Josh Hamilton Rumors: Which Team Has the Inside Track to Signing the Star?

Rick Weiner@RickWeinerNYFeatured ColumnistNovember 21, 2012

September 7, 2012; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Texas Rangers left fielder Josh Hamilton (32) in the dugout against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

It's the biggest question yet to be answered this winter: Where will Josh Hamilton be playing baseball in 2013?

Nobody knows, and it very well might not be until we get into 2013 before we get an answer. Of course, that doesn't mean we can't try and figure out who's got the inside track.

According to John Perrotto of Baseball Prospectus, Hamilton's asking price is $25 million per year:

From someone who knows these things: Josh Hamilton's asking price is 7 years and $175M. #Rangers #MLB

— John Perrotto (@jperrotto) November 2, 2012

While the average annual salary is in line with what most believe Hamilton is going to get, he's way off with the number of years he's asking for.

Hamilton, 31, simply has too many questions surrounding him for a team to make a long-term commitment to him. Aside from the fact that he has missed time with injuries over the past few years, the biggest obstacle teams have trouble getting past 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.

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.

That's exactly why the Texas Rangers aren't willing to meet his seven-year request, per ESPN's Andrew Brandt:

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

Aside from the Rangers, six teams have been linked to Hamilton so far: the Atlanta Braves, Milwaukee Brewers, Philadelphia Phillies, Baltimore Orioles, Seattle Mariners and Boston Red Sox,.

Like Brandt says, nobody knows Hamilton as well as the Rangers—and vice versa.

I don't claim to have any inside information, because I don't. But if we take emotion and being a fan out of the equation, it seems like a no-brainer (to me anyway) as to who has the inside track.

Texas already has a support system in place for Hamilton, something that other teams simply can't just throw together overnight.

Same goes for the relationships that Hamilton has established with people in the Rangers organization. Those simply cannot be replicated elsewhere.

So while 2012 ended poorly for Hamilton and the Rangers, and while he was booed off of the field by Rangers fans, it's Texas who has the inside track at getting Josh Hamilton under contract.

When the dust has settled, Texas is where he'll stay.

There's no place like home, and for Hamilton, home is Arlington.