COMMENTARY | On Wednesday, the Atlanta Braves signed outfielder B.J. Upton to a 5-year, $75-million contract, taking the youngest free agent outfielder off the market. It had been generally believed that Upton was deciding between the Braves and Philadelphia Phillies.
Now that the Phillies have missed out on Upton, it adds a new dimension to their offseason plans. Not only do they have to find an external solution for center field, but now they have to come up with an answer just to compete in their own division.
Josh Hamilton is starting to look mighty fine right about now.
A few weeks ago I argued that Hamilton was not the right move for the Phillies long-term - and I still feel that way - but now the Phils are in a pickle. Their window of opportunity is closing fast, and probably has 2 more seasons at best before they have to really start re-tooling their roster.
Chase Utley was once their best hitter, but his knees have kept him out until mid-season the last two years. Ryan Howard will likely bounce back after an achilles injury, but he has trouble holding down a lineup without protection. Roy Halladay is coming off a season plagued by arm trouble and Cliff Lee isn't getting any younger either.
I have the strange feeling - and I'm not the only one - the Phillies might make a short-term move with long-term repercussions.
Hamilton is a genuine slugger, but he comes with risks both on and off the field. The growing sentiment in both Philadelphia and Boston - both considered possible destinations - is that the heavy scrutiny of the local media may not suit Hamilton.
In my mind, two things need to happen for this scenario to even be plausible. First, the trade for Houston Astros reliever Wilton Lopez needs to be finalized. The bullpen was the Phillies' biggest offseason need, and solving that need without having to spend a lot on a free agent frees up some money.
Second, Michael Bourn would need to sign with the Nationals. Washington won the division in 2012 with the best record in baseball. The addition of the speedy Bourn in center field would only solidify them as a contender for 2013, putting even more pressure on the Phillies.
If both of these transactions happen, I think there is a reasonable chance the Hamilton winds up in Philadelphia.
Bourn and Hamilton are expected to want similar contracts in the $100 million range. If they are willing to give Bourn $20+ million a year, they may as well give it to Hamilton. Bourn's value is based on speed, which will greatly diminish by the end of a 5-year contract. Hamilton is based on power, which will lessen much slower over that same time.
While that would certainly be the narrative should the scenario play out, the move would certainly being a little bit of buzz back to a Philadelphia sports fan base that is experiencing some sudden rough times.
Between 2008 and 2011, Philadelphia sports were at an all-time high. The Philles won the World Series in '08, the NL pennant in '09 and won 102 games in 2011. The Eagles went to the NFC Championship in 2008, while the Flyers and Sixers both made unprecedented playoff runs.
In a short period of time, the mood changed. The Phillies had a disappointing 81-81 finish to 2012, the Eagles went from "dream team" to downright chaos, the NHL is in a lockout and the Sixers traded their biggest star for a center with knee problems.
Josh Hamilton may be just what the doctor ordered for a fan base desperate to find something that brings a little hope.
Scott Lentz is a contributor to Football Nation and The Gaming Advisory. He was raised in the Philadelphia area and currently resides in the nearby suburb of West Chester. Follow Scott on twitter - @scottlentz27 - for more sports commentary and debate.
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- Josh Hamilton
- Josh Hamilton
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- Michael Bourn