Mailbag: Josh Hamilton, Part Deux

Open Thread: Rock Raines
Yankee relief pitching over the years: A graphical look
(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Mike asks: What kind of contract Josh Hamilton could get when he’s a free agent next year?

I wrote about Hamilton last year right around the holidays, so this is a good chance to go back for an update. The now 30-year-old outfielder followed up his 2010 MVP campaign by having the second worst year of his career, at least offensively. That’s relative to his lofty standards of course, because in no world is a .371 wOBA and a 129 wRC+ bad. He hit .290+ with 30+ doubles and 25+ homers for the third time in four years, and continues to be rated as a strong outfield defender by the advanced metrics.

The other thing Hamilton did in 2011 was get hurt, yet again. He missed more than a month early in the season after breaking his arm sliding into home plate, and he played through a sports hernia in the playoffs before having surgery after the season. Hamilton has been on the DL five times since resurfacing in 2007, including at least once in each of the last three seasons. Ailments include gasteroenteritis (2007), a wrist sprain (2007), fractured ribs (2009), a sports hernia (2009), more fractured ribs (2010), and then the broken arm and second sports hernia this year. He’s also been day-to-day with various leg problems (hamstring, knee, Achilles) about a dozen times since coming back into the league. Only once in his five-year career has he managed to play more than 135 games in a season, only twice more than 125 games.

Hamilton’s past is well known, and it’s fair to question how he’ll age after all he’s put his body through. This isn’t just an injury prone player now on the wrong side of 30, it’s an injury prone player with years of drug and alcohol abuse taking a toll on his body now on the wrong side of 30. The risk level is astronomical. Hamilton’s a great, great player on both sides of the ball, but he’s unable to maximize his talent because he can’t stay on the field all season. I know his left-handed pop would look great in Yankee Stadium, but signing a player like this would be a classic old Yankees move, if you catch my drift. Anyway, that wasn’t the question.

I think a nine-figure contract is out of the question for Hamilton next winter, even though his raw production probably warrants a payday like that. The Jayson Werth (seven years, $126M) and Carl Crawford (seven years, $142M) contracts seem excessive, but the Josh Willingham (three years, $27M) and Michael Cuddyer (three years, $31.5M) contracts seem too light. Perhaps the Jason Bay (four years, $66M) and Torii Hunter (five years, $90M) deals serve as a decent middle ground, four or five years and something like $16-18M per season. Sounds somewhat reasonable, no?

I don’t know what the Yankees are going to do in right field after next season, when Nick Swisher becomes a free agent with no obvious in-house candidate to replace him, but I sure hope Hamilton isn’t on the short list of solutions. Him and Andre Ethier, who will also be a free agent, are two guys I’m very much against signing. I’m sure the Yankees can fashion a platoon that’s as reasonably productive as those two guys over 162 games for a third of the cost on a one-year commitment. Hamilton’s a great hitter, but it’s a safe bet that his best years will be behind when by the time he hits the open market next winter. You don’t want to be the one on the hook when his body finally goes overboard and completely breaks down.

Open Thread: Rock Raines
Yankee relief pitching over the years: A graphical look
  • Spencer

    I don’t think that will be a problem. Doesn’t seem like the Yankees are doling out any significant contracts any time soon.

    • CP

      Yeah, because the $120M+ they gave CC this year doesn’t really count as a significant contract.

      • Pat D

        Right, because they weren’t already obligated to pay all but 25 million of that.

    • David

      I usually agree with most everything that is written on the blog, but to say that a platoon would be as productive as either one of these players is ludicrous

      • Ted Nelson

        I agree that it was an overstatement. Especially because good platoon guys don’t always grow on trees. Especially if a LH is good enough, he’s probably going to be valued as a starter (like Either, for example).

        Either is kind of a platoon guy himself. Though luckily a lefty and not a righty. His career wOBA against LHP is .292. He’s probably not going to sign a deal to be an official platoon player and his contract will probably be too expensive to justify a strong platoon partner, but a RH 4th OF might form sort of an unofficial platoon. Certainly with an Andruw Jones caliber guy you’d platoon Either, but even a Maxwell or Nunez might handle LHP better than Either. Other problem with Either is that he’s a poor defender. So there’s a balancing act where a stronger defensive platoon that doesn’t hit as well could be just as valuable.

