Seattle Mariners: The Biggest Problem with Going After Josh Hamilton

Todd PheiferAnalyst IIINovember 9, 2012

OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 02:  Josh Hamilton #32 of the Texas Rangers stands in the dugout before their game against the Oakland Athletics  at Coliseum on October 2, 2012 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Seattle Mariners need a big stick in the lineup. Everyone knows this.

Is Josh Hamilton the answer? Are the Mariners actually in the running for the free-agent slugger?

You never really know whether these rumors have any validity or not. Too often, there is some mysterious source that speaks on the condition of anonymity, or there is information from someone “familiar” with the situation.

It's not helpful. I could make an argument that I am "familiar" with the situation.

Regardless of the validity of these rumors, the Mariners may be a player in the free-agent market, and Hamilton is one of the biggest prizes.

There are the usual concerns. He is 31 years old. His productivity could decline. Hamilton has a history of addiction issues. Injuries have been a problem in the past.

If you are looking for red flags with Hamilton, they are not hard to find.

I can certainly agree that all of the issues mentioned could be a big problem if the M’s were to sign Hamilton to a lucrative deal. However, these are not my primary concern.

The biggest problem is the length of the deal.

According to MLB Trade Rumors, Hamilton is seeking a deal that is somewhere in the neighborhood of $175 million for seven years.

If Hamilton is really demanding seven years, the Mariners should run away from the negotiating table.

Now, I will agree with Larry Stone of The Seattle Times who wrote that Hamilton is a risk worth pursuing. However, Stone is also hesitant to sign up for seven years.

This is where injuries and a decline in productivity come back into the conversation. When we are talking about seven years, it seems reasonable to assume that one of these issues is inevitable.

Apparently, baseball owners have not learned their lesson yet.

Does the name Alex Rodriguez mean anything to anyone? Even the free-spending New York Yankees are worried about that albatross of a contract now that A-Rod’s productivity has taken a sharp dip. Something tells me that the contracts of Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder will also be big problems in just a few seasons.

I just do not want to sign Hamilton to a seven-year deal, watch him hit .240 with 12 home runs in the fourth year and then have him sit on the bench for the final three seasons at $25 million per year.

This may seem like a glass-half-empty attitude, but the numbers are not in Hamilton’s favor. Players do not rediscover their power stroke after the age of 35. During the steroid era, that might have happened, but that is less likely today.

Hamilton hit 43 home runs last year, the highest season total of his career. However, he hit 25 home runs in 2011 while only playing in 121 games. Over six seasons, Hamilton has averaged just under 27 home runs and 123 games per season.

Is that worth $25 million a year? The Mariners may be paying $1 million per home run.

According to ESPN, the Texas Rangers are offering a three-year deal. That sounds about right. I could be talked into four, but the fourth year had better be full of performance incentives and plate-appearance expectations.

Perhaps Peter Angelos and the Baltimore Orioles will swoop in and sign Hamilton to a five- or six-year deal.

Let them.

The Mariners should not get into a bidding war on this one. Josh Hamilton is intriguing but also dangerous from a fiscal standpoint.

Maybe the Mariners should get Chone Figgins off the books first.