Seattle Mariners: Signing Hamilton Was Too Good to Be True

Todd Pheifer@tpheiferAnalyst IIIDecember 14, 2012

ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 21:  Josh Hamilton #32 of the Texas Rangers grounds out to shortstop against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for the second out in the second inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on July 21, 2012 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Jeff Golden/Getty Images)
Jeff Golden/Getty Images

Josh Hamilton will not be signing with the Seattle Mariners. Anyone surprised? Show of hands?

As reported by ESPN, the Los Angeles Angels swooped in and signed Hamilton to a five-year, $125 million deal. Again, anyone surprised? Didn’t think so.

The Angels were not on the original list of rumored suitors, but since when do all the rumors unfold as originally reported or tweeted?

If the rumors are true, Hamilton initially wanted seven years and teams like the Mariners were reportedly offering only three. In free-agent negotiations like this, additional years almost always seal the deal. This may be the final contract for Hamilton, who will be 36 when this deal is done. For Josh, it was time to cash in—and cash in he did.

One assumes that the decision was not terribly difficult. Three years at $20-25 million or five years at $25 million. Tough choice, right?

Granted, the Mariners were, are, and will be in a bad position to go after someone like Hamilton. As astutely noted by one of my fellow writers, Mariners' general manager Jack Zduriencik was truly in an unenviable position. That will continue to be the case going forward unless the Mariners suddenly decide that they can boost their payroll.

We may never know how close the Mariners were to signing Hamilton. Perhaps Zduriencik never had the authorization to truly go after the former Rangers slugger.

For a team like the Mariners, Hamilton represented a fork in the road. If Hamilton hits 40 home runs per year throughout his contract, Seattle possibly experiences an offensive revival. Then the club returns to prominence, management is praised for its aggressive and savvy use of the payroll and the fans return in droves to their gorgeous ballpark to cheer on the M’s.

However, if Hamilton has a Richie Sexson-like decline, the Mariners are suddenly saddled with a bloated contract that inhibits their ability to sign anyone for many years. The Chone Figgins deal is quickly forgotten as the Hamilton contract represents a payroll-crushing blow to the hapless Mariners. Not even players like Jason Bay get signed if Seattle has a hit-challenged Hamilton on their bench.

But all of that is academic now because Hamilton will continue to be in the visitor’s dugout when he visits Safeco Field. The uniform will have changed a bit, but the challenge of getting him out remains the same.

In addition, Hamilton will now have shorter fences at Safeco when he visits.

Conventional wisdom suggests that the Mariners may have made the sensible choice by avoiding a long-term contract offer to Josh Hamilton. The front office's plan all along has been to stick with the youngsters and hope that they all mature at the same time.

Still, signing Hamilton would have injected a little excitement into a club that continues to be a bit short on stars other than Felix Hernandez.

Maybe another deal is on the horizon. Perhaps Jack Z will get Michael Bourn or trade one of the young pitchers for a legitimate power threat. Or, the Mariners may go into next year hoping that Jason Bay will hit like it’s 2009.

It just had to be the Angels, right? Not only did the Mariners miss out on Hamilton, but they still have to see him all year long.

He couldn’t sign with the Nationals or some other non-American League West club?

Fans that were hoping to see Hamilton in a Seattle uniform next year might be a little disappointed by the news. However, they should not be surprised.

The Mariners are still the Mariners.