10 Degrees: Looking beyond Josh Hamilton's legendary week to handicap his free-agent market

Before we get to the specifics of Josh Hamilton's legendary week – and by specific, we mean down to the last inch of his 3,621 feet worth of home runs – it seems like a proper time to peer into a crystal ball instead of at highlight loops.

While earlier this week we wondered how much Hamilton would fetch as a free agent, we didn't address who might be willing to pay him. So after consultation with executives and assessments of rosters, we whittled the list to a dozen potential suitors.

The 18 teams that didn't make it were excluded for a variety of reasons. On the revenue's-too-low list: Oakland, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Arizona and Cleveland, plus, for now, Houston and San Diego, whose new ownership could change that. Teams that already have high-priced talent and not room for more : Colorado, Cincinnati, Minnesota, the Chicago White Sox, Milwaukee and Miami. And those seemingly at their payroll limit: Atlanta, the New York Mets, St. Louis and Detroit.

Here are the remaining 12, with their odds of signing Hamilton if he doesn't reach an extension with the Texas Rangers:

Baltimore Orioles, 100/1: No need for a sixth season of The Wire.

Toronto Blue Jays, 50/1: Supposedly they've got the money. Hamilton's value could push them from good to great. It makes a lot of sense, actually, if not for the incongruity of Toronto landing the winter's marquee free agent.

Los Angeles Angels, 50/1: Hamilton wouldn't turn down 10 years and $240 million, would he?

Philadelphia Phillies, 40/1: So much money devoted to so many aging players, it's not going to happen, even if both sides would benefit.

Washington Nationals, 30/1: Not much room in a Michael Morse-Bryce Harper-Jayson Werth outfield, though Morse could shift to first base. Nats may be World Series favorites with Hamilton.

Boston Red Sox, 20/1: In 2013, the Red Sox will spend $75.66 million on four players. In 2014, they will spend $75.91 million on the same four players: Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and John Lackey. And consider they need room to lock up Dustin Pedroia and Jon Lester long-term, the only chance is if they take money earmarked for Jacoby Ellsbury and spend it on Hamilton.

New York Yankees, 18/1: They should want him. Nick Swisher is a free agent this offseason and Curtis Granderson next. But there's the Robinson Cano deal they need to make. And $119 million to pay Alex Rodriguez. And about $100 million more for CC Sabathia. Plus nearly $93 million for Mark Teixeira. And maybe they want to lock up Granderson, too. Point being: Big expenditures, even for the Yankees, may be tough.

San Francisco Giants, 15/1: They should be all over this. Barry Zito's albatross has only one year to go, Tim Lincecum could leave via free agency and Buster Posey sandwiched between Hamilton and Pablo Sandoval would make for a dandy 3-4-5..

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Seattle Mariners, 15/1: They'll have the money (with Ichiro's contract expiring). They'll have the motivation (because Lord that offense is dreadful). They'll have the core to sustain success (with Felix Hernandez, Jesus Montero, Dustin Ackley, Jason Vargas and the best pitching trio in the minors, Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen and James Paxton). But would Hamilton consider Seattle?

Chicago Cubs, 12/1: As big of a darkhorse as a club with the game's third-highest revenue can be. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer dipped their toes in the Prince Fielder derby, and with Hamilton likely fetching less than Fielder's nine years and the Cubs' outfield wide open, he'd be a great player to rebuild around.

Los Angeles Dodgers, 5/1: Magic. Money. Kemp. Hamilton. Together. Sweet.

Texas Rangers, 5/4: He's theirs to lose – or, if you prefer another perspective, they're his to lose. The Rangers and Hamilton fit well, sort of like the Cardinals and Albert Pujols did. And, like the Pujols negotiations, this will come down to just how much Hamilton can separate business and emotion. Pujols was insulted by St. Louis' offer. If the same happens with Hamilton, affinity can turn into spite, love into resentment, happiness into animus. And odds-on-favorite status into also-ran.

