Imagine a division with four playoff-caliber rosters and a team that inked the number one positional free agent? Well, that division would be the NL West, and that player would be first baseman Eric Hosmer.
Saturday night, the big fish on the free agent market (Hosmer) finally inked a contract. Agreeing to an eight-year, $144 million deal with the San Diego Padres, the former Kansas City Royals star ended his three and a half month free agency.
No matter what your opinion is on whether the Padres gave Hosmer too much money, there’s no denying what he brings to the table. Hosmer, a career .284 hitter, is coming off a year in which he hit a career-high .318 (which was second among first basemen), to go along with 25 home runs and 94 RBIs. He continues to pose a threat at the plate and has established himself as one of the better-hitting first basemen in baseball.
Another intriguing aspect of Hosmer’s game is his durability. Playing in 158-plus games in each of the last three seasons, the first baseman has been able to avoid the injury bug, which is comforting for the Padres given the contract that they granted him. While Hosmer is not the best at fielding his position, he does have a long range which partially offsets the liability.
Hosmer gives the Padres a franchise first baseman and someone who will hit in the heart of their order from the get-go; his addition adds intrigue to their ballclub going into spring training. And while his sole presence likely won’t put the Padres into playoff contention, Hosmer reinforces and further proves the notion that the NL West is going to be the most competitive division in baseball next season.
First off, you have the defending NL Champion Los Angeles Dodgers, who were just one game away from winning the World Series last season. With Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood, and Rich Hill at the top of their rotation and one of the best bullpens in MLB headlined by closer Kenley Jansen, manager Dave Roberts has arguably the most potent all-around pitching staff in baseball. With a lineup including Justin Turner, Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, Chris Taylor, and Yasiel Puig, the Dodgers also have the bats to complement their pitching. With one of the best rosters in baseball, the Dodgers are, for sure, the frontrunner to win the NL West and potentially make it back to the Fall Classic in 2018.
Behind the Dodgers, you can look to last year’s NL Wild Card teams for more evidence of competitive play out west. Like the Dodgers, the Arizona Diamondbacks (who won the NL Wild Card game last season after going 93-69) possess a dynamite rotation which features the likes of Zack Greinke, Robbie Ray, Taijuan Walker, and Zack Godley. Couple those arms with a lineup that scored the eighth-most runs in baseball (812) — thanks to the production of Paul Goldschmidt, Jake Lamb, David Peralta, Brandon Drury, and friends — and the D-Backs are poised to be back in the Wild Card mix next season, even if they can’t re-sign outfielder J.D. Martinez.
The D-Backs opponent in the NL Wild Card game, the Colorado Rockies, will also be in the playoff hunt next season. Adding closer Wade Davis and righty Bryan Shaw to their pen, they’ve bolstered what was a glaring weakness in 2017 (the Rockies bullpen pitched to an ERA of 4.40 which was 20th in MLB last season). With one of the most dangerous lineups in baseball featuring Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon, DJ LeMahieu, and Trevor Story, the 87-win Rockies of last season will be fighting for playoff positioning yet again in 2018.
The San Francisco Giants also cannot be slept on. Despite enduring an abysmal 64-win season last year, manager Bruce Bochy will be getting his ace, Madison Bumgarner, back healthy after his bizarre dirt bike injury. The southpaw’s return makes the Giants staff, which also includes Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija, one of MLB’s best. With the additions of third baseman Evan Longoria and outfielder Andrew McCutchen to a lineup that already has Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, and Joe Panik, the Giants will have an improved offensive attack in 2018.
The Dodgers, D-Backs, Rockies, and Giants are all playoff-caliber teams capable of exceeding 90 wins. How often does a division have that amount of competitive intrigue? Plus, the addition of Hosmer to the Padres at the very least makes them a team worth monitoring.
The NL West is, by far, the most talented and competitive division in the majors going into 2018. Hosmer signing with San Diego makes the division that much more compelling.