According to CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman, signs are increasingly pointing to the Boston Red Sox pursuing free-agent outfielder Josh Hamilton. Despite the major holes that currently exist in the team’s roster, signing Hamilton would be a foolish move that should be avoided.
As things currently stand, there is a good possibility that the Red Sox are the worst team in the AL East. They are likely starting to feel their backs up against the wall and may look at making the biggest splash possible to appease their rabid fans.
Because Hamilton is the marquee free agent, he is starting to look like Boston’s most probable target. However, going after a player like him would be a complete contradiction of the direction the Red Sox appeared to be heading when they unloaded more than $250 million in contracts to the Los Angeles Dodgers in their own blockbuster trade this past season.
There are already signs that the Red Sox intend to spend big bucks this winter. ESPNBoston.com reported that Red Sox GM Ben Cherington recently said he expects that the team will have one of the highest payrolls in baseball by the time next season rolls around. With just $45 million in guaranteed 2013 salaries, Cherington has a long way to go in order to live up to his promise.
The off-field issues of Hamilton have been an incessant topic of debate, and while they should give the Red Sox some pause, they’re not the primary reason why signing him is not in their best interest.
Hamilton will be 32 shortly after the season starts, and sources indicate that he is seeking a seven-year deal worth $175 million. He may not get a contract that big, but he's certain to get significant money and could push a desperate team with deep pockets like the Red Sox to spend more than would typically be advisable.
The rebuilding Red Sox should be looking to get younger and not immediately revert to snatching up as many high-priced veterans as possible. It might not be popular with the fans, but developing young players and cautiously spending on the free-agent market would be a much better long-term strategy.
Hamilton’s reputation as an occasionally lackadaisical and quirky player and less-than-stellar teammate should also be of concern to the Red Sox. MASNSports.com’s Steve Melewski reported that Hamilton’s former teammate, Mike Adams, said in a recent interview that "sometimes Josh is hard to figure out." Adams went on to question whether it would be in the Rangers' best interest to pursue re-signing the outfielder.
The Red Sox have struggled in recent years with players like John Lackey, Josh Beckett and Alfredo Aceves contributing to too many distractions. Hamilton has the potential to have a similar type of unfavorable impact, making him a dangerous acquisition.
The Boston media would have a field day if Hamilton were to join the Red Sox. He has become a polarizing player during his career because of his immense talent and unpredictable behavior. Expecting him to become the team’s lightning rod in the press would be a tall order and potentially detrimental to his play.
It will be exceedingly tempting for the Red Sox to pursue a player like Hamilton because of their diminished status and copious amounts of cash to spend. However, they should learn from their past mistakes and pass on this free agent, as he offers too many negatives for a team desperately seeking something positive.
Statistics via BaseballReference
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