SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) The Kansas City Royals came to camp Sunday and finally knew for sure: Eric Hosmer was gone.
The move was not unexpected, but they had been dreading this day.
Hosmer agreed to an eight-year, $144 million contract with the San Diego Padres this weekend, leaving the Royals with a big void at first base and in the clubhouse.
”I had a pretty good sense about four days ago that it probably wasn’t going to work out here,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. ”You still hold out hope. We began to develop a mindset that he is probably going in a different direction.”
The 28-year-old Hosmer hit a career-best .318 last year with 25 home runs. He is a four-time Gold Glove winner and was the MVP of the 2016 All-Star Game, which was played in San Diego. Hosmer helped the Royals to back-to-back World Series appearances, and they won it all in 2015.
”Eric Hosmer was a huge part of that,” Moore said. ”We’re forever grateful for his leadership, what he meant and does mean to this organization. We’ll do nothing but wish Eric and his family well. The Padres are getting a tremendous player. There are no ill feelings, whatsoever, and we move on.”
Hosmer’s most memorable Royals’ moment was his mad dash home from third base on a groundout to third base in the ninth inning of Game 5 of the 2015 World Series. He scored the tying run, and Kansas City won in the 12th to clinch the crown.
”That was the most aggressive play I’ve ever seen for a baserunner,” Royals closer Kelvin Herrera said. ”We got a ring from that play there. That was the key.”
Herrera recalls playing with Hosmer in 2009 in the low minors in Burlington, Iowa.
”We used to cook together,” Herrera said. ”We’d go to Walmart to get the food. That’s my first memory of him. We’ll miss him a lot.”
Royals starting pitcher Danny Duffy said Hosmer is one of his best friends.
”I’m just happy for him,” Duffy said. ”I’ve been talking to him and he deserves whatever he can get. Anything positive coming his way is warranted. I told him yesterday, my happiness for you trumps the bummer I’m feeling right now. It stinks, but it us part of the game.
”I’ve got about 11 seasons worth of special memories with him – winning the WBC, winning the World Series, winning the Texas League, watching that dude evolve over a span of a decade. Watching him be the same human being today that he was when he got drafted. This game hasn’t changed him one bit.”
Duffy and the Royals might see Hosmer soon. Kansas City and San Diego play several times in spring training, with their first meeting on March 2.
Hosmer hit .284 with a .439 slugging percentage in 1,048 regular season games with the Royals.
”He’s the guy everybody went to for anything,” Royals catcher Drew Butera said. ”If you’re feeling down, you went to him. If you walk in the clubhouse and have got some new shoes, he’s the first guy you went to go show. He always made you feel special, whether you are a 12-year veteran superstar or you had one day in the show. He’s the guy you went to and he always built you up and led the team.
”He was the true leader on and off the field. He did things in games that stat guys or video guys might not pick up. He was a huge reason why we were good for a long time and why we went to two World Series and won one of them.”
Manager Ned Yost listed former first-round pick Hunter Dozier, starting second baseman Whit Merrifield, Cheslor Cuthbert and non-roster invitees Frank Schwindel and Ryan O’Hearn as possibilities to play first base.
”We’ve got a lot of options,” Yost said. ”There’s a lot of different things we can do. We’ve got plenty of time to figure it out. There’s not a lot of worrying about on who is going to play first base right now.”
The Royals could opt to go outside of the organization, too. Logan Morrison, who hit 38 home runs last year with Tampa Bay and is from Kansas City, is an unsigned free agent first baseman.
”There are still some players that are available depending on what the acquisition cost is in terms of contracts,” Moore said. ”We’ll continue to look at.”
Moore acknowledged the Royals are keeping a close watch on the budget as far as adding a free agent.
”I wish Hoz was still here,” Moore said. ”He’s not.”