Eric Hosmer peered around the Royals clubhouse on Monday morning as a small pack of media encroached on the space in front of his locker. He understood the questions that awaited.
One day earlier, Hosmer, the Royals’ 27-year-old first baseman, had revealed in multiple interviews that his representatives were engaged in continual conversations with club officials on a possible contract extension. As he spoke to reporters, he attempted to put the discussions in the proper context.
Hosmer would love the opportunity to remain in Kansas City for the long term, he said. But he also covets the chance to reach free agency for the first time. The deadline for a possible extension would likely be opening day.
“It’s just something that I’m going to let Dayton (Moore, Royals general manager) and (agent Scott Boras) work out,” Hosmer said. “And we’ll see what happens.”
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The nature and seriousness of those talks remains unclear. The possibility of a deal before the season still appears remote. Hosmer will likely seek a long-term deal that could exceed $100 million, $28 million more than the largest contract in Royals history. He is also represented by Boras, a hard-line negotiator who prefers to take his players to the open market.
But Hosmer reiterated two talking points. He has the utmost respect and admiration for Moore. And after six seasons with the Royals, he has grown to love Kansas City.
“Kansas City has seen me grow,” Hosmer said. “They’ve seen my struggles individually on the field, and they’ve been nothing but supportive. We’ve obviously been through a lot together.
“There’s not many fan bases that know of guys when they’re in the minor leagues. So they all knew about us when we were in the minor leagues and we came up. And we feel that it was our group that turned it around and got Kansas City back to where they were in the ’80s. So it holds a special part in all of our hearts, and I know we hold a special part in all their hearts.”
As the 2017 season approaches, the Royals are prepping for a pivotal year, one that could include franchise-defining decisions and a historic offseason next winter. In addition to Hosmer, third baseman Mike Moustakas, center fielder Lorenzo Cain and shortstop Alcides Escobar will be free agents after the season. The Royals will likely have to let some players walk.
Hosmer understands the calculus. On Monday, he echoed his comments from one day earlier. One difference: He pushed back against reports that suggested he was asking for a contract that would approach 10 years in length.
“That’s where you guys get everything mixed up,” Hosmer said, smiling at a collection of reporters. “I never said anything about that. I never said anything about a 10-year deal.”
One thing hasn’t changed: While Hosmer’s camp is prepared to continue talks until opening day, he has long been intrigued by the prospect of reaching free agency. Hosmer considers it a right — a chance to weigh his options and find the best situation for himself and his family. The best situation may end up being in Kansas City, he said, but he first appears interested in entertaining a future somewhere else.
“It’s not saying there’s no way that any of us are gonna be back here,” Hosmer said. “It’s just saying: We have the opportunity to weigh out our options, and we get to do what’s best for ourselves.”