Josh Hamilton is one of the most prolific hitters Major League Baseball has to offer. As a soon-to-be free agent, Hamilton will surely receive offers from countless teams, and since the Texas Rangers will not make him an offer before he hits the open market, outside teams will have a fair chance to seduce the slugger.
One of those clubs just might be the Milwaukee Brewers.
Because of his drug and alcohol-related problems, teams may offer Hamilton a softer contract than he deserves. A subpar second half of the season also could be cause for alarm. He hit only .259 after the All-Star break.
His contract offers may not be as high as he'd like, which is why Milwaukee will have a real shot at one of the best center fielders in the game.
Milwaukee's current center fielder, Carlos Gomez, had his best year at the plate in 2012. He posted career highs in batting average (.260) and home runs (19). He also swiped a team-high 37 bases. Yet, his success is nothing compared to Hamilton's.
Hamilton had another MVP-caliber season. The mighty lefty hammered 43 home runs, drove in 128 runs and posted a .285 batting average, which is admirable but still surprisingly low for him.
The Brewers have been without a strong left-handed bat since the desertion of Prince Fielder. Adding Hamilton would rectify that.
Going by the eye test, Hamilton is an infinitely better upgrade over Gomez.
However, there is more for the Brewers to consider than just talent. Hamilton might be seeking a four-plus-year deal around $100 million, which the Brewers would be doubtful to pay. Gomez, on the other hand, made just $1.96 million last year and is arbitration eligible. Gomez would be a significantly cheaper choice.
Another area that favors Gomez is his fielding ability. He is a top-tier center fielder with cheetah-like speed, while Hamilton is a decent outfielder but is becoming less limber as the years drag on.
If Milwaukee is interested in Hamilton, which every team should be, he should listen long and hard to what the Brewers have to offer.
After losing in back-to-back World Series, the slugger is thirsty for the taste of victory. Failing to make the playoffs in 2012 may force Hamilton to shy away from the Crew. But the Brewers have good reason to believe they will contend next season, with their top-ranked offense and young pitching staff, and adding Hamilton would almost guarantee a postseason berth.
By joining the Brewers, Hamilton would be reunited with Johnny Narron, his former mentor in Texas and current Brewers hitting coach.
He could find Narron's comfort and advice useful after suffering an alcohol relapse back in February. Milwaukee may not be able to offer him a massive salary, but at least it has a guy in place to make sure Hamilton takes care of himself.
If the former MVP joined the Brewers, he, along with Ryan Braun and Norichika Aoki, would make up the National League's most explosive outfielding corps—not to mention how gigantic his impact would be on the offensive side. Everyone would fear a group that included Hamilton, Braun, Aramis Ramirez and Corey Hart. Only the New York Yankees would have more firepower.
The likelihood of signing Hamilton is slim for the Brewers. GM Doug Melvin recently said that he doesn't see the team going after any "high-priced" free agents, and Hamilton would certainly fall under that category.
Signing him is a risk—a big risk.
But Milwaukee and other interested teams will have to figure out if the reward outweighs the risk. And if Hamilton decides to take less money in order to surround himself with someone he trusts in Narron and be a part of a supreme offense, the Brewers should jump at that risk.
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