Top 7 Reasons Why A Team Shouldn’t Sign Josh Hamilton
Wait, there are reasons why a team might not want Josh Hamilton?
Before we move on, let me just state the obvious: there are plenty of reasons why any MLB team should covet free agent outfielder Josh Hamilton.
Hamilton would highlight just about any class of free agents in any given year, but in a 2012-2013 class that doesn't stand out much in terms of having impact bats to offer, his star shines even brighter. Hamilton is one of the true game-changing talents in the game, possessing the ability to carry a team on his back with his bat, as we witnessed during the Texas Rangers' march to the playoffs in 2010.
Signing Josh Hamilton would mean an immediate, significant offensive boost in every team in the majors. He can play all over the outfield, and is coming off a career-year in homers and runs scored.
Sure, the price will be hefty, but the big leagues has seen no shortage of mega-contracts in recent years – should Hamilton be expecting any less than the likes of Prince Fielder and Jose Reyes?
Maybe not. That said, it doesn't mean that there aren't significant risk factors for a team to consider when it comes to trying to sign a player like Hamilton, either.
Hamilton's enigmatic ways both off and on the field have played a significant part in making him one of the most talked-about athletes in the game since his breakout season in 2008; but sometimes, that can go both ways.
In this case, for all of the great reasons why a team might want to add a player like Josh Hamilton, there exists several nagging reasons why they might not want to take the plunge. These reasons might not end up being enough to stop Hamilton from landing that big contract he covets, but it might just do enough to hamper the competition for his services in the off-season.
What are they? Let's take a closer look.
The strikeouts factor
When Josh Hamilton's swing is right, it's a majestic thing: effortless, efficient – the baseball doesn't even stand a chance.
When it's wrong, however, it's incredibly frustrating to watch: a superstar consistently swinging at pitches down and away, doing opposing pitchers favours by beating himself in at-bats.
Hamilton was more right than not in 2012, but he was also wrong often: a 25.5% strikeout rate is a career-high, and it's a number that's seen a three-year increase, from 16.6% in 2010 and 17.3% in 2011. In fact, if not for his scorching start to the season in April and May, you'd have to wonder how his overall numbers might have turned out: he failed to his over .250 in three of the ensuing four months, while striking out over 30% of the time in two of those months.
The age factor
32. That's Hamilton's jersey number, and it's also the age that he'll be come next May.
Normally, that wouldn't be a significant concern for most athletes as it's still in the prime of the careers, but Hamilton isn't like most athletes – he's said himself that his body is probably older than his age indicates.
So, if that's indeed the case, where does age-32 fit into Hamilton's career-trajectory? How long can he maintain an elite level of production at the plate? These are questions a team is going to have to answer first before making a decision on the free agent.
The injury factor
Hamilton's 148 games played in 2012 is his most since 2008. There are a couple of ways to look at that: 1) he's finally finding a way to stay healthy, 2) he's missed a lot of games in the years in-between.
Both would be valid; though, considering that this is a player who has missed significant time (ten games or more) in each of his seasons since 2008. That there's not a lot of pattern to be found in his long list of injuries isn't the most reassuring thing either. From sinus infections to back spasms, broken ribcages to knee injuries, Hamilton is not what you'd call a hardy player. His all-out style is one of the reasons that makes him so great, but it's also given his body significant amounts of abuse.
When a team signs Hamilton, they're not going to be counting on 150 games a year. That he'll miss games due to an injury isn't so much a matter of how, so much as when. That variable alone might just be enough to shy some teams away from the price tag.
The alcoholism factor
And so we arrive at the centre of what makes Hamilton such an enigmatic figure in the sport: his story of redemption from substance abuse is one of the most significant reasons why he's such a compelling player, but it's all-too easy to forget that Hamilton's rise from rock-bottom is an ongoing battle.
That means sometimes, he's going to hit rock-bottom again. It happened in February of this year with an incident at a bar; when will it happen again? The Rangers have a dedicated support system set for the superstar when it comes down to his personal issues, but that might not always be the case elsewhere.
Will another team be as prepared to deal with the fallout, the next time that Hamilton has a slip-up?
The park factor
Hamilton's success over the years have been a product of his own immense talents, but let's face it – hitting in a park like Rangers Ballpark in Arlington for half of the seasons did hurt him any.
The home of the Texas Rangers ranks among the top (if not resting at the very top) of the league in park factor on a year-to-year basis; Hamilton's production in it has been excellent, with a .967 OPS at home in his career compared to .858 on the road.
That's a significant split, and something that a potential suitor will have to seriously think about: will you be getting a star-caliber player for 81 games out of the year, or will you be simply be getting an above-average player?
The lineup factor
As good as Josh Hamilton has been, and as much as he's been able to carry the team when needed, he wasn't the only reason why the Texas Rangers were such a potent offensive group.
Would Josh Hamilton have set those career-high home run numbers, if not for Adrian Beltre hitting in behind him, and Nelson Cruz coming up after that? I suppose it depends on how you look at lineup protection – whether you believe it's a legitimate thing in changing how a pitcher might attack a certain batter or not.
Let's put it this way: if Hamilton played for the Houston Astros instead of the Rangers, would he put up the same kinds of numbers? Would he be walked more instead?
Things like RBI and runs are largely based on the lineup around a player, so my gut says Hamilton's value in terms of counting numbers will vary from team to team. Hamilton has the ability to lead a team – but in truth, his supporting cast have always been pretty stellar. How will he respond if that changes significantly?
The money factor
The man pictured above is Mike Moye, and he just represent the biggest reason why a team might not want to take the steps to signing Josh Hamilton.
Seven years. $175 million. This man will do everything in his power to get what his client wants, and he knows what he's doing: Forbes once named him third on a list of agents who do the best jobs at cashing in on major league owners.
The price of entry to Hamilton has been established, and while it's likely negotiable to a degree - it still represents a scary hurdle to get over for any team owner who doesn't have unlimited amounts of money to burn (hint: that'd be all of them).
The money is a culmination of all of the other reasons why a team might not want Hamilton on their squad: if it weren't a factor, all 30 teams in the league would be competing for the outfielder's services this off-season.
Unfortunately for real life-owners, this isn't fantasy baseball, and signing Hamilton could have very real consequences to their bottom lines. That's why Hamilton's group of suitors might end up being more limited than one would think.