For now, the Rangers get to enjoy the exploits of …

1. Josh Hamilton and marvel away as he does what he does. And what he did between Monday and Saturday remains almost inconceivable. Hamilton hit .480. Nine of his 12 hits were home runs. His slugging percentage over 25 at-bats was 1.600. Only 81 players have more RBIs all season than the 15 Hamilton had over those six days – and Hamilton added two more in a homerless game Sunday night.

That he didn't homer felt like baseball was missing a friend. Hamilton home runs had become so frequent that the mere idea he had 18 before the season was 20 percent complete didn't seem too ludicrous. Still, it was fun to look back and break them down, from situation to pitch to speed off bat and distance (via Greg Rybarczyk's Hit Tracker.

Home run No. 1
Day: Monday
Off: Jason Berken
Situation: Top 9, Rangers lead 13-3, two out
Count: 2-0
Runners on: None
Location: Middle-middle
Pitch type: Fastball
Pitch speed: 91 mph
Speed off bat: 109.4 mph
Where'd it go: Slightly right of center field
Distance: 430 feet

Home run No. 2
Day: Tuesday
Off: Jake Arrieta
Situation: Top 1, 0-0, one out
Count: 0-0
Runners on: 1
Location: Middle-out
Pitch type: Curveball
Pitch speed: 79 mph
Speed off bat: 102.6 mph
Where'd it go: Center
Distance: 404 feet

Home run No. 3
Day: Tuesday
Off: Jake Arrieta
Situation: Top 3, Rangers lead 2-0, two out
Count: 2-0
Runners on: 1
Location: Middle-out
Pitch type: Sinker
Pitch speed: 93 mph
Speed off bat: 101.3 mph
Where'd it go: Left-center
Distance: 387 feet

Home run No. 4
Day: Tuesday
Off: Zach Phillips
Situation: Top 7, Rangers lead 5-1, one out
Count: 0-1
Runners on: 1
Location: Up-and-out
Pitch type: Slider
Pitch speed: 78 mph
Speed off bat: 99.7 mph
Where'd it go: Center
Distance: 406 feet

Home run No. 5
Day: Tuesday
Off: Darren O'Day
Situation: Top 8, Rangers lead 8-1, one out
Count: 0-2
Runners on: 1
Location: Middle-middle
Pitch type: Sinker
Pitch speed: 83 mph
Speed off bat: 109.5 mph
Where'd it go: Center
Distance: 425 feet

Home run No. 6
Day: Thursday
Off: Tommy Hunter
Situation: Top 1, 0-0, one out
Count: 0-0
Runners on: 1
Location: Low-and-in
Pitch type: Changeup
Pitch speed: 84 mph
Speed off bat: 107.8 mph
Where'd it go: Right
Distance: 419 feet

Home run No. 7
Day: Friday
Off: Jerome Williams
Situation: Bottom 2, Rangers lead 6-0, one out
Count: 0-1
Runners on: None
Location: Middle-and-in
Pitch type: Cutter
Pitch speed: 88 mph
Speed off bat: 107.8 mph
Where'd it go: Right-center
Distance: 385 feet

Home run No. 8
Day: Friday
Off: Jerome Williams
Situation: Bottom 4, Rangers lead 8-2, one out
Count: 1-1
Runners on: None
Location: Middle-middle
Pitch type: Changeup
Pitch speed: 82 mph
Speed off bat: 103.1 mph
Where'd it go: Right
Distance: 382 feet

Home run No. 9
Day: Saturday
Off: C.J. Wilson
Situation: Bottom 6, Rangers trail 2-1, one out
Count: 2-2
Runners on: None
Location: Middle-middle
Pitch type: Curveball
Pitch speed: 80 mph
Speed off bat: 97.4 mph
Where'd it go: Right-center
Distance: 383 feet

And the totals:

Two go-ahead homers
One game-tying homer
Six lead-extending homers
Four solo homers
Five two-run homers
Two homers off curveballs, changeups and sinkers
One homer off a fastball, slider and cutter
Three homers to center and right-center
Two homers to right
One homer to left-center
3,621 feet of homers
One bat

Yes, Hamilton continued to use the bat from his four-homer game for every one but No. 6. Wonderboy finally broke on Sunday night, long before Hamilton could pull a …

2. Bryce Harper and, in frustration, smash it, only to have it ricochet back into his face and go all Great Muta. Harper drew deserved scorn, and the best line came on Twitter from the player taken 22 picks after him in the 2010 draft, Marlins prospect Christian Yelich: "Hopefully Bryce Harper's bat doesn't admit that it hit him on purpose and get suspended that would be unfortunate."

