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Do the Phillies Have a Real Shot at Josh Hamilton?

3 Years and $80 Million Won't Be Enough to Land the Free Agent Slugger

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | The rumor mill in Philadelphia was in full spin again Tuesday and Wednesday as word went viral that the Phillies offered free agent outfielder Josh Hamilton a contract of 3 years and $80 million.

A local radio host for 94WIP broke the news Tuesday afternoon, citing a source "close to the situation" that the Phillies had made what most would consider a low-ball offer to the slugger. At the beginning of free agency, Hamilton was said to be looking for a deal in the 7-year $175 million range.

Later on Wednesday, however, some of that buzz fizzled. Word came down that former Phillies closer and current MLB Network analyst Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams spoke to Hamilton and was told no such offer existed. That news was reported by John Boruk of Comcast Sportsnet Philadelphia.

I've made it clear that I believe the Phillies are very much interested in Hamilton, but it's hard for me to believe a 3-year deal will do the trick.

First of all, the offer itself doesn't add up. After the Phillies acquired Michael Young from the Texas Rangers, they are left with about $24-$27 million to spend and still be comfortably under the luxury tax.

$80 million over 3 years would average out to just under $27 million per season, which would leave the Phillies with virtually nothing left over to spend on a fourth starter and a much-needed relief pitcher. Unless the Phillies think they can solve both of those problems from within, they would be putting themselves in a difficult position.

Second, it is highly unlikely - although, not completely insane - that the Phillies could just swoop in and sign Hamilton to a 3-year deal when there would be numerous suitors willing to do the same.

At 3 years and $80 million, you would have increased interest from teams previously thought out of the running including the Red Sox, Yankees, Orioles, Mariners and Brewers. Not to mention, the Rangers said they would be comfortable with a 3-year deal from the start.

In 2010, Ruben Amaro Jr. got Cliff Lee to leave roughly $10 million on the table to return to Philadelphia. If Hamilton were to sign for 3 years and $80 million, and assuming a team would be willing to give him something closer to 4-5 years and $100-$125 million, he could be leaving nearly $50 million on the table.

I know he has some good friends in Philadelphia, but that's a lot of cream cheese.

Finally, Hamilton has said he would give the Rangers the opportunity to match the highest offer.

The Rangers have been linked to several big free agents and numerous trade rumors, including Zack Greinke, Justin Upton and Anibal Sanchez. They lost the Greinke sweepstakes to the Los Angeles Dodgers, who apparently have stolen Mary Poppins' magic bag and found it was full of cash.

The Diamondbacks were once dangling Upton as a trade piece in an effort to get a major-league ready shortstop, but were able to do so without including Upton in a 3-team deal with the Indians and Reds. Now it seems unlikely they move him unless Texas is willing to include Elvis Andrus.

As the Rangers' options dwindle, they become more likely to retain Hamilton and would easily match any 3-year offer.

If any other team is going to pry Hamilton away from Texas, they will have to go to four years or at the very least offer an optional fourth year. If the Phillies were willing to offer something in the 4-year, $100 million range, they might just get their man.

What we know for sure is the Phillies are going to add at least one more player to their roster before spring training begins. They have been in search of a right-handed power bat to balance out Chase Utley and Ryan Howard who struggle against left-handed specialists late in games.

Most teams pitch around hitters in order to get to Utley and Howard, but they couldn't with Hamilton protecting them. While Hamilton is another lefty, he still hits left-handed pitching well. His career splits against lefties are .290/.350/.510.

If they fail to land Hamilton, the Phillies could then turn their sights to Nick Swisher or Cody Ross.

Swisher's market has yet to develop and will likely be the consolation prize to one of the teams that doesn't get Hamilton. He plays both corner outfield positions and bats from both sides of the plate.

Adding Ross would be bittersweet for Phillies fans. He made quite a name for himself in 2010 when he seemingly took apart the Phillies pitching staff by himself, including two home runs against Roy Halladay in Game 1 of the NLCS.

Whatever they decide, the 2013 Phillies will look much different from the 2012 squad. Getting back a healthy Utley, Howard and Halladay will go a long way to improving on their disappointing 81-81 finish.

Scott Lentz is an award-winning writer and filmmaker from the Philadelphia area. He is a contributor to Yahoo! Sports and For more baseball talk and sports commentary, follow Scott on Twitter: @scottlentz27

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