November 5, 2012
Sizing Up a Seven-Year, $175 Million Deal for Josh Hamilton
When the Rangers were knocked out of the playoffs by the Orioles in the AL Wild Card play-in game, Josh Hamilton sounded the part of a politician. The Ranger faithful had booed him during the game in part for his numbers during that play-in game—he went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, both on three pitches—but really for his lackluster performance in the second half of the regular season (16 homers and an .833 OPS compared to 27 homers with a 1.016 OPS in the first half).
"I always would love to stay here," Hamilton said at the time of the loss to the Orioles. "They understand that. They know that. When we talked earlier in the year, we didn't get things worked out, so we said we'd wait until the year was over. They obviously get first shot. I told them they'd get first shot at the end of the year. We'll see what happens."
What’s happened is that the Rangers have made a $13.3 million qualifying offer to Hamilton, but if what my BP colleague John Perrotto tweeted holds true, the likelihood of Hamilton being in a Rangers uniform next season is thin. For one, the qualifying offer is less than what Hamilton earned last season ($13.75 million). According to Perrotto’s tweet, Hamilton is seeking a 7-year, $175 million deal in his first year of free agency.
The question on everyone’s lips is: Is he worth it? The answer: it depends. The free agent market is unpredictable, except for the tendency of the winning bidder to overpay for the privilege. What Hamilton will earn is what the highest bidder thinks he’s worth, whether that is within the current market norm or Hamilton resets the market with what he is seeking.
In sizing up Hamilton, a team has to decide how often it expects to get the hot-hitting Hamilton, and how often it expects to get the guy who often winds up on the DL and performed as he did in the last half of the 2012 season. That poses a dilemma, as there is some risk that a club is going to be willing to take in hopes of getting a guy who can be an extreme difference maker.
Hamilton’s 2010 numbers were staggering. He led the American League in batting average (.359) and WARP (7.9) and tied for first in True Average (.352) en route to winning the AL MVP. From there, he’s tapered off (which, in fairness, is easy to do after a season like that one). He finished 22nd in MVP voting in 2011, and it’s possible that he could land in a similar spot when votes are tallied for 2012. His batting average has gone from that gaudy .359 in 2010 to .298 in 2011 and .285 in 2012, his free agency platform year. His WARP numbers have declined to 3.5 in 2011 and 3.9 last season.