MILWAUKEE – The Brewers are on the verge of picking up a big bat to fill the biggest hole on their roster, as the club just signed a two-year, $34 million contract with former Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins. a deal that includes an exit agreement after Jan. 1, 2019, after the first season, a source told MLB.com's Mark Feinsand on Tuesday.
The club has not confirmed a deal and another source told MLB.com that the teams are still fine-tuning the final details of the option. As with all free agent contracts, this one would also require a physical examination before being finalized.
But when it's finished, it will be a redemption tour for Hoskins, who was a fan favorite in Philadelphia before missing all of last season after tearing his left ACL in spring training.
Although there were rumors that he might return for the playoffs, Hoskins never made it back onto the field in 2023. The right-hander was a potential option if the Phillies reached the World Series, but he was not on the NLCS roster and could only watch as Philadelphia lost to Arizona in seven games. Hoskins' knee should be fully healed by 2024, but he may be rusty from the long layoff.
But a rusty Hoskins is also a solid option. The first baseman, who turns 31 on March 17, has a career OPS of .846 and a slugging percentage just under .500. He averaged 36 home runs per 162 games and was tied for No. 1 with 34 home runs in his first full season in 2018. Hoskins' performance dipped slightly in 2022, when he hit 30 home runs and a .246/.332/.462 slash line with 79 RBIs.
The Statcast metrics still looked positive for Hoskins' goals in his final season. He ranked in the 70th percentile or higher in almost every offensive category, including expected wOBA (75th), barrel rate (78th) and chase rate (81st). Hoskins led the National League with 116 walks in 2019, although his once-elite walk rate declined in 2021 and 2022. While he is an above-average hitter, Hoskins is a poor defender, ranking 33rd out of 36 qualified first basemen in Outs Above Average in 2022.
That would make him an outlier on a Brewers team that led the National League in defensive runs saved last season and in the second half thanks to Trade Deadline acquisition and Gold Glove Award finalist Carlos Santana at first base was, got even better. Hoskins' bat seems worth the trade-off; The Brewers' first basemen ranked 28th out of 30 teams last season in wRC+ (81), an overall measure of offensive performance, and also ranked 28th with an OPS of .681.
Hoskins would also help with another problem: left-handed hitting. He owns a career OPS of .921 against left-handed pitchers, having led the Brewers to an OPS of .704 in 2021 (23rd), .674 in 2022 (23rd) and .730 in 2023 (16th).
While Hoskins also played left field a few times in his career, the Brewers played him at first base and occasionally used him as a designated hitter. The Brewers have typically spread out the DH duties rather than using just one hitter for that role.
A fifth-round draft pick out of Sacramento State in 2014, Hoskins performed well in the minor leagues to earn some hype as a prospect when he debuted in 2017. All he managed that year was hit 18 home runs in 50 games, including a record 10 home runs in his first 17 career contests. Despite hitting just .159 in his postseason debut in 2022, Hoskins provided power for the Phillies, hitting a three-run pitch against Spencer Strider in the NLDS and four more in the Phils' NLCS victory over the Padres scored goals.