As soon as the Texas Rangers' season ended, the first thing that anyone wanted to talk about was Josh Hamilton and his impending free agency. On talent alone, there probably isn't a better player on the market this winter.
Suitors will line up to see what it takes to land Hamilton, the 2010 American League MVP. One surprise team that could go hard in the bidding for Hamilton is the San Francisco Giants, according to Buster Olney of ESPN.
Asked some execs this week where they think Josh Hamilton will land in 2013 (and beyond) and one NL official put in a strong vote for SFG.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) September 19, 2012
For a team that needs help, especially if they refuse to re-sign Melky Cabrera, who is also a free agent, the Giants would be one of the worst possible destinations for Hamilton to go.
If the Giants are willing to offer Hamilton the money he is looking for, certainly, no one would begrudge him for taking it. But looking at things honestly for both sides, there is far more downside than upside.
First, we know that Hamilton wants a lot of money. We may not know exactly how much he will be seeking, but given his offensive performance—he has hit at least 25 home runs, 31 doubles and driven in at least 94 runs in four of the last five years—it's safe to say it won't be chump change.
But Hamilton will turn 32 next May and has missed at least 29 games in four of his six Major League seasons. The wear-and-tear on his body from years of physical and mental abuse goes far beyond anything that he can do to himself on the field.
So the Giants will have to spend a significant amount of money on a player with a significant injury history.
Second, the ballpark the Giants play in is one of the worst for a player like Hamilton to have to navigate through. Since the Commissioner still insists on keeping the designated hitter out of the National League, Hamilton will have to play the field whenever he is in the lineup.
AT&T Park has one of the biggest outfields in all of baseball. With so much ground to cover in left or center, you are practically putting Hamilton on the disabled list before he even plays a game for you.
Third, Hamilton's wildly erratic performance in the second half (.259/.323/.510) could be a sign of bigger problems. He has never had a small strike zone, and teams were able to eat him alive with offspeed pitches after the All-Star break.
Hamilton's offensive performance is predicated on making contact. He has never been a patient hitter, or one who is going to work a count to take a lot of walks. He goes up there to swing, and when he isn't doing that, he can look really bad.
If his bat speed dissipates, Hamilton is going to turn into Adam Dunn without the walks. The power is great, and teams are starving to find someone who can drive the ball like Hamilton, but there has to be a limit to how much you spend based on age, performance and risk.
The Giants have a need for a big bat, no one will deny that. But if they do end up having significant interest, as Olney's report suggests they could, there has to be a limit to how far they pursue it.