5 Reasons the Baltimore Orioles Should Avoid Signing Josh Hamilton
On paper, Baltimore seems like a decent fit for Hamilton. The O's are looking for a power bat and could use a left fielder. Hamilton is a power hitter and can play in left. Let's sign him, right?
Not so fast.
Even though Josh Hamilton is a very good player, the O's don't need to go out of their way to sign him. Here are five reasons why.
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Hamilton is seeking a seven-year, $175 million deal according to Adam Boedeker of NBC's Dallas-Fort Worth affiliate. That's $25 million a year. That's a lot of money. As a comparison, last year Prince Fielder received a $214 million contract over nine years ($23.8 million per year), while Albert Pujols got $254 million over 10 years.
Is Hamilton, or anyone for that matter, worth that much? No. Paying the 31-year-old that much for that long would be a dangerous financial decision.
Dan Duquette did a very nice job last offseason with limited resources. Through trades and some non-flashy free-agent signings, Duquette vastly improved the Orioles' depth and bullpen.
Teams like the O's, A's and Giants have proven that you can build a successful team without going on a spending spree. It is unnecessary to go out and spend hundreds of millions on one player. Especially when you can get an experienced and solid player for about one-fifth of the price.
Why create a financial burden getting one player? Instead, use that money to build depth and fill multiple roster weaknesses.
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Through the first two months of last season, Josh Hamilton was the best player in baseball. In his first 182 at-bats, Hamilton hit 21 homers, 57 RBI, batted well over .350, and looked as if he could win the triple crown.
After May, however, Hamilton was much more mundane. In his next 380 at-bats, he only batted .245 with 22 homers and 72 RBI. Those are still solid power numbers, but they pale in comparison to the first two months.
That four month slump continued into the Wild Card game, and is a big reason the Rangers are parting ways with Hamilton. The question is: Will he return to the way he played in April or will he continue to struggle?
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Hamilton's off-field issues are well-known. His recovery from drug and alcohol addiction is wonderful. The fact that he cleaned up his act, focused, and became an MVP-caliber baseball player is a fantastic story, and may be turned into a movie.
All that being said, there's still some risk involved in signing someone with former addiction problems, especially to a long-term deal. I don't think, or hope, that Hamilton will have any major relapses, but it is worth noting.
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If the Orioles are going to spend a boatload of money on a free agent this offseason, it should be on a starting pitcher. Only one O's starter, Wei-Yin Chen, had more than 20 starts last season. The priority should be to add a solid starter who will be able to start 35 games.
Another weakness the O's could focus on is second base. They did claim Alexi Casilla off waivers from the Twins, but that by no means is a problem-solver. Casilla is there to provide depth and compete for a job.
The O's do have potential starting options for left field on the roster already, as Nolan Reimold should be back from injury by the beginning of next season.
They also have a decent amount of depth with young outfielders like Xavier Avery and L.J. Hoes, who could be given a shot at the Opening Day roster. The O's also re-signed Lew Ford to a minor league deal, who will be given a shot to make the team.
Signing fan-favorite and current free agent Nate McLouth could also be a viable and much cheaper option than Hamilton. McLouth was seemingly the only position player to show up in the ALDS for the O's. If some team doesn't offer him a big deal, he'll likely return to Baltimore.
Learn from the Past
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Everyone remember Albert Belle? That deal didn't turn out so good did it.
Prior to the 1999 season, the O's signed Albert Belle to a five-year, $65 million deal. Nowadays, with inflation, that deal would translate to around $20 million a year. After two decent seasons with the O's, Belle's hip gave out and he never played again.
However, he was on the 40-man roster for another three years, which didn't help financial matters. This is just one example how a long-term deal can blow up in a team's face.
If the O's sign Josh Hamilton, will he pull an Albert Belle?
Probably not, but Hamilton is somewhat injury-prone. He has missed time each of the last four seasons with some sort of injury. Hamilton is also asking for more money and more years then Belle did. It is a different era, but it's still riskier.
Belle should be an eerie reminder of what can happen when a team signs anyone, even an MVP caliber player, to a long-term deal.