PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) — Just the thought of free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer joining the downtrodden, youthful San Diego Padres sent a morning jolt through the spring training clubhouse.
The on-field vibe seemed equally cheery, as country music blared as players went to work under sunny skies in the Arizona desert.
Hosmer reached a preliminary agreement on an eight-year contract with the Padres, pending a physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal confirmed the tentative deal, speaking on the condition of anonymity Sunday because there had been no formal announcement of Hosmer’s potential signing.
It would become official once he passes a physical early in the week. While the final position players reported Sunday — most were already in spring camp — ahead of Monday’s first full-squad workout, Hosmer wasn’t expected in the desert until at least Monday.
Hosmer, who spent his first seven major league seasons with Kansas City, would receive a reported $144 million.
Padres manager Andy Green could only discuss the acquisition of Hosmer in generalities since it isn’t final, but was hopeful of having his full team together Monday.
“I can’t replicate the magic of the first day twice, so, yeah, you want him or anyone to be there when you’re talking,” Green said. “… Not that there is any real magic on the first day, but it’s always nice to have your camp settled as early as possible.”
The 28-year-old Hosmer batted a career-high .318 in 2017 and matched his best from the previous season with 25 home runs. A four-time Gold Glover and All-Star in ’16, he drove in 94 runs and scored 98 for the Royals last season. He also had a career-best .385 on-base percentage.
Veteran right-hander Chris Young also came to the Padres this offseason after most recently pitching three seasons for the Royals, calling Hosmer “one of my all-time favorite teammates” who brings “a competitive fire” that will be much-welcomed.
He hadn’t been in touch with Hosmer in recent days but they did communicate earlier in the winter when Young chose San Diego and discussed that it was among Hosmer’s top choices, too. Young said he didn’t want to add any pressure to Hosmer making a decision.
“Hos is a legitimate All-Star,” Young said. “I think he brings a veteran experience, he’s a winner, he’s a champion and a great mentor for young guys. So I think he fits all the categories I think you’re looking in terms of a teammate, a leader, a competitor. I think he makes any clubhouse better, much less this one.”
While most every club feels a sense of optimism this time of year with a freshslate as spring training begins, the Padres were especially upbeat as they got going early Sunday at the idea of the power-hitting Hosmer in their lineup and at first base.
San Diego went 71-91 last season for fourth in the NL West above only the San Francisco Giants, and the Padres haven’t been to the playoffs since losing in the 2006 NL Division Series.
Green knows what someone such as Hosmer could mean to a club’s chances of turning it around .
“It was always time to start contending for me,” said Green, beginning his third season as San Diego skipper. “It was always go out and win opening day and go out and win every game. I haven’t been very good at that, I have to acknowledge that. At this point in time, opening day has been cruel to me so far.
“But I think we show up with the expectation of winning the first game of the season and don’t waver from that no matter who’s in that clubhouse. Does it get easier if certain people are in that clubhouse? Yeah, it sure does.”
Wil Myers, who played 154 games at first for San Diego last season, was ready to move positions as needed. He can play elsewhere in the infield and all three outfield spots and Green said he would be “magically” taking fly balls in right field Sunday.
“Wil’s been great with everything that’s ever been asked of him,” Green said.
Myers said the Padres communicated with him during the offseason about the possibility of adding Hosmer, saying: “When I saw that possibility I was very excited. To be able to add a player like that I think is very cool.”
Myers played in 2010 with Hosmer in the minors with the Royals.
“I know nothing’s definite right now but just to be able to hopefully add a guy like that is pretty special,” Myers said.
“He’s a great guy. He’s going to be a guy that fits really well in this clubhouse. … You’ve heard a lot of great things about him, what he does in the clubhouse and who he is as a person.”
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