[Big League Stew: Bryce Harper gets 10 stitches after hitting himself with bat]

What Harper did was dumb, sure, but it wasn't rare. Players everywhere break equipment. Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire keeps Justin Morneau's destruction as souvenirs. These are athletes. They're going to get mad – Harper was in the midst of a slump that had dropped his batting average to .213 – and they're going to get all alpha and act like orangutans. They just need to be smart when they're being stupid.

And when you're facing …

3. Aroldis Chapman it's not difficult to look stupid. Harper was among his four strikeouts Saturday, a 100-mph fastball too big for the 19-year-old to catch up with. No one can touch Chapman, whose early season domination gets more impressive by the week.

In 17 2/3 innings, Chapman has struck out 31, walked four and allowed six hits. His ERA is 0.00. He is Bullpen Strasburg. And the fact that Chapman remains a relief pitcher, with starter Mike Leake's ERA at 7.11 and Homer Bailey's hovering around 5.00, is a testament to Cincinnati's inflexibility. If they're truly concerned about finding a left-hander to replace Chapman in the bullpen, that pitcher is out there – and a lot cheaper than a starting pitcher of Chapman's caliber.

No, he won't sling 100-mph fastballs in the rotation and he'll give up a run sometime or another. But a rotation that begins with Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos and Chapman looks a whole lot better than the Reds' today. Hard-throwing left-handers are among the rarest breeds in baseball, which leaves the possible injury to …

4. Danny Duffy as perhaps the greatest insult in a season of them for the Kansas City Royals. A chic sleeper team, Kansas City lost catcher Salvador Perez for three months to knee surgery, closer Joakim Soria for the season to Tommy John surgery and now is holding its breath as Duffy hits the MRI tube Monday to examine a tender elbow.

Duffy skipped a start two weeks ago because of elbow concerns, then hit 99 mph his next time out. His lack of command against Boston the start after that was troublesome, and he left his start Sunday after 13 pitches.

On a Kansas City team that still has its position-player complement nicely filled, starting pitching has been the noticeable absence. Duffy was perhaps the only current starter – maybe Luke Hochevar, maybe Felipe Paulino – with any sort of long-term potential. Should Duffy's elbow have a torn ligament, it puts into even more peril the Royals' dreams of contending in 2013. By that time …

5. Andy Pettitte will be back home, hopefully having wrung the final bit of competitive baseball out of his soul. Pettitte returned Sunday to a Yankees team that needed him and looked like a pitcher who hadn't thrown in a major-league game in a year and a half.

With all the good – and going almost four hitless innings to start the game was quite good – came the vagaries of time off: the cutter that cut back over the plate and jumped off Justin Smoak's bat for a two-run homer, and another that gave Casper Wells enough room to poke the ball off the right-field foul pole for a two-run shot.

Pettitte's performance did not warrant him a place on our pitching-matchups-of-the-week docket, which goes a baker's dozen deep:

Lance Lynn vs. Ted Lilly, Friday: Whether they're tough to hit or lucky, these starters rank fourth and fifth in the NL in opponents' batting average.

Jered Weaver vs. Jeff Suppan, Friday: Suppan has a 1.69 ERA in three starts. There's something very cool about that.

Matt Garza vs. Kyle Lohse, Tuesday: Battle of the Chin Beards.

Daniel Bard vs. Cole Hamels, Friday: If Hamels really wants to kick it old school, he'll throw at Josh Beckett in the dugout.

Anthony Bass vs. Stephen Strasburg, Tuesday: Strasburg remains appointment viewing until he isn't.

Johnny Cueto vs. Tim Hudson, Tuesday: Another brilliant start for Cueto, whose 1.12 ERA matches Bob Gibson's mark in 1968 – minus four months, of course.

