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Cubs officially add former World Series, Gold Glove winner Eric Hosmer

1 year agoAndy Martinez

The Cubs bolstered first base with a World Series and Gold Glove-winning veteran.

The team has reached an agreement with free agent Eric Hosmer on a one-year, major-league contract. To make room on the 40-man roster, right-handed pitcher Mark Leiter Jr. was designated for assignment. 

Hosmer, 33, is a lifetime .277/.336/.428 hitter with 196 home runs, 879 RBI and a 19.1 WAR, per Baseball-Reference. He won the 2015 World Series as the Royals’ everyday first baseman. He’s earned 4 Gold Gloves at first base, a Silver Slugger Award and won the All-Star Game MVP in 2016.

In 2022, the lefty Hosmer slashed .268/.334/.382 with 8 home runs, 44 RBI, a 1.1 WAR and a 108 weighted runs created plus (8 percentage points above league average) with the Padres and Red Sox. The addition of Hosmer adds a veteran presence to a position the Cubs struggled to garner production from in 2022.

“I think there’s a big hole for me at first base and the production we’re getting out of that,” David Ross said near the end of the 2022 season.

Cubs first basemen slashed .223/.288/339 in 2022, their .627 OPS was 27th in baseball, they had a wRC+ of 86 (25th) and 0.1 WAR (23rd). That production primarily came from Alfonso Rivas, who was designated for assignment on Dec. 23, P.J. Higgins (who also was designated for assignment last week) and Patrick Wisdom.

In the short term, bringing Hosmer on board also gives the Cubs a much-needed left-handed bat, as their lineup was trending right-handed heavy. Hosmer, new outfielder Cody Bellinger, new catcher Tucker Barnhart and Ian Happ (switch-hitter) are some of the Cubs options from the left side of the batter’s box.

The Cubs could opt to platoon first base with Wisdom and Hosmer, exploiting Hosmer’s strengths against righties (.287/.353/.457, 155 HR lifetime against right-handed pitching) and Wisdom’s big bat against southpaws (.240/.322/.512, 19 home runs in his career against lefties).

Hosmer also provides veteran leadership and some cushion if and when the team calls up power-hitting prospect Matt Mervis to the big leagues. There’s no added pressure on Mervis to try and win the job out of spring and there’s no burden on him to produce immediately. If Hosmer has some success and Mervis is called up, Mervis’ ability to learn from an award-winning first baseman will be invaluable.

Hosmer will likely sign for the league minimum (he’s owed $13 million per season through 2025 from the Padres), meaning the Cubs could turn to Mervis if Hosmer struggles and not be bogged down by a heavy contract investment.

Leiter Jr. was 2-7 with a 3.99 ERA and 3 saves in 35 games for the Cubs in 2022. He proved effective out of the bullpen for the Cubs, where his splitter (52.5% whiff rate) gave opponents trouble. He had a 2.87 ERA and a 1.031 WHIP in relief for the Cubs. 

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