Josh Hamilton has drawn widespread interest from across Major League Baseball, and he will have his pick of which talented lineup he will bolster next season.
The 31-year-old slugger has had some major bumps on his road to stardom, but he has been an All-Star in the last five seasons and won the AL MVP in 2010. Individual awards litter his résumé, but he has fallen just short of a World Series championship twice in his career.
With so many options in free agency, Hamilton has the opportunity to find a franchise that will pay him handsomely, give him an excellent chance to continue his individual success and, most importantly, allow him to play for a team that will compete for a title.
CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported that the Seattle Marines, Milwaukee Brewers, Baltimore Orioles and Atlanta Braves have all shown interest in Hamilton, while WEEI’s Rob Bradford added the Philadelphia Phillies and the Boston Red Sox to that list.
Here are the teams that would be the best fits for Hamilton.
3. Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies relinquished their standing as a National League powerhouse this season and ended up trading Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence at the deadline, but there is still a significant amount of talent on the team.
With Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels leading the rotation, the team’s pitching is still a serious force.
At the plate, Philadelphia needs help after ranking 19th in runs scored this past season. Putting Hamilton in the order next to Ryan Howard would certainly give the team an offensive boost.
It was an off year for the Phillies, but this team is capable of bouncing back and returning to championship form. Hamilton just may be the spark they need to do so.
2. Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles were one of this season’s biggest surprises as they finished 93-69 and made the playoffs for the first time since 1997.
Buck Showalter has this team on the rise, and Hamilton has the ability to help continue that trend.
While Hamilton would likely have to move away from his traditional position in center field due to Adam Jones’ firm hold on the starting spot there, Baltimore certainly has room for him in the outfield.
The offensive production from Jones and Hamilton would push this team to the next level, and the Orioles would be a legitimate contender with the superstar free-agent slugger.
1. Atlanta Braves
While the Phillies and the Orioles do provide decent fits for Hamilton, the Braves should be his top option.
After winning the NL East in 11 consecutive seasons starting in 1995, Atlanta has not captured a division title since 2005. The franchise is looking to once again return to dominance and win its first World Series since 1995.
Hamilton would add a significant amount of offense to a mediocre lineup, giving the Braves quality hitting to complement their excellent pitching. The team finished fifth in team ERA in 2012 while checking in at 17th in runs scored.
There is no better fit for Hamilton than Atlanta, as they are the suitor that will give him the best chance to win a title.