Ricky Nolasco vs. Brandon Beachy, Thursday: From undrafted to unbelievable, Beachy has led the Braves to the top of the NL East with a 1.60 ERA and one home run allowed in 45 innings.

David Price vs. Henderson Alvarez, Wednesday: More gas than a colicky child.

James McDonald vs. Gio Gonzalez, Wednesday: McDonald's last four starts: 29 innings, 33 strikeouts, 1.86 ERA. Gonzalez since a poor first start: 38 innings, 44 strikeouts, 1.18 ERA.

Jaime Garcia vs. Madison Bumgarner, Wednesday: Lefty awesomeness.

Tommy Hanson vs. James Shields, Friday: Hanson's arm remains attached somehow. Shields is his typical stellar self. Two big, bad righties vowing for southeast supremacy.

Ian Kennedy vs. Clayton Kershaw, Monday: Fourth vs. first in last year's NL Cy Young polling – and to kick off the week no less.

Adam Wainwright vs. Matt Cain, Thursday: Perhaps this is a plea for the pre-Tommy John Wainwright. But still. Great stuff, great competitiveness, great matchup. Wainwright's got one up on Cain: at least he can get …

6. David Wright out, though Cain shouldn't hide in shame. Wright is killing everything and everyone these days. His .400 batting average leads the NL. His on-base percentage is nearly .500. He has walked 21 times and struck out 19. Finally healthy, it seems, Wright is playing the superstar New York fans expected him to be.

And still do, frankly, because they need something resembling a superstar as this rebuilding project continues. There are two options: re-sign Wright long term or deal him. He will not hit free agency as a New York Met. It makes too little sense. The Mets learned from the …

7. Carlos Beltran deal to flip assets when they're most valuable. Though nobody figured the Beltran the St. Louis Cardinals signed this offseason would make last year's renaissance look Ecksteinian. Following another home run Sunday – his sixth this week – Beltran led the NL with 13. Or, as they like to say in St. Louis, a dozen more than Albert Pujols.

Beltran has more than filled the No. 3 hole since Pujols' departure. He stabilized an offense missing Lance Berkman and Allen Craig for much of the first six weeks, , one that with their returns may be the best in the NL and among the best in the game. The Cardinals' plus-65 run differential dwarfs every team but Texas, which is at plus-80. A differential of plus-15 certainly doesn't signify a great team, but the way …

8. Matt Wieters and the Baltimore Orioles are playing, they're fine living inside a bubble that may well burst. Between Wieters establishing himself among the two or three best all-around catchers in baseball and Adam Jones joining Curtis Granderson, Andrew McCutchen, Austin Jackson and Michael Bourn in the non-Hamilton-and-Kemp division in center field, the Orioles find themselves with a pair of mid-20s anchors in their lineup.

Wieters' power jumped last year and is exploding this season – he already has eight home runs – and Jones is following the same tack with 10. The only better catcher-center field combination is Mike Napoli and Hamilton in Texas, and neither plays the position full time. Though A.J. Ellis – .455 OBPing A.J. Ellis – could make a compelling case alongside …

9. Matt Kemp were the NL's best player not hobbled with a strained left hamstring. He'll get an MRI on Monday, too, and anything worse than a day-to-day prognosis could imperil the Dodgers' wonderful start.

Kemp told Los Angeles reporters: "I'm definitely not going on the DL." It's easy for Kemp to get caught up in this oh-so-novel winning, rarely seen during the McCourt years. He's been a model player, the sort to whom anyone can point when questions arise about a player's motivation following a huge contract …

10. Josh Hamilton should engender no concerns about his will and want. Just this week Hamilton dived head-first into first base trying to stretch for a single. This isn't Hamilton's contract drive. This is the way he plays. He isn't always smart. He isn't hardy. But damn does Hamilton try.

Which is one reason we must savor every bit of what he's doing: Hamilton can break down at any moment. Injuries creep up and strike like snakes. Smacking two-thirds of a mile of home runs one week, gone the next. Locking up the MVP voting four months early one minute, falling off the ballot entirely the next.

Everyone loves what Josh Hamilton is doing these days because it's easy to love someone who makes it look so easy. And if he can keep doing it for the rest of the season, that list of 12 may yet grow.

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