Hoskins appreciated how upfront Phillies were with him in free agency

Hoskins appreciated how upfront Phillies were with him in free agency originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

As soon as the Phillies made their decision in early November to use Bryce Harper at first base full-time moving forward, it set their course for the offseason.

They quickly communicated the plan to Rhys Hoskins, who had just reached free agency for the first time 10 years after being drafted by the Phils out of Sacramento State.

It may not have been the sort of future Hoskins envisioned for himself even a year prior, but he appreciated getting that conversation with Dave Dombrowski out of the way quickly. It allowed him to process what the next few months and next few years might be like.

"They were upfront with me at the start of the offseason which was probably a good thing for me, emotionally, getting a little closure after a weird year and moving on to whatever was next," Hoskins said Monday as he was introduced by the Brewers in a Zoom press conference.

"Just super grateful for the transparency and him being upfront with me about which way they were going to go. I was able to set the offseason off on the right foot because of that."

The Phillies like Hoskins as a player, love him as a person and may have very well extended their relationship if not for three key developments. Harper required Tommy John surgery after 2022, which meant right field was not a possibility for him in 2023. Hoskins tore the ACL in his left knee in spring training, opening the door months later for Harper to shift from DH to first base. And Harper's move to first base allowed the Phillies to take Kyle Schwarber out of left field, where he graded out as the majors' worst defender, which vastly improved their run prevention.

The lineup spot was no longer there for Hoskins, not unless the Phillies made him the DH and moved Schwarber back to left field. Their biggest leap of 2023 came when Johan Rojas claimed center field, Brandon Marsh moved to left and Schwarber served as the designated hitter. Reinserting Hoskins would have been a boost to the Phillies' offense but it would have been partially or wholly offset by the defensive downgrade at multiple positions.

And so they parted ways. Hoskins signed a two-year, $34 million contract with Milwaukee. He's set to earn $12 million in 2024 and $18 million in 2025. He can opt out of the second year of the deal and the Brewers would be on the hook for a $4 million buyout.

It's not a huge multi-year contract, but it's also not a bad compromise for Hoskins after missing a full season. He gets two years of security with the freedom to re-test free agency in a year if he performs well enough in 2024 to set himself back up for another promising payday.

"I had heard so much about free agency and the privileges to get there, but it was a bit different not playing in that platform year," he said. "Especially given the momentum we were able to create in Philly, that was going to be an exciting year to be on a team ready to win. Expectations just had to get brought down a little bit. Milwaukee was always a great paper fit."

Hoskins is likely to bat fourth or second for a Brewers lineup that looks like it could be in the bottom third of baseball. There's Cristian Yelich, Hoskins, Willy Adames and William Contreras with little else that will scare an opposing pitching staff. If he plays a full season, Hoskins seems like a sound bet to lead this team in home runs and RBI.

He expects the Brewers to take things slowly with him in spring training but can't wait to be back on the field.

"I'm sure I'll be eased back in because it's been a year or so since I've been on the field, but I really should have little to no limitations once games start," he said. "I'll be stoked to get back on the field, I'm pretty bored as a competitor not having played in so long."

The Phillies host the Brewers June 3-5 at Citizens Bank Park and there's no doubt Hoskins will receive standing ovations throughout the series. His tenure here wasn't 100 percent smooth from start to finish but he was as representative as anyone of the Phillies' rise from a rebuilding team to a National League contender. He had two 30-homer seasons, led the NL in walks one year and delivered one of the most memorable drives in Phillies history against Spencer Strider in the 2022 NLDS.

"The people of Philadelphia opened their arms wide open for me and my family when we first got there in 2017. It just felt pretty easy to connect," he said. "I have a long list of great things to say and a very short list of things I would complain about.

"Hopefully we'll have some sort of lasting impact in the community. And some of those memories we were able to make within the postseason run and trying to get there. Ending a drought for any city and getting into the playoffs is something to hang your hat on and be proud of.

"I hope I'll always be able to call Philly home."