MLB: Free Agent Peek, Josh Hamilton
With players filing for free agency and able to begin speaking with other teams beginning on Saturday at 12:01 AM ET, lets take a look at the top position player on the free agent market.
The top pitcher on the market of course is former AL Cy Young award winner Zack Greinke. Now the top position player on the market is also a former award winner, and that is 2010 AL MVP, outfielder Josh Hamilton.
Hamilton is tremendous talent, and when he is on, he’s on. During the first two months of the 2012 season, Hamilton had 21 home runs. Yet, he struggled mightily later in the season, especially July, and while all players have slumps, Hamilton seems to take longer snap out of it than most star caliber players. This mixed with past injury concerns, mainly from the 2011 season and before that, as well as past addiction issues will cause teams to be extremely cautious when it comes to signing Hamilton. Another issue to potentially watch out for is Hamilton’s high strike out rate. Last season he struck out 162 times, and while he did play in more games last year than in the past few seasons, his strikeout percentage was still much higher than it had been.
That being said, he had a career high in home runs with 43. His OBP was .354, which was higher than in 2011, and while it was not on par with his 2010 OBP of .411, it’s still a very solid number, and it’s very unlikely that Hamilton will be duplicating that .411 again. If Hamilton’s strikeout percentage can go back down a bit, this should help bump his 2012 batting average of .285, back up towards at least the .300 range.
The slugging outfielder will of course get a long term deal, but with the issues raised above, as well as being 31 years old, Hamilton will most likely not be getting an outlandish long term deal like eight years, etc. He most likely will sign a five-year deal with the possibility of six, but it’s doubtful that any team will offer more years than that. He is probably looking at a salary between $20 and $25 million per season.
Now you ask, “what teams will be interested?” Well, while every club in baseball would love to have a player of Hamilton’s caliber, the facts of course are that price range and term will limit 3/4’s of the league, and than some of the concerns mentioned earlier will make those interested clubs even more cautious. There has been talk that perhaps the Milwaukee Brewers would go hard for Hamilton, but the Brewers are already a good offensive team. The Brewers need is pitching. Then can use a starting pitcher and bullpen help, and you have to wonder how the Brewers would be able to afford Hamilton, as well as upgrade the pitching, despite $40 million coming off the books this offseason. With many of the big market teams not being big time players in the Hamilton sweepstakes, this can possibly help a team like Brewers sign Hamilton to a shorter term deal worth under $100 in total value. Again, if there is any type of bidding war, Hamilton should be able to get a five year deal, around $100. This is probably too pricey for the Brewers, with their other needs.
Speaking of big market teams, the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox will most likely not be too involved, or involved period, in the Hamilton sweepstakes. The Los Angeles Dodgers, despite being more than willing to spend, also don’t have a need for another outfielder with Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp and Andre Either all locked up long term. Now on Monday, ESPN’s Buster Olney, did mention that the Dodgers are open to trading Either. If they do move Either, and most likely if he is moved they will be looking for pitching in any deal, then perhaps the Dodgers might consider entering the Hamilton sweepstakes. I can’t see the Dodgers offering a five – plus year deal, but perhaps a shorter term three-year deal, worth a ton of money might be a possibility. The Dodgers need is definitely another starting pitcher, but if Either is moved, the Dodgers might wiggle there way into the Hamilton sweepstakes. Of course, this is just pure speculation at this point.
Hamilton’s current team, well at least for the next couple days until he reaches the open market Saturday, the Texas Rangers will not offer him a contract until they see what other teams are offering.
Prediction: The Hamilton sweepstakes is extremely tough to determine until at least Saturday, once teams are allowed to start speaking with him. At that time of course we will have more of a view, as to which teams are truly interested in the former AL MVP. That being said, for now it appears that Hamilton most likely will gauge more interest from mid market clubs, as opposed to big market clubs. Perhaps though with none to little big market interest, a mid market club on the verge of contending, that is looking to make a huge splash, will offer a long term deal that Hamilton is looking for.