As the offseason slowly crawls toward Spring Training, Toronto Blue Jays fans are still waiting for the front office to make a splash in the free agent market. After missing out on the big fish — Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto — perhaps it's time to set our sights on the more realistic, attainable free agents.
With the defense looking as solid as ever, especially after the Kevin Kiermaier re-signing, the Jays still need an impact bat. One name not getting talked about enough as a fit for the Blue Jays is Rhys Hoskins. The former Philadelphia Phillies slugger is still looking for a home for the 2024 season and would be a nice addition to the team both on the field and off, even if just for a single campaign.
Hoskins missed his chance to solidify his value on the free agent market in 2023, his contract year, after tearing his ACL in spring training. With his entire career spent with the Phillies, the former fifth-round pick is out of a job only because Philadelphia has given Bryce Harper the full-time first base job — a move you make 10 out of 10 times.
Hoskins was a valued part of the Phillies but is just the odd man out in their roster shuffling.
Why should the Blue Jays take a chance on Rhys Hoskins?
The last time Hoksins played, in 2022, he hit 30 home runs with a .246/.332/.462 slash line, driving in 79 RBI with a 122 wRC+ in 156 games. In 2021, he hit 27 home runs in just 107 games. As for the upcoming year, Steamer projects the big right-hander to hit 30 home runs again this season, with 85 RBI.
Those numbers would look great in the middle of the Jays' lineup.
With the departure of Brandon Belt, the team needs a veteran with an experienced glove to spell Vladimir Guerrero Jr. at first base on a semi-regular basis and fill the DH spot the rest of the time. Ideally, someone who can get the big hit, who has experience in big moments, and who isn't afraid of the spotlight. Check, check, and check.
In 667 games with the Phillies, the "Big Fella" racked up 148 homers and an .846 OPS. None of his home runs were bigger than his 2022 National League Division Series 3-run blast off Atlanta's Spencer Strider.
In that 2022 postseason, Hoskins hit six home runs and drove in 12 in 17 games for the World Series-bound Phillies.
While Blue Jays fans seemingly spent the entire 2023 season waiting for that big blast, Hoskins has proven himself on the biggest stage in the postseason. The Jays could have used a big hit like that against the Minnesota Twins back in October.
Hoskins may be in line for a one-year deal, much like the Jays gave Kiermaier before the 2023 season. He may even end up getting a two-year contract. Either way, Hoskins is looking to prove himself after a year away from the big leagues. As for his health, there's no doubt he'll be ready to go for the start of Spring Training — he was working toward coming back in the postseason for the Phillies.
Rhys Hoskins, the clubhouse leader
Hoskins brings a big bat, but the six-year veteran is no stranger to being in a leadership role. As a Phillies homegrown talent, he spent years toiling on a sub-par team and was one of the clubhouse leaders who helped carry the franchise out of mediocrity and back to relevance in the postseason.
When asked recently on the Foul Territory podcast what the team that signs Hoskins will be getting, his former manager Rob Thomson laid it out all out there.
"You're going to get 30 home runs and close to 100 RBI, if not more. And you're going to get high on base, a guy that's going to work deep counts, see a lot of pitches, wear a pitcher down," Thomson said. "And you're going to get a great clubhouse presence who's extremely professional, very supportive. Just an outstanding teammate.
"Rhys was a big part of our club, and losing him at the end of Spring Training was just devastating to our players individually because they love Rhys."
It sounds like Rhys Hoskins is not only a great fit for the Blue Jays on the field but will be a presence this team could use in the clubhouse.
There's no reason for the Blue Jays not to take a flier on the veteran Hoskins for a year or two. He could be the piece that helps this win-now roster conquer the postseason hurdle over which it keeps tripping.