Josh Hamilton: Why the Slugger Will Leave the Texas Rangers This Offseason

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Josh Hamilton: Why the Slugger Will Leave the Texas Rangers This Offseason
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We're not even halfway through the 2012 season yet, but Texas Rangers fans may want to start preparing themselves for the image of Josh Hamilton in someone else's uniform.

Hamilton stands to be one of the most sought-after free-agents at the end of the year.

Especially after his insane production in the month of May.

Though there may be only a few reasons Hamilton calls a new stadium home in 2013, but each will be a major factor come free agency.

Here are the three biggest factors that could have Hamilton leaving the Rangers behind.

 

Money

Obviously, money is the biggest determinant in most situations in life, let alone baseball.

Hamilton currently makes a base salary of $13.75 million.

He's also currently the league leader in home runs and RBI. His American League leading batting average of .402 is the second best in Major League Baseball.

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$13.75 million appears to be a bargain.

Hamilton doesn't necessarily have to continue producing ungodly numbers. Even if he hits .300 with 150 hits, 115 RBI and 35 home runs, he's going to get paid.

It wouldn't be surprising to see Hamilton make the jump to an average salary of $20 million per year.

The Rangers' sixth-highest payroll is about $50 million below MLB's luxury tax threshold as of right now.

However, many talented players—Yu Darvish, Elvis Andrus, Nelson Cruz, Ian Kinsler and Adrian Beltre to name a few—are locked up and set to make even more money next year.

Most jump from millions to tens of millions.

Sure, it looks like the Rangers can afford Hamilton now. But can they when all the younger talent surrounding him are making more as well?

It's going to be difficult.

 

Multi-year Contract

Hamilton wanted an extension in place before the start of Spring Training. The deadline has come and gone and the talks have been put on hold.

He turns 32 at the beginning of the 2013 season.

At his age, it could be his last big contract. It could also be his last long contract.

Players desire security.

Unless things change, it sounds like the Rangers are only comfortable giving Hamilton a two-year deal. Injuries and his off-field concerns are a risk.

It's a risk the Rangers seem unwilling to take—still.

 

Competition For Hamilton's Services

A player of Josh Hamilton's caliber is going to garner plenty of interest in the offseason.

Based on the amount of money he will command, one can erase about two-thirds of the teams in Major League Baseball off the list.

Factor in age, health and the other non-baseball related risks and a few more teams can be removed.

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Still, it's hard to compete with big-spending, large market franchises such as the New York Yankees.

Even though the Yankees presumably will shed payroll to be under the luxury tax threshold by 2014, it's a good bet they'll be interested in putting Hamilton in pinstripes. Adding an invaluable slugger such as Hamilton will simply have New York looking to make cuts elsewhere.

Besides, Mariano Rivera, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter are all nearing the end of their baseball playing days. They're also going to lose Nick Swisher to free agency.

Hamilton is an upgrade over Brett Gardner, while Raul Ibanez and Andrew Jones are on the verge of retirement and can't be considered as full-time replacements for next season.

Teams like the Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals or either Chicago team have the money and need the outfield help too.

Hamilton has already stated he's not planning on giving the Rangers a hometown discount.

He told Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News:

"The Rangers have done great things for me. Let me ask you a question: Have I done great things for the Rangers? I think I've given everything I had. This is still a business. It's the entertainment business, but it's still a business. I love Texas. I love my fans. I love fans of the Rangers. I love the organization. I love my teammates. I love everything about it. But I'm not going to sit here and say that I owe the Rangers. I don't feel like I owe the Rangers."

Hamilton later indicated in the same interview that he is, "confident in his sobriety." A two-year offer based on fear of relapse may insult the player.

The Texas Rangers could certainly offer Hamilton a two-year contract with an average salary of $17 million and dozens of incentives that put it over $20 million.

All it takes is someone to believe in his sobriety and health a little more than the Rangers do.

The Rangers have had Hamilton for five years. They know exactly what they're getting into and exactly what they're getting out of Hamilton.

Sometimes, the security of a multi-year deal and the monetary support it provides is too enticing to remain where it's comfortable.

If the Rangers fail to win the World Series three times in a row with nearly an identical team, it's even more tempting to make a switch.

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