The MLB rumors are starting to pick up around Josh Hamilton and his impending free agency. One team that always gets mentioned is the New York Yankees, regardless of whether there is actual interest there or not.
Right now, the Yankees are sticking with their plan of getting under the $189 million luxury tax threshold by 2014 to avoid paying almost double their payroll in tax. This means that the Yankees might not be able to re-sign some of their own free agents in Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, and Nick Swisher.
Cano and Granderson aren’t due to hit the free agent market until after next season but both could command a decent sum while Swisher is a free agent at the end of this year. If this were five years ago, the Yankees would be preparing a huge offer for the 31-year-old outfielder. However, given his health history, the money he is likely to demand, and his unfortunate off-field issues, signing Hamilton would pose a risk that even the Yankees might not want to take on.
Still, the idea of adding Hamilton to the Yankees lineup would have Yankee fans salivating. That short right field porch would look like it was just beyond first base. While the chances that the Yankees sign Hamilton are slim, there is still a chance.
The market for Hamilton might not materialize the way many expect. There aren’t many teams that will be willing to sign a player with Hamilton’s health and addiction issues to a seven-year, nine figure deal. However, on a four or five year deal, Hamilton would make a lot of sense for a lot of teams, even the Yankees and his current team, the Texas Rangers.
If the Yankees do make a run at Hamilton and can sign him to no more than a five-year deal worth about $15 million per year the Yankees might actually be able to stick him in right field for one year as Nick Swisher’s replacement. Adding Hamilton at that cost would be only a $5 million increase in current payroll and wouldn’t kill the Yankees in terms of financial flexibility, though it would certainly be a bit of a pinch.
Ultimately, the Yankees need to figure out if Curtis Granderson is a long-term answer. His power is perfect for Yankees Stadium but his average is cause for concern. Perhaps the Yankees see Hamilton as a better long-term answer in right field, keep Granderson around for next season before turning to a cheaper option in center field like Brett Gardner while giving a young prospect like Zoilo Almonte or Tyler Austin a shot in left field.
Signing Hamilton is going to be a huge risk for any team. He has immense talent and has shown he can be the best player in baseball but has also shown he is still haunted by his demons of addiction. However, the Yankees have shown in the past that past demons are not much of an issue if you can help the team win. Tim Raines, Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, and Steve Howe immediately come to mind.
No matter what team shells out for Hamilton, there will be a significant risk, especially if his health continues to decline. His days in center field are numbered and he probably should not play there anymore. But, some team will pay for three or four years of prime Hamilton and deal with his decline years later on. Given all of that, it is hard to rule the Yankees out, especially if they somehow manage to miss out on the playoffs or get knocked out in the Wild Card play-in.