COMMENTARY | Given the economics of major league baseball, there's no way the Cincinnati Reds could bring back slugging outfielder Josh Hamilton now, but if there were one do-over of a recent trade that Reds Country could have back, it would be the infamous Hamilton for Edinson Volquez swap with the Rangers after the 2007 season.
In 2007 at age 26, Hamilton finally flashed all of the potential that had been squashed in year's past by Hamilton's ongoing battle with his personal problems. He was primarily the Reds center fielder in the 90 games he played in 2007, and he hit 19 home runs with a .292 average for the year.
There was a great deal of buzz about the Reds heading into the 2008 season with an outfield that included starters Hamilton, Ken Griffey, Jr. and Adam Dunn, as well as an up-and-coming phenom named Jay Bruce.
But that buzz was killed in short order by then-Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky, who sent Hamilton to the Rangers for Volquez and diminutive lefty reliever Daniel Ray Herrera.
As disappointing as the trade was for Reds Country, there was a Milt Pappas glimmer of hope when Volquez had an ace-quality season in 2008, winning 17 games with a 3.21 ERA and helping Reds fans breathe a little easier that Hamilton-for-Volquez wouldn't turn out to be the second coming of Frank Robinson-for-Pappas.
However, Volquez was the one who turned out to be the flash in the pan instead of Hamilton, and after Volquez struggled once returning from the Tommy John surgery he underwent in 2009, the trade most definitely looked as bad as the Frank Robinson trade as the years went by.
Reds ownership fired Krivsky and replaced him with current Reds general manager Walt Jocketty shortly into the 2008 season. Jocketty has proven to be a key contributor to the recent success of the Reds (two NL Central division titles in three years), but Reds Country still wonders what could've been if Hamilton had not been dealt.
If the Reds would have kept Hamilton and he produced the way he did for the World Series Rangers of 2010, the Reds would've had both MVP Award winners for the year on their team in Hamilton and first baseman Joey Votto. Instead the Reds had a platoon of Jonny Gomes and Laynce Nix in 2010 in left field where Hamilton would've played for the Reds.
The Reds fared slightly better in the 2012 post season, but instead of having Ryan Ludwick as their primary left fielder, the Reds could've had Hamilton and his 43 HRs and 128 RBI at their playoff disposal.
The biggest blunder in trading away Hamilton was the affordability of having Hamilton under Reds control before he would've hit free agency. Granted the cost would've escalated accordingly after arbitration, but the contracts the Rangers signed with Hamilton are more than enough to cause a small market team like the Reds to weep from seller's remorse.
What the Los Angeles Angels did in signing Hamilton to an obscene amount of money for the next five years may result in another Vernon Wells debacle for them in a few years, but for now Hamilton gives the big market Angels another chance to try to buy a World Series bid.
As hard as it was for Reds Country to watch Hamilton play for the Rangers in the 2010 World Series after the Reds got smoked by the Phillies in the playoffs, it still will be hard to watch Hamilton play during the opening series of the 2013 season when the Angels travel to Cincinnati to take on the Reds at Great American Ball Park.
Even with the buzz surrounding the 2013 Reds, most of Reds Country will be muttering under its collective breath that they wished Hamilton still played for the Reds.
Robb Hoff has worked as a freelance researcher for ESPN's production and news departments for the past five years. You can read his articles about the 2012 Reds season here.
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