Josh Hamilton—Free Agency Profile

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Name: Josh Hamilton

Position: Outfielder

Vital Statistics: Age—31 (32 on May 21st); Height—6’4”; Weight—240 lbs.; Bats—Left; Throws—Left

Career Transactions: Drafted in the 1st round (1st overall) by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the 1999 amateur draft; drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the Rule 5 draft in December of 2006; purchased by the Cincinnati Reds in December of 2006; traded by the Cincinnati Reds to the Texas Rangers for RHP Edinson Volquez and LHP Danny Herrera.

Agent: Michael Moye

Might he return to the Rangers? Yes.

Teams that could use him, pay him, and might pursue him: Boston Red Sox; Baltimore Orioles; Chicago White Sox; Kansas City Royals; Texas Rangers; Seattle Mariners; Washington Nationals; Philadelphia Phillies; Atlanta Braves; Milwaukee Brewers; Chicago Cubs; San Francisco Giants; Los Angeles Dodgers.

Positives: Hamilton has the power to hit the ball out of any park at any time and is capable of hitting 10 home runs in a week. He is a former MVP, is a good defensive left fielder and can play a decent center field.

Negatives: He’s injury-prone. His concentration lapses amid negativity leading to off-field questions as to how he’ll cope with them. Hamilton’s substance abuse problems and known incidences of drinking since supposedly getting clean raise massive red flags. At age 32, his body has been abused for extended periods making it reasonable to wonder when his physical decline will begin and if it’s going to be earlier than it would be with other players.

What he wants: 7-years, $175 million

What he’ll get: 4-years, $95 million

Teams that might give it to him: Red Sox, Orioles, Rangers, Mariners, Nationals, Phillies, Dodgers

The Red Sox were said to have serious interest in Hamilton, but that was later played down. Unless they’re shut out on every other avenue, the Red Sox are not going to repeat the mistakes they made with players like Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and John Lackey who were not emotionally equipped to handle Boston and the intense pressure and expectations that come along with being a big name free agent signee. That said, with the Blue Jays improvement and a very tough division, they might panic.

The Orioles have the money and a hole in the middle of their lineup. It was at Camden Yards that Hamilton hit 4 homers in one game earlier this year and is a career .370 hitter there. Baltimore is sufficiently less-pressurized than New York, Boston, and Los Angeles that the temptations Hamilton has to face will be limited.

The Rangers and Hamilton have set their winter positions with the Rangers saying they won’t go past 3 years and Hamilton wanting 7. There’s room for negotiation and if they aren’t able to get a Justin Upton, a B.J. Upton, or to improve their offense in another manner, they and Hamilton might agree to re-up.

The Nationals have a ton of money and would be able to make room for Hamilton by moving Mike Morse to first base. The Phillies need an outfield bat desperately, but I would not put the sensitive Hamilton in Philadelphia. The Dodgers don’t have room for Hamilton, but with the money they’re spending and the willingness of GM Ned Colletti to do anything and everything, they can’t be discounted.

Would I sign Hamilton? Yes and no. I would not go over 4 years. If he’s so insistent on 5-7 years, I would give 4 guaranteed and want the option to nullify the contract immediately if he fails a drug test or is caught drinking.

The Players Association would never go for it and nor would Hamilton, so reality dictates that he would not sign with me.

Will the team that signs him regret it? If he signs a 3-4 year contract, no. If someone gives him 6-7 years at $150-175 million, they will absolutely regret it.

Prediction: Hamilton will either sign with the Orioles for 6-years or wind up back with the Rangers on a 4-year contract with a reachable incentive to get a 5th and 6th year and legal language giving the Rangers some recourse if he starts using/drinking again.

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Hamilton’s Poised For A Run At The Home Run Record, But Which One?

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Josh Hamilton‘s home run binge is making a run at the major league record a legitimate possibility.

The question is, which record? Is it 61 or 73?

Given the retrospective knowledge that Mark McGwire was using steroids as he achieved his massive power display that led to him hitting 70 home runs in 1998 and the allegations that have followed Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds as they hit 66 and 73 respectively, is Hamilton going to be after Bonds’s record? Or will he be judged as the “clean” home run king if he beats Roger Maris’s 61?

It’s ironic that someone with Hamilton’s history of substance abuse has the word “clean” next to him in a context other than recreational drugs and alcohol. There have never been any performance enhancing drug allegations levied against Hamilton. He’s a supremely talented and streaky individual who’s playing his home games in a hitter’s heaven. He’s not someone who would need PEDs to achieve those heights, validating a home run chase even more.

Hamilton hit 4 homers in one game against the Orioles last week and has 18 in the Rangers’ 36 games so far. The big obstacles in his path are staying healthy on and off the field and which record he’s chasing. By mid-summer, that’s going to heat up with the weather.

Hamilton has put up bigger power numbers at home than on the road. In his MVP season of 2010, he had a slash line of .390/.438/.750 at the Ballpark in Arlington with 22 homers in 69 games; on the road, it was .327/.382/.512 with 10 homers. The numbers at home and on the road were similar last season with a .912 OPS and 14 homers at home and .852 and 11 homers on the road.

So far in 2012, he has a 1.464 OPS with 11 homers on the road and a 1.159 OPS and 7 homers at home. Obviously he’s not going to keep that up, but he’s gotten off to this blazing start and is singing for his free agent supper. The injuries wouldn’t stop a team from paying Hamilton after the season; but his substance abuse problems could very well dissuade an interested team from paying him for his talent. There are real and understandable concerns that he’s a risk to return to alcohol and/or drugs if he’s lavished with a guaranteed contract of untold riches.

If he approaches or sets the record for home runs, there will be a team to pay him something close to the $214 million Prince Fielder got from the Tigers. Positives are easy to sell when signing a player. Negatives are seen as excuses to be cheap. Home runs are more entrenched in the public consciousness than his off-field woes and there will be one team to roll the dice.

Bonds, McGwire and Sosa all broke Maris’s record, but given what we know now, it’s not old-school whining to suggest that Maris is still the home run champion. There’s an argument for just that position. In the record books, Bonds is the home run king, but the fans do have a say in the matter.

Hamilton’s not hitting 74 home runs. But he might hit 62.

Which record will it be?

Let the debate begin.

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