On Josh Hamilton and the Phillies 2012 Offseason
Josh Hamilton will be your starting LF for the Philadelphia Phillies in 2013. And 2014. And 2015. And 2016. And, if everything pans out right, 2017.
Ruben Amaro Junior has played a shrewd hand so far this offseason. He came into it proclaiming that CF was his top priority, but then Phillies fans watched BJ Upton and Angel Pagan, two players the Phillies had close ties to in the rumor mill, sign with despised opponents the Atlanta Braves and the San Francisco Giants. Rube first attempted a trade with recently NL departed Houston Astros for undervalued Wilton Lopez, but the deal fell apart when Lopez supposedly came in for a physical and then he was shipped to Colorado. Still, the rumored deal had been a good one for the Phillies and one that would have solved the late inning set up problems the Phillies had in 2012 (Never Forget: “The Gap to Pap”).
When the Wilton Lopez trade fell through Rube returned his attention to CF, where he pulled off an interesting trade to acquire a CF of the future in Ben Revere. While a lot of people think they gave up too much in terms of Vance Worley and Trevor May, Worley had arm issues in his first full season as a starter and May took a step back in 2012. Revere’s noodle arm and lightening legs have drawn comparisons to young Juan Pierre and Michael Bourn. But acquiring Revere first was and will be of the utmost importance.
The trade for Micheal Young has an interesting twist to it involved in all but first let’s take a step back and look at the market for JH. When the offseason began, the list of teams that needed an OF and who could be suitors for Hamilton included, by my own count: Rangers, Red Sox, Yankees, Braves, Mariners, Blue Jays, Giants, Brewers, and Phillies. Well the Blue Jays inked Melky Cabrera, as mentioned the Braves and Giants signed Upton and Pagan, respectively, and the Red Sox signed Shane Victorino for 3 years, 39 million dollars. The Yankees, against all odds, have not been strongly linked to Hamilton, and the Rangers, the most likely landing spot for the left-handed slugger, reportedly would prefer to sign SP Zach Grienke and complete a rumored 3 or 4 team trade involving the Arizona Diamondbacks for slugging outfielder Justin Upton.
That leaves just the Phillies, Mariners and Brewers. Of course, the Yankees could always cease the day and sign Hamilton anyway. Or the Dodgers could sweep in and steal Grienke, leaving the Rangers to re-sign Hamilton and change the focus of their massive trade to acquire a starting pitcher like James Shields. But if they don’t then the market for Hamilton is small and not very strong. The Brewers corner outfielders are Ryan Braun and Michael Hart, and while Hamilton is labeled a CF, by the end of whatever deal he receives he won’t be a CF anymore. So the Brewers would have that to handle in the near future. The Mariners have discussed a 3-year deal with Hamilton’s agent but considering the asking price started with 7-8 years, it is very unlikely the slugger will go as low as 3 years. The Mariners are also a team without a plethora of talent to which they can surround Hamilton. They have a flurry of young and up coming offensive players like Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak, Jesus Montero, Kyle Seager, etc. but if Hamilton were to go to Seattle, he would be THE guy. He’d be the one the team would rely on turn the latent potential into a perennial power. Can Hamilton handle that sort of pressure? Would he want to? I would think not, not after being surrounded by All-Star caliber players in Texas.
So that leaves the Phillies, who are still without a power bat in the outfield despite all acknowledgement that they are looking for one. Some good options are Nick Swisher and Cody Ross, both of which can play the corner outfield and provide some pop to this lineup, all the while hitting from the much-needed right side of the plate, something Hamilton can not offer. But the Phillies have the need and while they are not as offensively gifted as the Rangers, they have the right make up to be a potent lineup if Hamilton were to be added to the mix. And the Phillies have an opening in either of their corner OF spots.
Now let’s move on to the Michael Young trade, in which the Phillies acquired an upgrade at 3B over Kevin Frandsen and are only paying him 6 million dollars for the one year. What’s so odd about this trade, for me, was the fact that Jeff Pasan reported that Phillies were going hard after Young while he was weighing the option of waiving his No Trade clause.
How badly do the Phillies want Michael Young? Source says “they are recruiting him like he’s the No. 1 pick in the country.”
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 8, 2012
That quote, “recruiting him like he’s the No. 1 pick” is outstanding to me. They want a 3B stopgap until Cody Asche is ready to get the call up to the majors, but all indications were that Young was going to waive the NTC any way because the Phillies were offering him a starting spot while the Rangers were offering him the chance to be the backup of 5 different positions. Could it be because Ruben wanted Young here as a bargaining chip to sign Hamilton? There hasn’t been much coverage on it so we might just be grasping at straws but we know at least that Hamilton looked to Young for leadership. (http://www.wfaa.com/sports/baseball/rangers/Josh-Hamilton–115517589.html.)
Another factor playing into this is the following: Hamilton’s starting asking price was a 7-8 year deal, 20-25 AAV. That has now fallen more into the realm that the first team to offer him 5 years will likely sign him, and it’ll most likely be close to 20 AAV than 25. Every day that passes by that JH is without a contract increases his odds of lowering his price in both years and money. Every day it becomes more apparent that teams like the Rangers, Yankees and Phillies will move on without him. Even though the market of teams is down to 3 or 4 teams, every day that those teams go about not singing Josh Hamilton decreases his value.
So what can the Phillies offer JH? They won’t give him 8, 7, 6 or 5 years guaranteed. And they won’t give him a starting CF job because Ruben has already gone out and gotten the center fielder of the future in Ben Revere. Imagine if he had signed Hamilton and then traded for Revere? The job would be assumed to belong to Hamilton instead of the other way around (for those multi-sport Philly fans reading this: consider the recent news surfacing that the Eagles offset the power dynamic by hiring Jim Washburn and then hiring his superior in Juan Castillo). Hamilton, who over the last 3 years has spent over 760 more innings playing in LF (1,968.2) than in CF (1,208.0), would assume the role of every day starting LF in Philadelphia. There have been concerns about Hamilton’s health, and that is legitimate but perhaps exaggerated: JH missed only 24 games in 2012, while missing 50 games in 2011, and 43 more in 2010. But he still won the MVP with those 43 missed games in 2010. But as Josh gets older those injuries won’t heal as quickly as they did before so health is still a huge factor nonetheless.
The question of money and years comes into play as well. Hamilton is worth about 22 million dollars per year, but the years has always been the sticking points. Most sources say Hamilton can not quite reach the 5th year of any deal. So what the Phillies could do is quite familiar to what they’ve been doing with some of their recent big signing such as Roy Halladay and Jimmy Rollins, and add a vesting option for an additional year based on playing time. If Hamilton is given a 4 year, 90 million dollar contract with a vesting option for a 5th year based on starting 560 games for the Phillies over 4 years, meaning starting an average of 140 of 162 games a year, at another 20 million dollars it would have the potential to be a 5 year/110. If Hamilton never reaches that 560 game plateau then the Phillies avoid the catastrophe of signing him to that 5th year and Josh has every incentive to try and stay healthy as he grows older.
The Phillies need Josh Hamilton. Ruben Amaro Junior can not honestly look at the team he has assembled thus far and compare it to the improvements NL East rivals the Washington Nationals (Denard Span) and Atlanta Braves (BJ Upton, Reed Johnson) have made and believe that this team will be able to keep up. The Phillies finished 16 games behind the Nationals last year and while full seasons of healthy Roy Halladay, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard will help them make that up, they don’t change the balance of power in the NL East the way signing Hamilton would.