Josh Hamilton is one of the big storylines of the offseason. Where will he end up? Will he sign with [team x]? Maybe! Maybe not! Possibly maybe not! That’s about the best we can say on the matter. Maybe someone knows, possibly, but probably not.
I just used the words “maybe” and “possibly” a total of six times. That sums things up. We know why. Hamilton’s is one of the oddest free agent cases in recent memory. A supremely talented yet supremely flawed player, he’s old but not that old, appears excellent defensively but he’s possibly poor at defense. Then there’s the near unprecedented (for free agent baseball players) matter of his personal problems. It adds up to a player who could end up just about anywhere.
Oh, and there’s the price. BP’s own John Perrotto reported Hamilton is seeking a seven-year, $175 million contract. That would be the ninth-biggest ever, slotting in between Mark Teixeira’s $180 million deal with the Yankees and C.C. Sabathia’s $161 million deal with the Padres. That number is going to limit the pool of suitors*.
*The whole idea of using dating terms to describe free agents and their prospective teams reached its zenith yesterday when the Orioles were described as being “in hard” on Adam LaRoche. Presumably that is better than being “in deep” on Adam LaRoche, which would possibly upset him and his wife and therefore inhibit a team’s ability to sign him. Also it’s gross.Though only slightly grosser than “in deep.” That’s gross too.
According to MLB Trade Rumors, eight teams have been connected to Josh Hamilton over the past month. All of them have been mentioned more than once. So let’s take a look at those and a few other possibilities and put some arbitrary-ish numbers on it, shall we? No? Well I’m doing it anyway.
The Fit: Having spent the last four seasons in Texas, you’d have to say there is a good fit. Or maybe there isn’t a fit so much as two quantities who are well known to each other. The Rangers did let Hamilton head off into free agency, though that may have more to do with his exorbitant contract demands than with their desire to keep him in Texas.
The Unfit: The Rangers know Hamilton’s personal demons better than any team. So they are in better position than any team to assess how those demons might affect him over the course of his next contract. Which might make them, depending on the severity of those demons and Hamilton’s ability to control them, more likely to retain him or less likely to retain him.
The Odds: 5/2
Rangers: We can offer you a three-year deal, Josh.
Hamilton’s Agent: Three years? Come on. Napoli just got three years and he hasn’t showered in this decade.
Boston Red Sox
The Fit: The Red Sox have money money money after unloading the bulk of their long-term contracts on the Dodgers. Boston also has right field open.
The Unfit: Is Boston really the best place for Hamilton? Also the Red Sox just spent an enormous amount of energy ridding themselves of long-term deals. It seems unlikely they’d want to jump back into the deep end of that pool hand-in-hand with the uncertainty that is Josh Hamilton.
The Odds: 5/1
Agent: We’re a bit concerned about the fan environment here in Boston. Can you shed any light on that?
GM: [ducks brick coming in through window] I sure can!
The Unfit: Philadelphia has $136 million committed to 11 players next season. They have four players making $20 million or more. That’s called not a fit.
The Odds: 20/1
Agent: I can’t say Philadelphia is our first choice, Ruben.
GM: SIX YEARS $120 MILLION!
Agent: …I appreciate that, but…
GM: SEVEN YEARS $150 MILLION!
Agent: That’s great, Mr. Amaro but
GM: FOUR HUNDRED YEARS, FIFTY TRILLION DOLLARS! [passes out]
The Fit: The Mariners can’t score. Josh Hamilton can hit. Signing Hamilton would, in theory, help the Mariners score.
The Unfit: The Mariners might not be ready to win now, so Hamilton’s best years might be wasted on a last-place team. For $150 million I’m guessing Hamilton could overlook this. The Mariners might have more difficulty with that concept.
The Odds: 18/1
Agent: I think Seattle might be a nice fit…
Hamilton: I don’t know. I’m afraid of ghosts.
Agent: Chone Figgins is still alive.
Hamilton: Oh. Never mind.
The Unfit: Milwaukee already has a starting outfield and it’s tough to see where Hamilton fits in. Maybe they could trade Norichika Aoki, but between the cost in treasure and the lack of a fit on the roster (Milwaukee can’t stash him at DH), this is a tough one to see.
The Odds: 50/1
Hamilton: I’ve worked hard and overcome addiction. Now I finally get what’s coming to me. I’m moving to Milwaukee!
The Fit: For a team that just made it to the first (second?) round of the playoffs, the Orioles have what might charitably be called holes in their roster. Hamilton can’t pitch but he can hit, so that’s something.
The Unfit: From the Orioles perspective there isn’t really a reason other than length of contract and cost. From Hamilton’s perspective, there are a lot of reasons and each of them could be overcome by a giant contract offer.
The Odds: 17/1
GM: We think you can be a big part of this great and historic organization, Josh. Also we hope to have a positive run differential sometime before August.
The Fit: Did you know the Braves won 94 games last year? Oh. Right. I totally knew that too. After losing in the playoffs and losing Chipper Jones to retirement, there is a need for another big bat….
The Unfit: …which the signing of B.J. Upton doesn’t really address but it might tap the notoriously frugal Braves out anyway.
The Odds: 50/1
Hamilton: Hey Chipper, good to hear from you … yeah, I did hear about the Kennedy assassination. … Sure, I’d love to hear more about it. [puts phone on mute]
The Fit: Winners of 98 games last season, the Nationals are both good and young. But getting better never hurts. Also they are run by the very same GM who gave Jayson Werth $126 million. So you know.
The Odds: 1,000/1
Rizzo: So Josh, this should about do it. A 12 year contract for [picks up contract; reads] “whatever you want whenever you want it.” How’s that sound?
Hamilton: Good, but what about the unicorn?
Rizzo: Ha! I almost forgot
Unicorn: [unicorn noises]
Hamilton: [wakes up holding teddy bear] Aww…
New York Yankees
The Fit: Because you can’t count the Yankees out of the biggest free agent on the market ever. The Yankees have money because they always have money. They are probably going to lose right fielder Nick Swisher so there is a spot open.
The Unfit: The Yankees are supposedly on an austerity kick. Ha ha! How quaint.
The Odds: 100/1
Derek Jeter: Hi Josh. Just wanted to talk to you about the Yankees.
Hamilton: Oh hi, Derek. I got the gift basket, thanks. That was really gentlemanly of you.
Jeter: Gift basket? Oh. Gotta talk to the secretary about that.
The Part Where I Stop Writing
Next season PECOTA projects Hamilton will hit .291/.351/.524 with 28 home runs in 594 plate appearances for Texas (in other words, put him in San Diego and those numbers might shrink a bit). That is going to help some team a whole lot next season. Which team that is, I have no idea.
Thank you for reading
This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.Subscribe now