The Milwaukee Brewers are going to be one of the few teams on a very short list to sign free agent Josh Hamilton in the offseason. If the Texas Rangers are unable to keep the slugger, then look for the Brewers to make a realistic attempt to acquire the best player in the American League.
Hamilton wanted to sign an extension with the Rangers before the beginning of the 2012 season. The Rangers reportedly offered him a four- or five-year extension that did not sit well Hamilton. He has now having the best season of his career and Texas will pay dearly for not having more trust in him. Hamilton sees himself as the type of player who is worth far more than the Rangers gave him credit for and is more interested in signing a long-term deal similar to Matt Kemp, Joey Votto, and Prince Fielder.
The problem with this is the 31-year-old Hamilton has a history of drug and alcohol abuse. Therefore, teams are not willing to break the bank in hopes that he will be able to continue his surge of success. As of right now, the Los Angeles Angels have to be wondering if their 10 year, $240 million deal with Albert Pujols is not going to set the franchise back a decade or two. No team is interested in riding the bat of one single player, especially one who can relapse and end his career in a single drunken rage.
On the other hand, Hamilton is clearly out to prove the world he is a new man who is prepared to take Major League Baseball by storm. The slap in the face he received from the hand of the Rangers in the offseason gave him the motivation he needed to become the great player that rested deep inside him. We all thought Hamilton was good the past few seasons as he led Texas to back-to-back World Series. However, he is showing the world the best is yet to come.
The Rangers may believe they are talented enough to win a championship without Hamilton, which could be true. That thought process is what is going to send the former AL MVP to a team that wants his services for the long haul. The Brewers are most definitely that team and the best part is there is a good chance they will be able to afford him. Milwaukee’s intense and loyal fan base has been growing in rapid numbers. Somehow, someway, the small market Brewers are able to sellout games and have broken the 3 million attendance mark three of the last four seasons and are on pace to do it again this year.
Owner Mark Attanasio has shown his aggressiveness in recent years and is not afraid to go all in to bring a much deserved World Series title to Milwaukee. The Brewers will have several players coming off the payroll at the end of the season with only $52.4 million guaranteed for 2013. Milwaukee understands they need a big bat in the lineup behind MVP Ryan Braun if they want to be contenders once again. Aramis Ramirez is doing a good job as of late but Hamilton’s protection could make Braun an even greater player than he already is.
These are all good reasons why the Brewers need Hamilton and could financially support him for the next few years. However, more importantly, Hamilton has two great reasons to join the team. Milwaukee’s bench coach Jerry Narron and hitting coach Johnny Narron were neighbors of Hamilton when he was a teenager growing up in North Carolina.
Johnny spent four years with the Texas Rangers and was a huge influence on Hamilton’s recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. He would act as an “accountability partner” as Hamilton rehabilitated himself. In 2007, Johnny spent time with the Cincinnati Reds organization where he first met Hamilton. When Hamilton was traded, the Rangers made sure to hire Johnny to ensure his continued help with the recovery process.
Hamilton and the Narron brothers are still very close to this day. When Hamilton went 5-for-5 with four home runs on May 8 against the Baltimore Orioles, the first person he contacted after the game was Johnny. There is no question Johnny means a lot to Hamilton, not only as an around-the-clock mentor to talk to, but also as an irreplaceable friend. Whether or not general manager Doug Melvin had this in mind when he hired Johnny remains to be seen, however, there is no question it could certainly influence Hamilton’s decision once he hits free agency.
It has to be made clear Hamilton felt disrespected by the Ranger’s limited extension offer in the offseason. He is now playing the best baseball of his career and is currently the deadliest hitter in the majors. There is a reason why players typically play well in a contract year and Hamilton is no different. He wants to see what teams are interested in him and how much they feel he is worth. However, that does not necessarily mean he will go to the highest bidder.
If the Brewers make a realistic offer for Hamilton there is no question he will seriously contemplate accepting the deal. The chance to play with Braun and be with his two close friends every day is priceless.
“I pray all the time that God’s going to have us where he wants us to be,” Hamilton said earlier this season. “If that’s Texas, then it’s Texas. If not, then I’ll be happy to go wherever he wants us to go.”
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