With Christmas approaching, the most prized gift is still available on the baseball free agent market.
Josh Hamilton is looking for a large contract, though nobody seems willing to break the bank for him. The outfielder reportedly wants a contract of at least six years, but his history of injuries and substance abuse has made teams reluctant to make that type of a commitment.
A few American League clubs have reportedly met with Hamilton. Those teams have discussed giving the free agent a three or four-year deal, something that Hamilton seems unwilling to accept, at this point.
The Seattle Mariners and Hamilton met during the Baseball Winter Meetings. The two discussed a short-term deal, worth between $20 million and $25 million per year.
The Boston Red Sox are also in the running for Hamilton. Boston freed up a great deal of payroll when they traded Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Adrian Gonzalez to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Red Sox are in need of an outfielder, and Hamilton might take a deal from Boston if no one else is willing to offer him more than a few years.
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The Red Sox won’t give Hamilton the amount of years he’s looking for, but there’s a chance they could overwhelm him with a large yearly salary. Boston is committed to handing out shorter contracts worth more money per season. They have already put this strategy into practice, signing Shane Victorino to a three-year, $39 million deal.
Even with interest from Seattle and Boston, the most likely scenario has Hamilton returning to his home for the past five years. At one point, it seemed like the Texas Rangers would not be able to re-sign Hamilton with their unwillingness to give him six or seven years, but it doesn’t look like the former MVP is going to get what he’s seeking anywhere else.
With all things being equal, Texas is probably the best match for Hamilton. The Rangers have helped him through his addition issues, and supported him when he suffered a few slip ups. Hamilton has had success in Texas, and there’s no telling how he would fare in another city.
Texas gives Hamilton his best chance to win. He went to two World Series with the Rangers in 2010 and 2011. Neither the Red Sox nor Mariners have been in the playoffs in the last three seasons.
The Rangers had been eyeing Zack Greinke, but the pitcher signed a record contract with the Dodgers. After losing out on the best free-agent starter on the market, Texas has available funds to match any other club’s best offer.
There have been rumors that a team like the New York Yankees or Philadelphia Phillies could come out of nowhere to offer Hamilton the lengthy contract that he wants. However, that seems unlikely, and Texas remains the frontrunner to keep Hamilton for 2013 and beyond.
Hamilton is one of the best hitters in baseball. He hit 43 home runs in 2012, and has a career OPS of .912.