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Josh Hamilton's Payoff Not Worth the Risk for Boston Red Sox

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COMMENTARY | Josh Hamilton is a certifiable stud.

The free agent outfielder is coming off one of his best seasons ever, finishing with 43 HRs and 128 RBIs. The five-time All-Star is now on the open market looking for a home for the foreseeable future. One of those destinations could be in New England.

The Boston Red Sox are coming off their worst season since 1966. The team has needs in the outfield and has money to spend after the payroll dramatically dropped after trading away Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, and Carl Crawford.

So, would making a play at Hamilton make sense? Let's take a look.

If the Sox were making a decision solely on statistics, Josh Hamilton would be heading to Beantown. As previously said, Hamilton's numbers are fantastic. A career .304 batter, Hamilton averages 35 HRs and over 120 RBIs a season. His on-base plus slugging is a solid .913, and he has good intangibles.

Hamilton also helped the Texas Rangers to three straight trips to the postseason. This also includes two World Series appearances. Even though the Rangers were unsuccessful in both trips, Hamilton was certainly an instrumental part of making Texas relevant early in this decade.

While Hamilton is no spring chicken, he is still of prime baseball age. He'll turn 32 during the 2013 season, potentially giving him at least five years at this level. Plus, even a slowed-down Hamilton would still probably be an above average hitter.

Now, on the downside, injuries are a concern for Hamilton, who has suffered his fair share. Since becoming a full-time player in 2007, he has only appeared in over 140 games twice. Most of the injuries have been relatively minor, but they add up. And if Hamilton's body is fragile now, signing him to a long-term contract could be disastrous.

Hamilton's postseason numbers aren't exactly top notch, either -- he's hit well under average (.227) with an OPS of .720. The numbers are even worse in World Series games where Hamilton is under the Mendoza Line (.158 BA). Fielding is a concern, too. He's remembered for making a crucial error in the final game of the season against the Oakland Athletics. With the Rangers leading 5-1 in the bottom of the fourth, Hamilton mistimed an easy fly ball that helped the Athletics put six runs on the board. Oakland ended up winning the game and the division, while Texas ultimately went on to lose in the wild card playoff to the Baltimore Orioles.

While all of these are major issues, the elephant in the room is the off-field transgressions. Hamilton has a major substance abuse issue, relapsing on occasion in Texas. This will undoubtedly hurt his case in negotiations. There really is no way to prove to anyone that he is clean and will remain clean.

Dealing with substance abuse is no picnic, but dealing with it in a city like Boston? Good luck! The Boston media has a reputation for being very tough, and Hamilton is easy prey. Even a beloved figure like Terry Francona got caught up in a mini-scandal on his way out of town. Hamilton would have to be on his best behavior, which still may not be enough. Any bad defensive play or slump at the plate will be linked to falling off the wagon. Any disagreement with a media member or spat with a fan and papers in Boston will be filled with conjecture and hypotheses about how he's secretly using. It will be ugly.

It's also worth noting that while the Red Sox could use a gifted outfielder, it's just not a primary need. Boston is in desperate need of pitching following a year where the staff had a combined ERA of 4.70. Right now, the starting rotation consists of Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and John Lackey. Felix Doubront might be back, but he really struggled down the stretch, and that still leaves one spot open. If the Sox are truly looking to make a splash in free agency, it should come in this department. Red Sox Nation should be hoping to hear names like Edwin Jackson or Hiroki Kuroda over Hamilton.

While there are plenty of pros thinking about a move like this, it just isn't the right time. Hamilton is much better suited to a smaller market where he can be handled in a safer capacity, a place where the media and fan pressure won't potentially bowl Hamilton over.

As for the Red Sox, applying all the resources toward the bigger problems will help this team get back to where it should be. Will they? Only time will tell.

Chris Sedenka is a Yahoo! Contributor in Sports covering the Boston Red Sox. You can listen to his daily radio show on 96.3FM in Portland, ME or thebigjab.com. He is also the voice of the Maine Red Claws of the NBA D-League.

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