Could Rhys Hoskins end up with Phillies’ division rival?

As he works back from injury, the Washington Nationals might offer Hoskins the perfect opportunity to set himself up for a big payday.

Miami Marlins vs. Philadelphia Phillies - NL Wild Card Series Game 1
Miami Marlins vs. Philadelphia Phillies - NL Wild Card Series Game 1 / Sarah Stier/GettyImages
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Philadelphia Phillies fans hoping to see more of fan-favorite Rhys Hoskins may get their wish — just not in the way they'd hoped. 

In their annual Black Friday edition of free-agent shopping for each MLB team, Andy McCullough and The Athletic went through and listed a free agent for every team to sign. In the exercise, they paired up Hoskins and the Washington Nationals. 

McCullough noted that the "Nationals are well-positioned to offer Hoskins a pillow contract to springboard him back into the market if he can demonstrate good health and renewed success in 2024."

He also noted that the 30-year-old could bring stability and experience to the young ballclub. In 2023, the team’s average age for batters was 26.8 years old, tied for third-youngest behind only the Kansas City Royals and Cleveland Guardians.

Before tearing his ACL in spring training and missing all of 2023, the power hitter was gearing up for a big contract year heading into free agency. Instead, he might be relegated to finding a one-year, prove-it deal.

In six years with the Phillies, Hoskins slashed .242/.353/.492 with 148 home runs and 405 RBI in 667 games. He struck out 689 times, walked 388 times, and had an OPS+ of 125.

In 2022, the first baseman hit .246 with 30 home runs and 79 RBI in 156 games.

After Aaron Nola, Hoskins was the Phillies' second-longest-tenured player. When the team made the playoffs in 2022 for the first time since 2011, the infielder was emotional to be playing postseason baseball for the first time in his career:

While Hoskins struggled in the postseason overall — slashing .159/.206/.435 with six home runs, 12 RBI, and 24 strikeouts in 17 games — his bat came alive in Games 4 and 5 of the National League Championship Series and Games 1-3 of the World Series. During that five-game stretch, he hit .316/.381/.947 with an OPS of 1.328, four home runs, and seven RBI across 21 plate appearances.

It was a home run in Game 3 of the National League Division Series against the Atlanta Braves that had all the fans talking, though:

After the Phillies were bounced from the 2023 postseason by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NLCS, Hoskins made it clear he wanted to stay in Philadelphia.

When talking to reporters, he said: "We have a chance to win the World Series here every year with this group. ... It's just an easy organization to be a part of."

When the Phillies announced Bryce Harper would be staying at first base, though, it signaled the organization is ready to move forward without Hoskins.

Now, with the possible link to the Nationals, there's a chance the Phillies could face their former teammate 13 times in 2024 if the move comes to fruition and he goes to a division rival.

The Nationals, who finished last in the NL East with a 71-91 record in 2023, could use some power in their lineup. Last season, only one player hit more than 18 home runs — right fielder Lane Thomas, who rounded the bases 28 times.

Early in the offseason, they designated Dominic Smith, who had played 142 games at first base for the ballclub in 2023, for assignment. Currently, Joey Meneses (.275/.321/.401, 13 home runs, 89 RBI) is on the depth chart at first base and as designated hitter. As Hoskins returns from the ACL surgery, it's likely he'll need to platoon with someone at first base and as designated hitter so he can work back up to being an everyday player.

As things stand, the Nationals have a projected 2024 payroll of $93 million, according to Spotrac, giving them the flexibility to sign Hoskins.

The move could work out for both sides. Hoskins can fill a need for the team while going to a situation where he can split time between the field and as the DH as he tries to secure a more lucrative, long-term contract in his next round of free agency.

That means it's a real possibility that Phillies fans will see Hoskins suit up in a different combination of red, white, and blue in 2024.

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