After finishing the 2012 campaign with a 69-93 record and a last place finish in the highly competitive AL East, the Red Sox entered an offseason unlike any other in recent history, needing to fill holes at multiple positions and add a significant amount of talent in the process.
The free agent class this year is fraught with danger, as the headliners have enough issues to make teams think twice about dumping absurd amounts of money and/or contract years on them, as the risk of a bust is high.
One of those players is outfielder Josh Hamilton, who has put up unbelievable numbers over the past three seasons in Texas, batting a combined .314 with 102 doubles, 10 triples and 100 home runs in that span.
Now a free agent, rumors have swirled around Hamilton and his potential landing spot, as multiple teams would seemingly have an interest in signing him. That said, the baggage he brings with him is pretty significant, with multiple battles with drug and alcohol abuse in the past causing Hamilton to miss time and delay the realization of his immense talent.
Hamilton's age, 31, would also seem to be a drawback for some clubs, as a long term contract would inevitably lead to wasted money when he's unable to produce at a level befitting the kind of salary paid to him, much like the situation the Yankees are currently in with Alex Rodriguez.
That's where a team like the Red Sox could step in and benefit though, as they have the resources available to offer Hamilton the kind of money he is undoubtedly looking for, without having to commit to a long-term contract that will be problematic at the tail end.
With that in mind, here's five reasons that I believe should be enough to convince the Red Sox that a deal with Hamilton is in their best interest.
1. He plays a position of need
With Jacoby Ellsbury being the only legitimate starter currently in place in the outfield, as it stands right now, the Red Sox have a very real need to add at least one player to the mix via free agency this offseason, and may need to add two if Cody Ross signs elsewhere.
Hamilton is not going to provide Gold Glove-caliber defense on a consistent basis, but his athleticism is enough to allow him to get at more than his fair share of balls hit in his direction, and he'd be able to move to a much easier assignment in left field if he signs with Boston.
At the very least he would be able to be a more than adequate defender for the Red Sox and, with half of their games taking place in Fenway Park, any defensive issues could easily be limited.
2. His offensive output is outstanding
As I mentioned above, the past three seasons have been superb statistically speaking for Hamilton when it comes to his offensive production and it stands to reason that he should be able to carry on right where he left off with whatever team he ends up joining.
Given the struggles the Red Sox endured last season in trying to manufacture runs, adding a bat with the potency of Hamilton's would be a huge boost to Boston's lineup next season in a number of ways.
The potential 1-2 punch of Hamilton and David Ortiz in the middle of the Red Sox batting order would bring back memories of the Manny Ramirez-Ortiz led offenses in the last decade, albeit a slightly problematic left-handed combination. Nevertheless, a Hamilton-Ortiz duo would strike fear in the hearts of opposing pitchers, especially late in games with the outcome in doubt.
Hamilton's presence would also lead to Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia scoring more runs from the top of the lineup, as opposing pitchers could end up trying to be too careful with them and put them on base with a walk, allowing Hamilton and Ortiz the opportunity to drive them in.
3. His swing is perfect for the AL East
As a left-handed power hitter, Hamilton would be a great fit for the Red Sox, given the kind of ballparks they play the majority of their games in. Both Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium are built to allow for left-handed power to take advantage of a short fence in right field and have options in left field that reward opposite field power as well.
If you look at Hamilton's hit chart last season and switch it over to Fenway Park, it shows a tendency to pull the ball a bit more than the Red Sox would probably like, but the sample size is limited, and a full season of games there would likely allow for him to take advantage of the Green Monster on a regular basis.
The same can be said about Camden Yards in Baltimore. to a lesser extent, which puts Hamilton in position to have a tremendous season at the plate, as he'd have the potential of playing 99 games in those three ballparks next year if he signs with Boston.
One only need look at the show Hamilton put on in Yankee Stadium during the 2008 Home Run Derby to see what he'd be capable of doing against New York, as he hammered out pitch after pitch after pitch in a stunning display of power never before seen.
Obviously, being able to crush a batting practice pitch in an exhibition is a far cry from being able to do it consistently in games, but it's safe to say that Hamilton would have plenty to look forward to when playing against the Yankees.
4. His contract will help Red Sox now and in the future
At this point, it may not seem like a reasonable contract would be possible with Hamilton, but given the concerns that many teams have with him, it's not out of the question that he could end up signing a shorter length deal with a higher annual salary.
After shedding a massive amount of money last season in the form of Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett, the Red Sox are uniquely poised to make such an offer to Hamilton, and it's very likely that an agreement could be reached in which Hamilton receives $20-25 million per season over just three years.
Such a contract would not hamper the Red Sox financially at this point, and would put them in a perfect position to continue the development of their top outfield prospects like Jackie Bradley Jr. and Bryce Brentz without being forced to bring them up ahead of schedule. It would also give the Red Sox some measure of protection should Hamilton relapse back into his old ways with the drug and alcohol issues, as they wouldn't be on the hook for a massive salary for years on end.
5. Red Sox leadership is strong enough to keep him on track
Finally, the current makeup of the team is strong enough to provide Hamilton with a solid core to lean on if the temptation to fall back into trouble comes up. Manager John Farrell is outstanding at maintaining quality relationships with his players and should be able to keep Hamilton on the straight and narrow without too much difficulty.
Similarly, both Ortiz and Pedroia are vocal leaders in the clubhouse and command enough respect to have their opinions carry significant weight.
Hamilton himself would be a key veteran presence on a team that's likely to have a heavy mix of youth next season, and he should relish the opportunity to mentor some of the young players coming up for the Red Sox to keep them from making the same mistakes he did early on in his career.
The Bottom Line
In the end, a signing of Hamilton by the Red Sox may never come to fruition, given all the potential pitfalls he presents, but in looking at what he could bring to the table, it's hard to not believe he'd be a great fit for Boston going forward.
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