John Perrotto of Baseball Prospectus tweeted this weekend that Josh Hamilton wants a seven-year deal worth $175 million, according to "someone who knows these things."
It's the first look at what Hamilton's side could possibly think is a viable market for the slugger -- or, of course, a very high starting point by which they'd eventually drop to something that would still suit him. And I'll assume by seven, they mean guaranteed years.
I can't see any team taking that big a risk on Hamilton at his age (31), history and health issues (2012 was just his second season playing in at least 134 games since his first full big-league year of 2008). But, as my friends and those that chat with us regularly on ESPN Dallas during Rangers games can attest, I didn't think there was any way Albert Pujols would get a 10-year deal or Prince Fielder would find someone to give him a nine-year contract.
We know the kind of posturing that goes on this time of year. The free-agent doors fully swung open Friday, so we're in the early stages. The GM meetings are this week and then the Winter Meetings are next month, when things really heat up. I would bet many teams will wait to see what the Texas Rangers will do and how they feel about Hamilton.
Let's put ourselves in general manager Jon Daniels' shoes for a moment. Ignore the poker game and let's fast forward to the best offer. What's the most you're willing to offer Josh Hamilton for him to return on a long-term deal?
For me, it's three guaranteed years with a vesting option for a fourth year. Since we're talking absolute end games, I could be convinced to offer one more vesting option, but only with high limits on games played in the final few years of the deal for it to kick-in and only if I knew the market was close to giving Hamilton more than three years. For that type of deal, I'd pay him $25 million a year. But the only reason I agree to that is only three of those years are guaranteed. I'll pay more per year for the flexibility of getting out of the deal if he can't stay healthy.
On the surface, it doesn't appear that would land Hamilton in Arlington, does it? It takes just one team to break the bank. But Hamilton is an unusual case. When healthy, he's one of the most impactful players on the field. He can hit for power, drive in runs, make a great catch in the outfield and run the bases well. He has stretches where you wonder if he'll ever lay off a breaking pitch outside of the zone, but every hitter has slumps. He'll also put together some of the greatest months you'll ever see (check out April and May of this year).
But that health part is the tough one. And sometimes Hamilton misses games with the oddest of issues -- he even knows he's had some weird things happen. He had a vision problem where his focus was on one thing and he couldn't get it to move that forced him to miss five games of a big road trip late. He said getting off caffeine helped him and he returned to the lineup. He's had fractured ribs, torn adductors and a broken bone in his shoulder.
So the question for any team is how many years are you betting he'll stay healthy and how many of those years are you willing to guarantee? If I'm the Rangers, it's no more than three. Then it's a question of option years based on health.
That's my opinion. What's yours? Give me your best offer for Hamilton (not an introductory one).