By Ray Dunne
The name Rhys Hoskins right now elicits a range of emotions from Phillies fans. To some, he sits at the center of the postseason failures. Maligned for errors and a difficult finale at the plate. To others, the bat spike and his role in turning the tide in NLCS Game 4 immortalized his spot in Philadelphia baseball lore.
If the Phillies’ postseason ride was a roller coaster, Hoskins had a front-row seat. Experienced highs clearer than anyone else and nosedived to the lows more dramatically than anyone else.
The negative interpretation of his role in this postseason is being used as cause to move on from the Phillies’ longtime first baseman. Fair or unfair, there is no easy path to doing this.
Where does Rhys Hoskins’ value lie?
In his 2022 campaign, Hoskins ranked in the top 10 among first basemen in home runs, walk rate (BB%, measuring number of walks compared to plate appearances), and slugging percentage. Offensively, it was a solid season that would entice a number of teams.
Defensively, it was not up to par. The postseason showcased the worst of what it can be. Depending on how you cherry-pick stats for defense, you can make a case for a better season or a worse season. The reality is that he is a below-average fielder at his position.
With designated hitters all across baseball now, that does open up a little more value for a player like Hoskins. The issue lies in having to pay him after next season. To move Hoskins, you need to find a trade partner that has an opening at 1B/DH, would be willing to pay him, and can offer you something that makes the Phillies immediately better.
So… where can you find that type of offer?
There are three teams that at this moment seem even remotely in a position to do something.
As Tyler Zulli pointed out on Friday night’s show, he could see the White Sox being involved if they did not retain 1B/DH Jose Abreu. Early reports indicate that Abreu and the White Sox may not have a reunion in sight. But that remains to be seen.
Hoskins would put some pop in that lineup, but adding Hoskins to that mix would give a Phillies-esque problem to the White Sox. Andrew Vaughn, who is a natural first baseman that got bumped to corner outfield duties, and Eloy Jimenez, a poor fielding outfielder, would benefit from being slotted into the 1B/DH spots in the aftermath of an Abreu departure. Adding Hoskins would keep the White Sox’s defensive woes intact.
Other options? Our old friend Carlos Santana is set to hit free agency, leaving the Seattle Mariners with an opening at DH. This might be the one that could click. But one would think the Mariners have some more pressing interests to fill that role. The Cleveland Guardians could use some more power in their lineup, but giving up impact players in exchange for a player about to hit free agency doesn’t feel very Guardians-esque.
Again, the Hoskins trade will be a tough sell to other teams.
What about replacing Rhys Hoskins?
Don’t just pencil Alec Bohm into first base. Bohm just got comfortable at third and isn’t some home run fix at first. There is always a potential for things to be worse than what Hoskins gave you. Especially Bohm both hasn’t seen consistent time at the position and hasn’t shown you he can play it well. Part of this theory is finding a cheap replacement for Bohm at third, which likely will not have the pop in the lineup that Hoskins brought you. Getting very little power from your corner infielders is not a winning recipe.
Anthony Rizzo? Pass. Josh Bell? Pass. The aforementioned Abreu? Pass.
All will take money from the pursuits of the pitching and middle infield help that this team needs. There is a limit to how much anyone will spend. Even if John Middleton wants to throw around “stupid money” this off-season. Much like spending $22 million on Corey Knebel, Jeurys Familia and Brad Hand last offseason, it would not be wise to throw money at a first-base situation that doesn’t push the team forward. Moving on from Rhys Hoskins for one of those players isn’t providing a major upgrade to your team yet costing you money that takes away from those upgrades.
If Dave Dombrowski finds a general manager pining for Rhys Hoskins, he absolutely should negotiate to move him. That situation does not seem likely. The focus should be on building pitching depth and one of the four shortstops at the top of the free-agent market. While the memories of Hoskins misplaying ground balls and swinging through fastballs are very fresh. The current market doesn’t provide a ton of opportunities for the Phillies to both get better and get rid of him.