Eric Hosmer’s short tenure with the Red Sox has not gone according to plan.
For much of the year, the Red Sox roster had a huge hole at first base with Bobby Dalbec and Franchy Cordero splitting time. When the Red Sox acquired Hosmer at the trade deadline from the Padres, it was seen as an upgrade. Although Hosmer didn’t quite live up to expectations during his time with San Diego, he was still a proven veteran and a World Series champion, and certainly an improvement over the Sox’ options at first. Additionally, the Sox were only on the hook for $700,000 (the league minimum) with the Padres taking on the rest of his salary.
Yet Hosmer played in just 12 games before hitting the injured list with a bad back. He’s said to be progressing and could partake in baseball activities beginning Tuesday.
“Hopefully we can get some swings to start the progression and hopefully come back at some point and help contribute,” Hosmer said Sunday.
Hosmer’s injury and the reality that the team won’t make the postseason prematurely brought, perhaps, one of the Sox’ biggest questions to the surface: With Triston Casas clearly a huge piece of the franchise’s future, do the Red Sox trade Hosmer this offseason?
Some might see that as a no-brainer. Hosmer’s tab for any other team would also be just the minimum. With three years left on his deal, the Red Sox could leverage that bargain and shop Hosmer to a team that might need some veteran presence and a lefty bat.
But it’s not quite that simple. If the Sox traded Hosmer, that would mean they would be all-in on the 22-year-old rookie.
The Red Sox should wait that one out.
Twelve games into Casas’ rookie campaign, he’s hitting just .088. He has just three hits — including two homers, one off Yankees ace Gerrit Cole — in 34 at-bats while also posting a 30 percent strikeout rate.
Certainly, Casas has proven himself to be a selective hitter, chasing pitches outside the zone just 15.6 percent of the time, per Statcast. He’s already drawn six walks. But his zone contact percentage — though sample size must also be taken into account — is at 80 percent, a few ticks below league average.
While Casas might be able to take pitches outside the zone effectively, he still needs to prove that he can do damage inside the zone.
The Sox believe Casas will make that adjustment, that the hits will begin to come as long as he sticks to his approach. In fact, manager Alex Cora has praised his rookie first baseman’s approach, adding that he wants him to “keep doing what he’s doing.”
But with the Red Sox bound for their second last place finish in three years under chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, trading Hosmer so abruptly could backfire.
The Sox had high hopes for Jarren Duran as an everyday center fielder, but he’s now back at Triple A Worcester. They had high hopes for Dalbec, too, but he’s also back with the WooSox .
If that proves anything, it’s that development is not linear. And with the Sox desperately needing to make a playoff run next season, trading Hosmer and keeping Casas might not be the wisest decision.
As the season comes to a close, Hosmer knows, if he returns, that he would be behind Casas.
“I think I can help this team a lot,” Hosmer said. “I think obviously Triston is going to get the majority of the at-bats and play first. He’s a big part of this organization, and I think he’s gonna be a big part of our success. He’s got to be the one getting the majority of bats over there. And that’s understandable. I think there’s a lot more roles and there’s a lot to a roster that can help a team win.”
That’s this year, though. Moving forward without Hosmer next season could put the Sox’ first base situation back at square one.
Brayan Bello will start on Tuesday. Wednesday’s starter is still to be determined. The Reds are 58-89, sporting a minus-124 run differential. They will have Nick Lodolo start on Tuesday followed by Chase Anderson Wednesday ... For the Sox’ four-game set against the Yankees in New York, Michael Wacha will start the series opener Thursday, followed by Rich Hill, Nick Pivetta, and Bello … Casas will play winter ball in the Dominican Republic.