        I believe Mike’s argument about Hamilton is that he will be injured and break-down, so decent healthy production will be just as good. Mike often over-exaggerates injury concerns, but it’s definitely something to consider with Hamilton. Even without forecasting future doom, he already can’t stay healthy.

        • CJ

          Ethier won the gold glove this year

          • Ted Nelson

            So what? Derek Jeter has 5 gold gloves.

      • Mike Axisa

        The idea is that you’re getting 120 games of Hamilton + 42 of his replacement. A full 162 of a quality platoon can match that production.

        • Ted Nelson

          It can… but how easy is it to assemble that strong of a platoon? If you get an Andruw Jones as your righty giving you 1.5 fWAR, you need to get about 3.5 fWAR out of your lefty to match Hamilton’s average production the past three seasons (4.7 fWAR) plus a decent 4th OF (1 fWAR in a full season… 0.25 fWAR in 40 games). I think that chances are against you finding a LH RF who can put up ~3.5 fWAR in 450 or whatever PAs. And if you do find that lefty, how much will he cost you?

  • TheOneWhoKnocks

    It’s hard not to be interested, considering at his best he’s an MVP caliber player and all the drugs/injury stuff could actually make him end up a bargain. I think given our budgetary constraints, we probably won’t have $15-18m AAV to take on the Hamilton risk. Especially since he’s someone who would benefit from being able to frequently utilize the DH role, and we already have Montero and A-Rod

  • El Cuñado

    wouldn’t surprise me to see him coincindentally on the field all season in his walk year… even so, sounds like another new look Yankees modest bid maneuver waiting to happen .. or at least kick the tires just for leverage if they want to re-sign swisher

  • Gonzo

    Angels have Torii Hunter and Bobby Abreu walking as Free agents next year. That would be some 3-4/2-3 punch with Pujols.

    • MannyGeee

      I could see that.

      • Gonzo

        Imagine the fielding OF they could have too. Bourjos, Trout, and Hamilton in the OF.

  • Improvident Lackwit

    Interesting you chose a picture of him tossing a ball to fan…

    • Gonzo

      It’s actually a picture of him breaking a guy’s nose with a huge baseball.

  • MannyGeee

    yeah, well… I can see both sides. I am with Mike in saying Hamilton should NOT be an answer. His injury history scares the hell outta me as well, and there is no way he stays healthy as an outfielder during the life of his next contract.

    But even if he puts up numbers resembling 2011, sans injuries, I could see alot of people saying to get him him over re-signing Swisher. ESPECIALLY if the price tags are close.

    We all expect (or hope) Swish will be at roughly $12M per if he re-signs, maybe up to $14M seems reasonable. If Hamiltons price is $18M, but could dip down to $15M depending on the market…

    jus sayin

  • Andrew Brotherton

    I think we should roll the dice on Cespedes and Soler and take our chances. I don’t want to see us give a long term deal to Swisher. He is going to get overpaid

    • Reggie C.

      I’m hoping the front office signs one of those two in late January. Soler’s youth and cheaper price tag makes him a better addition to the organization. Soler won’t be blocked for another couple seasons. Anyway, should Josh Hamilton manage to stay healthy 135 games in 2012, he’s a sure bet to repeat a 30 double/ 30 homer season. That’ll lift Hamilton’s price to Torii Hunter levels , which is too rich for a corner OF on the WRONG side of 30. We’d all spend on the money on one of Greinke, Hamels, or Cain.

      • dan gen

        hamels and cain are staying with their teams and the other guy cant handle ny

    • MannyGeee

      Cespedes will sign with a team that has an open competetion for an OF spot right now. Watch out for the Sox here.

      I think Soler has a more legit chance to sign with us. I would welcome the addition.

  • Jumpin’ Jack Swisher

    I can already see the off-season “Yanks are cheap” posts calling Hamilton ELITE (IN ALL CAPS!! MEANS MORE THAN “elite”) and claiming he should be signed because we r teh Yankees. Those same people will then complain as to money being tied up in A-Rod, Tex, CC, Burnett, and Jeter.

