PEORIA, Ariz. – Eric Hosmer has been able to focus strictly on baseball this offseason and he likes what he sees with the suddenly dynamic San Diego Padres.
Hosmer arrived at spring training last year after signing a $144 million, eight-year contract as a free agent after helping lead the Kansas City Royals to a World Series title. The buzz generated by his signing didn't last long as he struggled in his first season with the Padres, who lost 96 games and finished last in the NL West.
Now the first baseman is energized by being around new teammate Manny Machado, who last week signed a $300 million, 10-year contract, and top prospect Fernando Tatis Jr., who is expected to make his big league debut at some point in 2019.
Hosmer's deal had been the biggest in team history until Machado signed the biggest deal for any free agent.
"It's a tremendous leap for this organization," Hosmer said. "It shows everybody what we are all about. It's something we aren't trying to preach or talk about. They went out, signed a player and got a guy that's going to help us win a championship one day."
Last spring training, Hosmer had to get acquainted with new teammates and a new league. He signed his deal shortly after pitchers and catchers reported to camp. He said he didn't get an offer from a team until mid-January and made sure he was making the right decision before deciding on San Diego.
"I didn't know much about the organization until I did my homework when I was a free agent," he said. "Just reading about all the talent and getting to see all of that. Especially this year, with these guys getting to see what Tatis did in the winter, what Franmil (Reyes) did over here last year, there's a lot of upside where this organization is going."
Hosmer was able to shift his priorities this offseason to getting his mind and body ready for baseball.
"It's definitely a different vibe for me to walk in here and be able to know a lot of the faces," he said. "I just got to focus on baseball all offseason and that was probably the best part about it. I didn't have to be a lawyer or agent this offseason. I can just worry about training and getting my body into the position and place it needs to be to take on 162 games and I feel like I did a really good job with that."
Hosmer hit only .253 last year, down 65 points. His 18 homers, 65 RBIs and .322 on-base percentage were his lowest in four seasons. He struck out a career-high 142 times.
"I don't really know what happened. It didn't go the way I planned," Hosmer said. "There's really no excuse for that. It came down to not performing the way I wanted to perform. I took that very seriously this offseason and got everything going."
Once again, there's a buzz in Padres camp.
"I think we are at a point in time now where everybody knows we want to win and we are serious about it," Hosmer said. "It's not just talking. It's not us trying to sell you guys something. It's actions and going out and doing something."