Should Rangers Sign Hamilton Long Term?

What's Next for Josh Hamilton?

10/9/12 in MLB   |   Andrew_Ericksen   |   230 respect

Blog Photo - Should Rangers Sign Hamilton Long Term?As the Rangers lost 8 of their last 10 games, the team’s most important hitter, Josh Hamilton, went 10 for 43 with 19 strikeouts and 0 home runs.  In the team’s last game of the season, Hamilton went 0-4 against the Orioles, prompting his home town fans to shower the former AL MVP with boos in what quite possibly could have been his last game in Rangers red, white, and blue.
But should it have been?

The Rangers currently have the 5th highest payroll in the league, and here’s a quick look at their biggest contracts along with their termination years:
Adrian Beltre: 5 years, $80 million, through 2016
Michael Young: 5 years, $80 million, through 2013
Ian Kinsler: 5 years, $75 million, through 2018
Yu Darvish: 6 years, $60 million, through 2017
Apart from Hamilton, the Rangers have a few other free agents to worry about with Mike Napoli, Colby Lewis, and Mike Adams, three pretty pivotal role players.  Roy Oswalt and Ryan Dempster are also free agents, but I don’t see the Rangers bringing either back after underwhelming performances with the team.
Hamilton has said that he’d gladly allow Texas to match any offer he receives on the free agent market, but is still very open to either staying or going.  Just to get an idea of what sort of money we may see offered to Hamilton, here’s a look at the biggest contracts given out in 2012 with each player’s age at the time of the signing:
Albert Pujols, 32 years old: 10 years, $254 million
Prince Fielder, 27 years old: 9 years, $214 million
Joey Votto, 28 years old: 10 years, $225 million
Matt Kemp, 27 years old: 8 years, $160 million
At 31 years old, where does Hamilton fit on the list?  A career .304 hitter, Hamilton is coming off a career best 43 home run season.  He’s undoubtedly one of the most dangerous hitters in the game and in a Rangers lineup filled with big bats, it’s Hamilton’s that really dictates just how far the team will go.
Blog Photo - Should Rangers Sign Hamilton Long Term?The negative side of Hamilton’s package is heavy as well.  In his 6 major league seasons, Hamilton has played in over 135 games only twice.  Beyond that, this past year, he set a new career high in strikeouts with 162, 69 more than in 2011 when he played 27 less games. 
I’m guessing with all things considered that the contract that ends up locking down Hamilton will be something along the lines of 8 years, $180 million.  If it weren’t for the injury concerns, I’d think the contract would be closer to the $200 million clip, but I think the risk contributes to about $20 million less for the slugger.  In today’s market, you have to pay a premium for the superstars of the league, and there’s inherently a lot of risk involved with that sort of game.
The fact of the matter for the Rangers is that they’re one of the biggest spenders in the league and could most likely match any offer Hamilton receives on the market.  Without him, the Rangers have a solid lineup, but not the type of lineup that’s going to take them back to the World Series again.  Hamilton is that difference-maker of a 3-hitter that makes everyone around him more effective.  Replacing his bat is a nearly impossible task when there are so few other players in the league (most of which are already signed to long-term contracts) capable of doing as good a job as Hamilton in supplying runs. 
The bottom line is that signing Hamilton to a long-term deal is a risk, but a risk that the Rangers need to take if they want to remain one of the AL’s powerhouses.
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