Thursday, October 11, 2012

Josh Hamilton: Teams That Should Desperately Try to Sign Star of in Free Agency

Though it's a virtual certainty that some team will back up a Brinks truck to free-agent-to-be Josh Hamilton's front door this offseason, we still have heard nary a peep as to which team is the front-runner.

The outfielder's current team, the Texas Rangers, will undoubtedly make a strong play, but after the 2012 season Hamilton had, it may be difficult to keep him. Despite missing 14 games due to injury, Hamilton hit .285 with 43 home runs and 128 RBI while helping lead the Rangers to a playoff berth. 

However, Hamilton does not come without baggage. His bouts with substance abuse are well-documented and he even had a public relapse with alcohol before the 2012 season (via ESPN's Richard Durrett). 

Nevertheless, sluggers of Hamilton's caliber do not come along every day. That means at least a few teams will ignore those red flags and fall over themselves trying to sign Hamilton. 

With that in mind, here are a few teams that actually should pull out all the stops to sign this winter's biggest prize. 


Boston Red Sox

To state the obvious, general manager Ben Cherington did not gut the entire roster in August simply to make the Red Sox a small-market club.

Boston will obviously be among this offseason's biggest buyers and there is no better position player on the free agent market than Hamilton.

Though Jacoby Ellsbury is currently occupying the center field spot, it may be better for Hamilton to move to a corner spot at this point anyway. Even if the 31-year-old slugger makes playing center a stipulation in a prospective move to Boston, it's not as if the team is married to Ellsbury long-term at this point.

A breakout star in 2011, Ellsbury struggled with injuries this entire season and was among the cavalcade of players the Red Sox put on waivers in August. 

On paper, this seems like a perfect marriage. Boston has both the huge checkbook and the cloud of desperation big enough to dole out a $150-plus million contract. 

San Francisco Giants

Like in Boston, Hamilton signing with the Giants would likely necessitate a move to a corner outfield spot, as Angel Pagan seems likely to return.

Nonetheless, if he's amenable, a move to San Francisco may provide the best fit baseball-wise.

Though the Giants' lineup was certainly improved over the 2011 bunch, it is still in desperate need of the powerful pop Hamilton can provide. Playing in one of the worst hitter's parks in all of baseball, San Francisco was last in the MLB in team home runs with just 103, as catcher Buster Posey led the team with 24 big flies. 

The Giants also have something very essential to Hamilton: an ability to compete for a World Series title. Despite being a strong unit that's headed to the 2012 NLCS, imagine how much better San Francisco could be if Hamilton was hitting in the No. 4 spot. 

It's unlikely that the Giants are the highest bidder on the market, but the team would be doing itself a disservice by not giving its best sales pitch. 

Chicago Cubs

While everyone in Chicago seems to be on board with Theo Epstein's plan to build from the ground up, the team has plenty of money and Hamilton would make one great foundation.

As it stands, the Cubs have just one marketable star on its roster in Starlin Castro, but first baseman Anthony Rizzo may be next on that list. 

For a team that scored just 613 runs (28th in the MLB) in 2012, a heart of the lineup featuring Rizzo and Hamilton could spark that rebuilding process.

It's likely that Epstein will make shoring up the pitching staff his top priority with the likes of Zach Greinke on the market. However, if Hamilton lingers (a real possibility), don't be surprised to see the Cubs make a shrewd late-offseason run.


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