Josh Hamilton is the biggest name on the MLB free agent market this offseason. Several teams have inquired about signing him, including the Texas Rangers, Seattle Mariners and Boston Red Sox.
The New York Yankees have yet to make a strong push for the slugger.
USA Today reports that New York is “conducting due diligence in the event Hamilton somehow fits into their offseason plans and future budgets.” An American League general manager that spoke to the publication said the team isn’t close to negotiating with Hamilton.
The outfielder’s price tag and previous drug and alcohol issues have the Yankees reluctant to offer him a contract. However, a case can be made for New York taking a chance on Hamilton.
Other than two noted incidents when he consumed alcohol, Hamilton stayed out of trouble in five years with the Rangers. He didn’t miss any games because of his addiction issues, and seems to be committed to staying clean.
The biggest concern seems to be how Hamilton would handle New York City. While Hamilton has yet to live in the country’s largest city, the Rangers play their games just a short drive from Dallas. If he was able to succeed playing by the ninth-biggest U.S. city, he should be prepared to handle New York. Drugs and alcohol are everywhere, and Hamilton can find them if he wants to, no matter what teams he joins.
As far as the Yankees finances go, they should be able to make a contract with Hamilton work.
Hal Steinbrenner is committed lowering the Yankee payroll to $189 million by 2014, in order to avoid paying heavy luxury tax penalties. With this goal in mind, the organization is reluctant to hand out any more lengthy contracts. Fortunately for New York, they likely wouldn’t have to give Hamilton a lengthy deal.
Reports indicate that the top suitors for Hamilton are only willing to give him a three or four-year contract. His history of addiction and injuries has made teams weary of signing him for seven or eight seasons.
Even if Hamilton does get a short deal, he’ll likely sign for between $20 million and $25 million per year. In order for New York to afford Hamilton, they’d have to trade one of their more expensive pieces. Curtis Granderson makes sense for multiple reasons.
2013 is the final year of Granderson’s deal, and there’s a good chance the Yankees won’t re-sign him. He will command a large contract, as well, and could make more than Hamilton, over the course of the deal. The New York Daily News recently reported that the Yankees are quietly shopping Granderson. If the Yankees can turn Granderson into Hamilton and a few young players, they will have improved their team.
Granderson has been one of the Yankees best players since they acquired him from the Detroit Tigers, but Hamilton has proven to be a better player. His career batting average is 42 points better, and his OPS was over 100 points better in 2012.
With Alex Rodriguez out for an extended period of time, and question marks for the Yankees at catcher and the corner outfield sports, Hamilton would be a big boost to their lineup next season. Granderson hit just .232 last season, and had to be benched in the ALCS.
Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte will likely retire after 2013. Derek Jeter’s deal will be up and he will be making less money. The Yankees can afford to sign Hamilton and keep the payroll where Steinbrenner wants it.