Chicago Cubs 2023 Season Preview: First Baseman Eric Hosmer
The Chicago Cubs have had a hole at the first base position since Anthony Rizzo was traded to the New York Yankees at the Major League Baseball trade deadline in 2021. After the failed Frank Schwindel experiment in 2022, the Cubs entered this offseason with the intent of addressing first base.
Despite overtures at Jose Abreu and Josh Bell, it was not until Eric Hosmer was designated for assignment by the Boston Red Sox in December that the Cubs' plan for first base came into picture. The Cubs have been linked to Hosmer for much of the past two seasons as the idea was they would buy a prospect from the San Diego Padres while taking on his contract. Hosmer's trade to the Red Sox last July put an end to that idea but the Cubs still picked him up on the league minimum while Padres are on the hook for the remainder of the 8-year deal he signed in 2018 for $144MM.
A top Padres prospect may not be joining Hosmer on the Cubs but the veteran should still provide value for the team at first base. Between his time with the Padres and Red Sox last season, Hosmer slashed .268/.334/.382/.313 wOBA/104 wRC+ in 419 plate appearances. The issue is that Hosmer's power production has consistently declined since hitting 22 home runs in 2019. Hosmer has 20 home runs combined over the past two seasons. Hosmer's defense has also regressed to the point where he is now a below-average fielder at first base despite having four Gold Glove awards to his name.
2023 FanGraphs ZiPS Projections: .273/.330/.409/.322 wOBA/108 wRC+, 12 home runs, 0.8 fWAR
2023 Baseball Reference Projections: .261/.325/.389/.713, 11 home runs, 21 doubles, 54 RBI
Both modules are fairly similar with the expectation that Hosmer will be a league-average bat with perhaps a tick toward above league-average. If Hosmer can find his power approach, that likely would go a long way toward ensuring his roster spot is safe for the duration of the 2023 season.
Hosmer will not have free reign over the Cubs' first base position. Trey Mancini would undoubtedly get a look at first base in games in which he is not serving as the team's designated hitter and first base prospect Matt Mervis is not far from being ready for the Major League level if he isn't already. If Hosmer struggles to begin the season, the fact that the Cubs are paying for the former Royals' World Series winner the league minimum means that he will be a candidate to be cut if there is an upgrade that can be had.