The Future of Josh Hamilton

By Jan Hubbard

Predicting the fate of Josh Hamilton requires only a review of recent history. The Rangers gave Hamilton a one-year, $13.3 million qualifying offer last week, which was expected because it means the Rangers will get draft picks if Hamilton signs with another team. It seems pretty clear now that they don’t expect him back. In five years with the Rangers, Hamilton has missed 163 games, even though the 148 he played last season was a career high.

Texas probably would be interested in a short-term deal of, say, three years at maybe $20 million or perhaps a little higher. But at age 31 – one year younger than Albert Pujols was last year – Hamilton believes he can get much more.

But can he? And is he worth it? Let’s place aside his history of addiction for a moment. Hamilton has, for the most part, seemed to handle that part of his life fairly well. He’s had a couple of setbacks, but only a couple.

Then again, there is the weird Josh who has a problem with his eyes because he drinks too much coffee and energy drinks. There is the Josh who trembles in front of the Lord because he had failed to quit chewing tobacco.

When that strangeness is added to the real potential of a relapse, the lack of durability and age factor, no one can blame the Rangers for walking away.

Hamilton and his wife are confident he can get a long term deal. But, again, can he?

Well, yes. When Pujols signed his 10-year $254 million deal with the Angels on December 8 last year, the general feeling among the baseball eggheads was there was no place for Prince Fielder. The other premier free agent, to go. Fielder had played out his contract in Milwaukee but despite hitting .299 with 38 home runs and 120 RBI, Fielder attracted no big early offers.

When Pujols signed, all the big money teams were maxed out. The Yankees, Phillies, Red Sox and Angels had all decided to spend no more. The Dodgers had yet to be sold to new ownership and had money problems. It seemed Fielder would have to settle for a short-term deal. He might be able to get five years, but at age 27 he wanted more.

In late January, however, the Tigers came out of nowhere and they came large. With absolutely no competition and no bidding war going on, they gave Fielder a nine-year, $214 million deal that no one expected – except perhaps Fielder and his agent.

And therein is once again proof of the long-tested theory that it does not take a bidding war to get rich, it only takes one willing bidder – or, some might say, one complete idiot.

Actually in Fielder’s case, the contract worked out – if you accept the fact that obscene amounts of money have to be judged against other obscene amounts of money and you consider only one year. Fielder hit .313, had 30 home runs and 108 RBI and the Tigers won the American League and went to the World Series before losing to the Giants.

After struggling much of the year, Pujols ended with decent numbers — .285, 30 home runs and 105 RBI. But the Angels finished third in their division. That’s not what they expected for their investment.

At his best, Hamilton is in the same league as Pujols and Fielder so despite some of the distractions associated with him, the betting here is that he’ll get that long term deal – something like eight years and $200 million.

From whom? Who knows? But as has been consistently proven, it won’t take a bidding war. It will take one dreamer with cash to throw away. Call him a big spender. Call him an idiot. But he’s out there.

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