What if signing Eric Hosmer falls through for the San Diego Padres? There may be a much cheaper and equally impressive option out on the market. Lorenzo Cain.
As the calendar flips to 2018 and the slowest offseason in years dredges on, the San Diego Padres find themselves in a potential bidding war for free agent first baseman, Eric Hosmer. The Hosmer Saga has completely taken over the Padres’ offseason, dividing fans and the media alike.
What if Eric Hosmer decides to remain in Kansas City? Could the Padres turn their attention to another former Royal, Lorenzo Cain?
It was initially reported by Bob Nightengale of USA Today that the Padres offered Hosmer a seven year/$140 million deal. The Royals offer stood at seven years/$147 million. Hosmer’s agent, Scott Boras, told The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal that both of those figures were false. Regardless, it appears that if San Diego wants to bring in Hosmer, they will have to make him the highest paid player in team history.
Neither of the small-market teams are looking to get into an expensive bidding war. While the Padres have more flexibility with the payroll, the Royals are looking to slash expenses this offseason. Hosmer was also recently quoted as saying that he would enjoy playing for San Diego.
How about free agent outfielder Lorenzo Cain?
Lorenzo Cain seems to make more sense for the Padres.
Cain is coming off one of the best seasons of his career. He appeared in a career-high 155 games for the Royals, where he hit 15 home runs and 27 doubles. His slash line of .300/.363/.440/.803 nearly matched his 2015 ALCS MVP season.
Next year will be his age-32 season, but his smaller frame has aged well. While speed is usually the first attribute to leave aging ballplayers, Cain swiped 26 bags last year, just two off his career high of 28.
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His defense will provide a much larger contribution in the outfield compared to Wil Myers. Cain has played the majority of his career in center field, but a move to left field shouldn’t hinder his abilities. According to last season’s Statcast Sprint Speed leaderboard, Cain ranked tied for 9th at 29.1 ft/sec. His Outs Above Average ranked 4th at 15. There’s no denying he’s one of the more elite defenders in the game.
Offensively, Cain still provides a potent bat. Over the last five years, Cain has the fifth highest collective WAR (20.5) among all outfielders in Major League Baseball (Paul Swydan of Fangraphs). His 89.2 average exit velocity was good for 22nd best in the league, right behind George Springer. It’s shocking how little attention Cain has received this offseason.
Comparing 2017 stats and 2018 projections
Let’s compare last year’s statistical output for Cain and Hosmer:
Hosmer: .318/.385/.498/.882 slash line, 9.8% BB rate, 15.5% K rate, 80.2% contact rate, .351 BABIP, 4.1 WAR
Cain: .300/.363/.440/.805 slash line, 8.4% BB rate, 15.5% K rate, 81.9% contact rate, .340 BABIP, 4.1 WAR.
The statistics were nearly similar. Cain hits the ball harder, can still leg out infield hits, and continues to drive the ball. Hosmer, on the other hand, did not hit the ball nearly as hard and produced ground balls 55.6% of the time, while Cain hit a 44% ground ball rate. Also of note, Hosmer ranks near the very bottom of the list in average launch angle over the last three seasons.
Early projections for 2018 place Hosmer at a .290 batting average and 2.6 WAR. Cain projects a .288 average and 3.3 WAR. No hitter currently on the Padres’ 25-man roster projects a WAR above 3.0.
Cain also brings stability and a veteran presence.
There have been no reports of a connection between Lorenzo Cain and the Padres at the moment. However, should the Hosmer signing fall through, Cain presents a comparable pick up at a much cheaper price.
MLBTradeRumors projected a 4 year/$70 million deal for the free agent outfielder. Ken Rosenthal reported on The Athletic that the Milwaukee Brewers appear to be interested. ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick says that the Texas Rangers are “ramping up their pursuit” of Cain. Keep in mind, signing Cain would result in the loss of a draft pick for whichever team picks him up.
Jose Pirela isn’t the long-term option in left field. Neither is Travis Jankowski. Both flashed the ability to be a serviceable fourth outfielder option at the major league level, but neither has shown they can play an entire season.
Franchy Cordero has earned high praise in the Dominican Winter League (MVP and Rookie of the Year winner) and will compete for the left field job. However, he will need to show better command of his swing and is still a few adjustments away from contributing at the next level.
Lorenzo Cain would provide stability and a veteran presence to the young San Diego outfield.
Let’s see if San Diego is the team to finally ignite the hot stove this offseason.