    I like Hamilton, but agree you don’t want to be the team on the hook for his next contract. Find a good fit, not a household name.

    • MannyGeee

      I actually loathe Hamilton. Still hold resentment for 2010 ALDS. More than I ever felt for Damon, Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz or Cliff Lee.

      • MannyGeee

        Sorry, 2010 ALCS.

  • John

    It’s entirely dependent on what he will be looking for as a free agent.

    If he is willing to settle for Jason Bay money (4yr 66mil) then ya, sign me up. Even if you only get 3 productive years out of that contract, chances are those will be 3 very productive years. Adding Hamilton to the middle of our lineup would be incredible. I’d much rather spend 60-70 million on Hamilton than 40-50 million on Cespedes.

    If he’s looking for 80-90+ million (I assume he is), then I’d take a pass for all the reasons listed above.

    • thenamestsam

      The interesting thing to me is I think the demands are going to depend a lot upon this year. If he is even mostly healthy (say ~135 healthy games) he’ll most likely be in the MVP race and his price will balloon. At that point I think the bidding would start in the 80-90 range, which makes it a complete stay away to me. If, on the other hand, he struggles through a year more like last year (<125 games and some of those are playing hurt, sapping his numbers) I think he might be had for something like (68M for 4 yrs). But coming off two consecutive injury plagued years with wOBAs more like .375 than .450 I'm not sure that price really looks that much better.

      I'd try offering him something wacky, like a contract for 22M per season that renews every year if he plays 130 games. He'd never take it though which is why I'd move along. I bet whoever ends up with him is thrilled for 1 year out of the 4 and unhappy the other 3 or 4.

      • John

        I agree that this upcoming year is huge in determining how much he asks for. It’ll probably determine whether he gets some team to overpay for him, or winds up being had for a (relative) discount.

    • Ted Nelson

      I don’t know that you can expect three very productive years. He’s had exactly one very productive year in his entire career.

      • thenamestsam

        3 seasons of >4 fWAR (all in the last 4 years). I think you’re using way too high a standard if you you’re not counting all of those as very productive.

        • Ted Nelson

          Those are as productive as Swisher… but Swisher figures to be cheaper than Hamilton.

          Obviously “very productive” is subjective. When I think of paying $16-20+ million per for an OF, though, I do not think of 4 fWAR as “very productive.” Under different circumstances 4 fWAR could be very productive. In terms of a top free agent with a good chance of getting paid very highly? I don’t think it is.

  • Gonzo

    With a clean year, I could see a team hitting the 9 figure mark. Nothing really surprises me anymore.

  • Grover

    I would rather see a top tier starter with a platoon of punch and judies in right than Hamilton or a resigned Swisher.

  • Peter North

    No way the Yanks hand out a(nother) big contract to an aging player to capture his decline years. Just re-sign Swisher in the exclusivity period next year and be done with it.

    • MannyGeee

      If the Yankees play dead dog offensively again next October, I guarantee Hamilton will be a topic of discussion.

      • Gonzo

        It’s the Yankees. Any good player is a topic of discussion.

    • John

      So you don’t want the Yankees to offer a big contract to an aging player (in this case Hamilton), but you want them to offer one to Swisher? Huh? Swisher is older than Hamilton. If Hamilton is an older, declining player, how does Swisher not fit that mold as well, seeing how he’s OLDER than Hamilton.

      Swisher isn’t exactly going to re-sign for peanuts and free bleacher seats for when he retires either, hate to break it to you.

      • MannyGeee

        5-19-07, 15-day DL, gasteroenteritis
        7-8-07, 15-day DL, sprained wrist
        9-6-07, day-to-day, hamstring soreness (listed again as “strain” on 9-13-07)
        6-25-08, day-to-day, knee inflammation
        6-26-08, day-to-day, hand contusion (hit by pitch)
        8-1-08, day-to-day, dizziness
        8-27-08, day-to-day, abscessed tooth (listed again as “pain” on 8-30-08)
        9-11-08, day-to-day, foot contusion
        3-2-08, day-to-day, Achilles strain
        4-22-09, day-to-day, trunk contusion
        4-27-09, 15-day DL, trunk strain
        5-18-09, day-to-day, groin strain (listed again as “soreness” on 5-21-09)
        6-1-09, 15-day DL, sports hernia
        9-3-09, day-to-day, lower back (listed again on 9-27-09)
        2-24-10, day-to-day, shoulder contusion
        3-16-10, day-to-day, hand contusion (hit by pitch)
        6-5-10, day-to-day, knee soreness
        6-23-10, day-to-day, hamstring tightness
        7-31-10, day-to-day, knee inflammation (patellar tendinitis, listed again on 8-2-10 and 9-1-10)
        9-5-10, day-to-day, ribcage fracture
        4-13-11, 15-day DL, humerus fracture

