The Seattle Mariners have a dilemma.
Do they stay conservative, wait out the free-agent process and hope for the best? In other words, do they hope that a slugger falls into their lap at a discount?
Or do they jump with enthusiasm into the free-agent market and go “all in” on a marquee player like Josh Hamilton?
Both directions come with some risk. If the Mariners go after Hamilton, they may overpay and end up with another Chone Figgins situation. Except that this contract would be a lot more than $9 million per year.
If the Mariners wait it out and allow Hamilton to go back to Texas (or some other destination), they risk missing out on some badly needed power in the lineup. Jason Bay may experience somewhat of a revival in Seattle, but he is unlikely to hit 40 home runs as a Mariner.
You could argue that the Los Angeles Dodgers have messed with Seattle’s chances of getting Hamilton. Now that the Blue Crew have signed Zack Greinke to a hefty six-year deal, the Rangers may go back to Hamilton and attempt to keep him in a Texas uniform.
Based on free-agent history, this is not going to be just about dollars. It will be about years.
Ideally, the Mariners would sign Hamilton for no more than three years. Numerous outlets, including SI.com, have reported that a three-year deal has been discussed. Unfortunately, we never know what the word “discussing” really means.
Is this one of those hypothetical discussions that happens in passing, or are we talking about actual numbers and documents being exchanged?
If Texas does indeed have an interest in retaining Hamilton’s services, the Mariners might need to go four or even (noticeable grimace) five years. Danger, Will Robinson.
Where will Josh Hamilton be playing next year?
This feels very much like a silent auction. In many ways, free agency is an auction because the prize will eventually go to the highest bidder. Unfortunately, all bids are mostly sealed.
The interesting aspect of a silent auction is that depending on the value and quantity of the items, there are times when people can get something out the door for a discounted price. Obviously, some auctions are exactly the opposite, and people go to showcase their wealth and ability to overpay for whatever is on the block at the time.
Unfortunately, this auction has limited merchandise and, potentially, too many bidders. The Dodgers already displayed their wealth by overbidding for the most coveted item. Now, the remaining bidders have to decide whether to bid or be content with spending their money at another time.
Again, three years sounds reasonably safe. Four years starts to make one nervous. Five years feels like the team may be asking for a bit of trouble.
Josh Hamilton hit 43 home runs in 2012 and drove in 128. Even if he dropped in production to 30 home runs, that would certainly bolster the Seattle lineup. Adding a career .304 hitter would not hurt, either.
The Mariners could certainly benefit from some swagger at the plate.
As noted by nesn.com, Hamilton signing with the Mariners makes sense. However, who said life has to make sense?
You cannot help but feel like the Mariners are not going to sneak Hamilton out the door with a three-year deal. There are just enough teams in Major League Baseball that would theoretically be motivated to take a risk on a four- or five-year deal.
The Dodgers, Yankees, Red Sox, Brewers or Orioles could jump in at any moment and make Hamilton an offer that he cannot refuse.
Discerning fact from fiction can be very difficult in these situations because everyone seems to have a source, insider or person that is “familiar” with the situation. One day, there is a flurry of rumors. The next day, there is silence.
Right now, we are in a period of silence as everyone waits for the next move.
Proceed carefully, Mariners. It is your move...unless you elect to pass on your turn.