Josh Hamilton isn’t just the second best player in Baseball right now, he’s also a pending free agent.
Hamilton, who leads the Majors in home runs (18) and RBI (47) while hitting .389, is making $13.7 million in 2012, 11th among outfielders. And when guys like Vernon Wells, Carl Crawford, Jason Bay and Alfonso Soriano are all making more than Hamilton this year, it’s safe to say he’ll seek a contract worth between $20-$25 million a year.
The Rangers are obviously the favorite to resign the 31-year old outfielder but his injury history and age could give them pause if Hamilton wants a seven or eight year deal, and from Hamilton’s perspective, there’s no reason he shouldn’t look for a seven or eight year deal.
Of course, the Rangers know they wouldn’t be two-time defending American League champs without Hamilton and like the Cardinals last year with Albert Pujols, will probably offer a little more than they’re comfortable with because of the history with the left fielder.
And as Pujols showed earlier this year, there’s always at least one dumb team waiting to sign an aging power hitter with question marks.
The Dodgers, perhaps? With the best record in the Majors and a new ownership group, the Dodgers won’t lack for money this off-season. A potentially deep run in October will also deepen their pockets and right fielder Andre Ethier’s contract is up after this season as well, freeing up nearly $11 million.
Playing alongside Matt Kemp in the Dodger Stadium outfield would keep the Dodgers relevant in the National League for the next five years at least, alleviating any concerns Hamilton might have of collecting a check in obscurity, assuming he has those concerns.
From the Rangers’ perspective, they’re fortunate in that the Yankees and Red Sox don’t look to be big players in going after Hamilton. The Yankees are vowing to trim their payroll down to $189 million by 2014. Boston is already overpaying Carl Crawford (7-year, $142 million deal signed in 2010) and can resign right fielder Jacoby Ellsbury for much cheaper than Hamilton.
But like Pujols and the Angels demonstrated, there doesn’t need to be 29 dumb teams willing to outbid Texas for Hamilton’s services.