        This, of course, doesn’t include his 2001 car accident, or his years-long battle with drug and alcohol addiction

        significantly less.

        • John

          Really? You’re going to list a bunch of day to day injuries? Thinking that day to day injuries in 2007 and 2008 have any affect on 2012 is incredibly foolish. I’m not even going to bother addressing the mentioning of a car accident in 2001 or his substance abuse problems. While it’s reasonable to assume his substance abuse problems could rare it’s ugly head in his latter years (50s & 60s), claiming his substance abuse problems have a significant affect on his baseball abilities in the short / mid term is really nothing more than an assumption. Substance abuse affects each person differently, and you can’t definitively say his problems bear a significant affect on his day to day activities during his early 30s.

          Even with the list of (mostly) minor injuries you pulled up, he managed to post better numbers than swisher did last year despite appearing in 30 less games, and that’s with his season representing one of the worst in his career.

          I’m not arguing that Hamilton isn’t much more injury prone than Swisher, because he is, but the vast majority of your list is comprised of day to day injuries which most athletes experience throughout their 30s. Seeing as how he played through most of these, their inclusion as a source of evidence is weak.

          • Jim Is Bored

            A bunch of day-to-day injuries signal to me, at least, a body that isn’t as resilient and doesn’t heal as quickly as some of the other athletes.

            Which again, is probably a result of the past substance abuse issues. Or, of course, it could be bad luck; but when I’m investing ~90 million bucks, I’d prefer less gambling.

            • Jim Is Bored

              To clarify, I wouldn’t, in isolation, consider day-to-day injuries to be a big deal.

              But in this case, it is just another piece of evidence(which I think is absolutely fair to include) I’d use when leaning Swisher’s direction.

          • thenamestsam

            Not necessarily disagreeing, but a couple comments: For one, while obviously a sprained wrist in July of 2007 has no direct bearing on anything today, the above injuries do show a pattern-that he has trouble staying healthy. You say “the vast majority of your list is comprised of day to day injuries which most athletes experience throughout their 30s”, but the problem is he wasn’t in his 30s, he was in his 20s, in the peak of his physical condition. A guy who has that much trouble staying healthy at 27 scares me a ton at 35.

            Also:”He managed to post better numbers than swisher did last year despite appearing in 30 less games, and that’s with his season representing one of the worst in his career”. By WAR last year was the 2nd best of his career (although he was also better offensively in 2008, when his UZR # looks a bit like a low outlier). He has very little track record. He has had exactly 1 healthy season in his career (2008), and exactly 1 monster offensive season(2010).

          • MannyGeee

            Josh Hamilton is the textbook example of ‘High risk, high reward’. he’s gonna give you big numbers if he’s healthy. but that ‘if’ is huge.

            So is the extra money for Hamilton worth it? considering you will need to have the production (possibly negative) of a 4OF when Hamilton is not healthy.

            OR old ho-hum Nick Swisher who only gives you 150 games year in and year out (hes never played less than 130 games since coming up), and over 100 OPS+ every season besides that Chicago situation.

      • Peter North

        Drugs and alcohol will prematurely age you. Plus, Swisher isn’t in decline. He also shows up every day. I’ll take him over Hamilton just as I’d take him over Beltran. Once you swap in someone like Dickerson who will have to take over for when Hamilton (or even Beltran) go down, the production out of that RF position will average down to = or < what Swisher will likely provide.

  • Matt :: Sec110

    man, Matt Kemp and the Dodgers really fucked the Yankees’ plans for a dominant 3, 4 hitters for the next 6 years. Tell me again how a team under control by MLB and changing ownership can give out a 100M dollar contract?

