebuild. He helped mentor Bryce Harper and was consistently one of the better hitters in the lineup day in and day out.
It’s important to note that Werth did struggle with injury issues during his contract. Obviously Hosmer is younger, but if he starts to develop injury issues, having him on a long-term deal could hurt the Padres going forward.
No two teams are the same. Signing Hosmer doesn’t mean he is going to follow Werth’s trajectory. But both the Nats and Padres are in the same situation and San Diego should use the Werth deal as a blueprint for how Hosmer may work.
Eric Hosmer is a big-name free agent who could be making his home in San Diego. But it’s important that the Padres’ fans and front office look at Washington and Jayson Werth to understand the pros and cons of signing a veteran free agent to a long-term deal coming off a losing season.