Rhys Hoskins was one of the more consistent power bats in the game throughout his first six seasons, posting an .846 OPS and averaging 36 home runs per 162 games. Unfortunately, an ACL tear ended his 2023 campaign in spring training, so he enters free agency as something of a wild card.
Will teams still value Hoskins as a reliable middle-of-the-order bat? Or will his lost season scare off potential suitors? After all, there’s no shortage of first base/DH impact bats on the market, and guys like Jorge Soler, Brandon Belt, and J.D. Martinez are coming off impressive (and healthy) 2023 seasons.
For his part, will Hoskins be looking for as much guaranteed money as possible? Or will he choose to bet on himself, signing a one-year deal in hopes of increasing his value for next winter? There’s no easy answer, but it likely depends on how active his market turns out to be.
So, what does the market for Hoskins look like? A reunion with Philadelphia seems unlikely (Bryce Harper will play first base full-time in 2024), and the former Phillies first baseman hasn’t been linked to many new teams just yet. Still, there are plenty of clubs who could use a bat like his in the middle of their lineup.
The Cubs are the one team that has been formally connected with Rhys Hoskins thus far, according to a report from Patrick Mooney and Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic:
“With an opening at first base and a need for a middle-of-the-order hitter, the Cubs view Rhys Hoskins as a good fit for their roster, league sources said, seeing it as another opportunity to add an impact player with postseason experience without having to go long on a contract.”
The Cubs could use a first baseman, and if the Christopher Morel trade rumors are to be believed, they might need a designated hitter, too. What’s more, if Cody Bellinger signs elsewhere, the team will have lost a big bat. Hoskins could play first base/DH and replace Bellinger in the middle of Chicago’s order.
It remains unclear how much the Brewers will actually spend this winter, but they absolutely should be in the market for a difference-making bat.
Milwaukee finished the 2023 season with a team-wide .704 OPS, the second-worst in the National League. Their pitching and defense still got them to the playoffs, but that combination might not be enough in 2024. The rotation is significantly weaker without Brandon Woodruff, and the Cubs, Cardinals, and Reds are only getting stronger.
If the Brewers want to defend their division crown, they can’t just sit pat this winter. Rhys Hoskins could play first base or DH, and he’d be exactly the kind of upgrade their lineup needs.
Toronto Blue Jays
Earlier this month, Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins said the team would be open to adding a full-time DH. Fans immediately began dreaming of Shohei Ohtani (and indeed, the two-time MVP seems to be a possibility), but if the Jays fall short in their pursuit of the two-way superstar, Rhys Hoskins could be the consolation prize for their lineup.
While the two sides haven’t been formally linked, MLB inside Robert Murray of FanSided believes Toronto is a great fit for Hoskins. He had this to say after the GM Meetings in early November: “I think [the Blue Jays and Hoskins] is a fit that we’re going to be hearing more about as the winter goes on.”
President of baseball operations Derek Falvey has already suggested that the Twins could look to add a first base bat. Presumably, they’ll prioritize a right-handed hitter who can split time with the left-handed Alex Kirilloff and help the team do more damage against southpaws.
However, if Kirilloff comes back fully healthy next year (he’s currently recovering from shoulder surgery) and Byron Buxton is still stuck at DH, the Twins could struggle to find regular playing time for those two plus Rhys Hoskins. What’s more, Minnesota is reportedly trying to cut down the payroll this winter.
Still, Hoskins is precisely the kind of addition the Twins need to help them stay atop the division. Despite the complications, it’s worth considering.
This one is a little out there, but then again, the Rockies are often a little out there. It doesn’t look like this team will be competitive in 2024, but they could entice Rhys Hoskins with a longer contract than anyone else is willing to offer; it’s how they signed Kris Bryant a couple of years back.
Colorado has an opening at first base, and a power hitter like Hoskins might enjoy playing his home games at Coors Field. It’s not the most likely scenario, but it’s a better fit than you might initially think.
Honorable Mentions: Washington Nationals, Pittsburgh Pirates
It seems unlikely that (a) either of these teams would be willing to pay what Hoskins is looking for and (b) Hoskins would be interested in signing with a basement-dwelling club.
However, both teams could use a first baseman and another capable bat in the lineup, and if Hoskins can’t find what he’s looking for elsewhere on the market, perhaps he signs a one-year deal with the Nationals or Pirates. He could help them win some extra ballgames in the first half of the season before netting them a prospect or two at the trade deadline.