    • Gonzo

      I didn’t like the signing and I don’t like that contract. I’m actually glad Kemp is locked up. I really didn’t want the Yanks to make a run at him.

      I might be in the minority here about Kemp.

    • Ted Nelson

      MLB is trying to rescue the Dodgers, not further ruin them.

  • Chad Gaudin the Friendly Ghost

    My prediction: The Nationals sign him for 10/270. Book it.

    • MannyGeee

      they’re due for another stupid move big splash move, since Werth has worked out so well.

  • dan gen

    we r now a small market team with the highest ticket prices….we will get somone cheap and no good.

    • jsbrendog


    • Jim Is Bored

      yea, 2 bad we kant spnd 100 mil… and are stk in a tErrible town with ppl who dont shw up 2 wach.

      Am I doing it right?

      • MannyGeee

        more !!!!!!!!!11!!!111!!!onE! please.

  • Jose M. Vazquez..

    I have to agree with the majority here that signing a guy like Hamilton would be a big risk. With all the abuse to which he has submitted his body it is surprising that he is still playing. He will probably decline substantially during the next two or three years.

  • Jason

    Mike, let me first say that I’m very grateful for all you, Joe, and Ben do at RAB.
    But damn man, you gotta proofread your stuff! Saw at least three obvious mistypes. I’m not asking for perfect grammar or anything, but stuff like repeated words or words that clearly were supposed to be another word (“he he .290+ with 30+ doubles…” instead of “he hit .290+…”).
    Sorry, needed to be said!

    • Jake

      No, it didn’t. Understand the medium. Blog posts are not published books. Mike and the other contributors have real jobs aside from RAB and they don’t have paid proofreaders. Do you want fewer articles? Because that would be the cost of demanding every article be typo-free. I would rather have more content, even if it isn’t 100% polished.

    • jsbrendog

      there’s a submit a tip box on the right to use instead of posting off topic about grammar.

    • Matt M

      Hey well atleast he wasn’t spelling Ethier like Either. Sorry Ted that drove me nuts lol.

  • CJ

    No addict is ever “cured”. They remain in a state of recovery with each day of sobriety. Hamilton should stay in Texas where he has a routine and support network. His sobriety is way more important than seeking the best contract.

    • Gonzo

      There’s no such thing as an ex-alcoholic.

    • Jim Is Bored

      I would hope that if he were to leave, he’d think about all that stuff prior to doing so.

      • Ted Nelson

        Yeah, seriously. Deciding what’s tough for a dude you’ve probably never met is pretty tough to do.

        • CJ

          Well that’s just hoping for his sake that he chooses the best opportunity to “stay well.” There us the other side, not so “tough” to decide if you are going to make a major offer and investment on a player of his talent with that concern.

          • Ted Nelson

            I just think that it’s a big assumption Dallas is better for him than another city.

            I’m not sure, but I believe one more positive test and he’s banned for life. I’d have to imagine that a team could terminate the contract of a banned player, though I have no idea.

    • MannyGeee

      at $18M a season, he can afford a support network anywhere in the world. Not minimizing the need for him to be careful with his decisions or think of his sobriety first, but saying that Texas is better for his sobriety than anywhere else in the country is a stretch.

  • YanksFan

    I love how he’s turned his life around but I rather sign Swish to 3 years rather than Hamilton.

    As CJ also says, you are always an addict. Not meant to be a dig but there is always the temptation. I would think that temptation is larger in NY. If I’m not mistaken, didn’t he fall off the wagon 2 offseasons ago? How magnified would that be if he was in NY and this BS media got ahold of that.

  • Kevin Ocala, Fl

    “This isn’t just an injury prone player now on the wrong side of 30, it’s an injury prone player with years of drug and alcohol abuse taking a toll on his body now on the wrong side of 30″.

    Really?! I doubt that his broken ribs, hernia, etc. were caused by drug use. He was very young when he had his (hopefully)”phase”. A hell of a lot of players have had long, productive careers in spite of these same vices. If someone can come forward with large (agenda free) studies that can show cause and effect for sports-related injuries along with early onset system failure caused by drugs (booze included), please do. I’m a very surprised that speculations of this sort would be written by the author…. Now steroids on the other hand…