Josh Hamilton needs a reality check. While it's fun to dream, he's got his head way up in the clouds if he truly thinks that this is going to happen:
Report: Josh Hamilton wants 7 years, $175 million on.si.com/YElLDV— SI MLB (@si_mlb) November 4, 2012
Upon that news (according to Sports Illustrated), there was a collective gasp heard from front offices around baseball, followed by one of two reactions.
Either the Dr. Evil:
Or the Nelson Muntz:
That's not to say that Hamilton isn't going to get paid this winter, because he is—and handsomely.
Josh Hamilton declines $13.3 million qualifying offer; #Rangers will receive compensation-round Draft pick should he sign with another team.— Texas Rangers (@Rangers) November 9, 2012
The fact that he declined the qualifying offer comes as no surprise, and it was the right move for Hamilton. He's going to land a contract that pays him between $20 and $25 million per season, perhaps even from the Rangers.
However, it's not going to be for seven years. Or five years. Hamilton, 31, simply has too many questions surrounding him for a team to make a long-term commitment to him.
Creating problems aside from the fact that he has missed time with injuries over the past few years is his substance-abuse history. While worrying about a potential relapse is always going to be a concern, that's not the primary reason teams are hesitant to commit to him for five, six or seven years.
It's because nobody knows exactly how much damage he did to his body when he was abusing alcohol and drugs. Nobody knows how long he can continue to perform at a high level until the years of abuse catch up to him and he becomes a shell of the player he is today.
Sooner or later, it's going to happen. You don't walk away from years of abuse without any long-term issues.
ESPN's Andrew Brandt puts it best:
Rangers only willing to offer Josh Hamilton 3 yrs. Other teams have to wonder "Ok, they know him best and don't want him long-term."— Andrew Brandt (@adbrandt) November 9, 2012
If the team who knows him best—the team who has the support system already in place—isn't willing to give him a long-term deal, why would anyone else?
There's probably a GM out there who is on the hot seat and figures that he has nothing to lose by giving Hamilton a five-year deal. After all, Hamilton can change a team's fortunes by himself.
But if you were an owner, would you give Josh Hamilton a huge contract for four years or more?
It's far too risky an investment.
The bottom line is this: Josh Hamilton is going to play baseball in 2013 and beyond, and it very well might be for the Rangers. He's a prolific hitter, a mediocre defender, has an injury history and comes with significant baggage.
If he holds out for such a lucrative deal, Hamilton could be passed over for other outfielders. Nick Swisher and B.J. Upton aren't as talented as Hamilton, but they will cost a lot less.