One of the top items on the Philadelphia' Phillies agenda this winter is signing an outfielder that can make a significant impact in 2013. The Phillies were pushing hard to sign B.J. Upton, but they finished behind the Atlanta Braves in that sweepstakes (h/t Bob Nightengale of USA Today).
Now, the Phillies need to make a decision about which top free agent outfielder they want to focus on. Josh Hamilton is the best player on the market, but his contract demands could be prohibitive. Also still available this winter are Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher.
While both of these players are talented, they would not have the same impact that Hamilton would have on the Phillies lineup. This fact has certainly been recognized by those around the league and both an agent and a scout believe that the Phillies will be a team to watch with regard to Hamilton (h/t Jerry Crasnick of ESPN).
The market for Hamilton seems to be getting smaller and smaller by the day. In addition to the Braves being out of the running, the Washington Nationals will not be pursuing Hamilton after trading for Denard Span (h/t Associated Press via ESPN). The most likely suitors for Hamilton are now Philadelphia, Baltimore and Texas.
Both of these recent moves also put pressure on the Phillies to make a splash. Two of their division rivals have significantly improved their roster and the Phillies will need to find a way to respond.
Signing Hamilton is certainly seen as a risky move because of his past off-the-field troubles and the salary commitment that it will require, but it is a move that could pay great dividends.
Hamilton has dominated the American League over the past five seasons to the tune of a .305/.363/.549 line with 142 home runs and 506 RBI. Moving to the National League could actually lead to an improvement in his numbers even as he ages.
Ryan Howard would provide great protection for Hamilton in the Phillies lineup and that pairing would give the Phillies a formidable middle of the order.
Adding Hamilton to the mix in Philadelphia would not solve all of their problems, but it would put them in a very good position for the 2013 season.
The team will still need to find at least one other outfielder, but after signing Hamilton, they could go after a low-cost option such as Delmon Young or they could attempt to bring Shane Victorino back to Philadelphia.
With the Phillies top-flight pitching staff already in place, it will not take much to get the team back to the postseason. Hamilton would be a huge step in the right direction for the Phillies.