Why the Philadelphia Phillies Should Target Josh Hamilton in the Offseason

By Cody Swartz

The Philadelphia Phillies just shipped off two-time All-Star outfielder Shane Victorino to the Los Angeles Dodgers, meaning the center field position will likely be manned by John Mayberry, Jr., Michael Martinez, and maybe Domonic Brown for the remainder of the season.

Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers becomes a free agent after the season, and it might be a good idea for GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. to target the left-handed power hitter. Hamilton is currently mired in a miserable slump but he’s still hitting .281/.351/.578 with 29 home runs and 84 RBIs this season, and that should probably get him a five-year deal worth at least $100 million.

That’s a lot of money for the Phillies to pay, especially considering they already owe a great deal to seven players – $25 million to Cliff Lee, $20 million to Ryan Howard and Roy Halladay, $15 million to Chase Utley and Cole Hamels, and $11 million to both Jonathan Papelbon and Jimmy Rollins. That’s close to $120 million for that group, although the team did save a lot of money by trading Hunter Pence (who was set to make about $14.3 million in his final year of arbitration this year), and if they don’t bring back Joe Blanton (which they won’t), that’s another $8.5 million or so they save.

Hamilton is a left-handed power hitter who can run the bases well and play all three outfield positions. He’s a former number one overall draft pick who has famously had his share of off-the-field issues, including some recent slip-ups, and that’s always a concern to a team thinking about giving him a long-term deal. And he’s also in a terrible slump right now, having batted .185 in the last 33 games, and he’s been especially poor as of late, as he’s 10 for his last 66 (.152) with 21 strikeouts.

But I think he’s just going through a particularly rough streak, which happens to the best of players. Albert Pujols has started off each of the last two seasons very slow, and he’s fine now. Derek Jeter had an 0-for-32 slump in April of 2004. Great players have bad streaks, although Hamilton’s is especially bad right now.

But he has unbelievable potential, and he would fit well on the 2013 Phillies. The Rangers still haven’t signed Hamilton to an extension, which means they may not want him in their future plans, considering what he’ll be worth.

I wouldn’t be opposed to batting Utley leadoff to break up the lefties (Utley, Howard, and Hamilton), and because Utley would probably make a pretty good lefty – he reaches base, hits for average and power, and can run well, plus he’s very smart. The Phillies plan to enter ’13 as World Series contenders, even though they’ve been stuck in last place in the NL East for much of the season and they’re not going to make the playoffs this year.

Going for Hamilton would be a bold statement, and Amaro loves doing that. After all, he brought in Halladay, Lee (twice), Roy Oswalt, and Papelbon. The Phillies could always go with homegrown Mayberry, Jr. to see if he can last the whole year and play well, but that’s unlikely to happen. They could also go for a semi-expensive player like Michael Bourn. But going for Hamilton would be fun. He would be a fan favorite in Philly and he’s the kind of player that could push the Phillies back into serious playoff contention for next season.

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