Texas Rangers' free agent Josh Hamilton seems to offer a solution to the Philadelphia Phillies' current needs. He's in the prime of his career and can play centerfielder. But, he's also a left-handed power hitter and the team needs more right-handed options.
However, subsequent moves could be made to adjust the lineup if he were to be signed. Despite his history, he'll be expensive and there are luxury tax issues to be considered as well.
Hamilton turns 32 next May, but has only played six major league seasons. When healthy, he's been dominant. His 2010 American League Most Valuable Player season helped to prove that point, though he did miss some time that year. But, as all baseball fans know, physical health problems aren't the only challenges that he has confronted in his life.
Can the Phillies, or any team, truly commit to a big-money, long-term deal considering this man's past substance abuse issues?
Of course everyone hopes that Hamilton can maintain control over his life, which is infinitely more important than any job. Many people can also relate to his problems for reasons that are deeply personal. The question is, does a risk of this type make good business sense?
More than $35 million next year
No, $35 million ($35.286 million to be exact) isn't the yearly salary that I'm suggesting the Phillies offer to Hamilton. We've all skimmed headlines and section headers and missed the point of various articles over time. Pound once on your keyboard, or smartphone, if you are guilty of that harmless digital crime. Pound twice if you won't admit it.
That combined dollar amount represents what Roy Halladay ($20 million) and Chase Utley ($15.286 million) will earn in 2013. No one actually knows if both of those players will be wearing red pinstripes in 2014. It's possible that the Phillies could offer Hamilton a back-loaded contract that goes easy on their 2013 budget, which would create payroll flexibility for the time being.
After the Cliff Lee acquisition, trade and re-acquisition, attempting to predict general manager Ruben Amaro, Junior's moves is a pure guess. With the amount of money that has already been invested in next season's roster, it's fair to believe that the Phillies will make a heavy push to win it all in 2013. Not just try to make the playoffs, but actually attempt to put a World Series' caliber team in place.
Last shot with this group
Next season could be the final year that the "Big 3" (Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels) are in the same rotation. Obviously Halladay's health is a question. If "Doc", Lee and Hamels are healthy, the Phillies should be good again.
Obviously, half of the lineup must be addressed and the bullpen needs to be reinforced with some veteran arms. But, it's realistic to believe that the Phillies can rebound into the playoffs next season.
I'm not comparing Charlie Manuel's team to either of the past two World Series' winners (St. Louis Cardinals, or San Francisco Giants), but simply am wondering if Hamilton is a viable option that would help to put the team over the top? Again, that assumes other pieces will be added this offseason and during the summer.
As all real fans know, trade (and free agent) speculation is an important part of the game, especially after the Fall Classic has ended. These types of issues keep baseball in the news and that's why it
remains relevant year-round.
Sean O'Brien is based in the Philadelphia region. He began his professional career in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons' front office (the Philadelphia Phillies former Triple-A affiliate), later worked as a freelance sports writer and is currently a Featured Contributor in Sports for the Yahoo Contributor Network! You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and also read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
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