Former Philadelphia Phillies slugger Rhys Hoskins and a bittersweet winter

World Series - Houston Astros v Philadelphia Phillies - Game Five
World Series - Houston Astros v Philadelphia Phillies - Game Five / Elsa/GettyImages

Late on the second day of the new year, CBS Sports reported that five of the top 10 MLB free agents remained available to clubs hungry for a championship. Seven of the top 15 and 10 of the top 20 were without contracts as well. Not one of them interests the Philadelphia Phillies and their fans, though, except No. 13, Rhys Hoskins, and that’s only for sentimental reasons.

One of the Phillies' longest-tenured players on a team clawing its way back to relevance, Hoskins’ contract ran out just in time for him to learn he had lost his job because he was injured, and a teammate had to learn his position to replace him.

Unfortunately, that teammate was Bryce Harper, and Harper is more productive (even playing while rehabbing) than Hoskins. So, Harper got the job. The team president announced it. There wouldn’t even be a spring training competition.

Oh, there is a ghost of a chance, technically, that Hoskins remains unsigned as teams leave for spring training in several weeks. And the Phillies invite him to camp. And they decide to keep him on the team instead of a promising, younger player, say, Simon Muzziotti. And Hoskins is happy being the backup DH/first baseman…and….

No. This will not happen, and that’s a shame, as Hoskins has been a Philly crowd favorite since his 18-home run explosion as a rookie in 2017. His dramatic home run and bat spike against the Braves in the 2022 playoffs clearly remains the most memorable image from the Fightin’s' run to the World Series that year.

Hoskins is likely having a bittersweet early New Year. He hasn't spoken publicly, if at all, for weeks. He knows he very probably won’t return to Philadelphia this season, but he knows that he played well enough and consistently enough there to sign a very nice contract for the ’24 season – even on the heels of missing a full year to rehab a surgically-repaired knee.

Baseball Reference gives his career an 11.1 WAR figure for his five-plus seasons since ’17. He is a starting player in MLB, a strong hitter with good plate discipline. He is only an average fielder, but he’s not a disaster at first base, and a team without a good choice at first, or without a lot of power, could clearly do worse than Hoskins.

He is, additionally, a potential clubhouse leader, and he has been for a while now, proving to be an actual adult in his actions on and off the field, unlike some.

Over the past several months, Hoskins has been linked to the Cubs, Blue Jays, Mariners, and most recently to a Phillies divisional rival, the Marlins.

Hoskins is most likely to end up with a team he can’t describe as one that “has a ton of fun” and with a chance to win the World Series, as he described the Phillies, ruefully, last fall after an unsuccessful rehab try to play with them in the postseason.

But some team will pay him quite handsomely. He is, after all, the 13th ranked free agent. That’s worth millions.