The Texas Rangers are out of the playoffs, their season at an end, and that leaves Josh Hamilton a free agent, if unofficially.
Most years, an outfielder coming off a .930 OPS season would be looking forward to a very lucrative market. Jayson Werth might be set as the baseline for a deal, and let's move on from there. But for all that he's been a very productive player in his time with the Rangers, Hamilton doesn't exactly seem to be headed in that direction. In his last trip to the plate with the Rangers, he was booed by the home crowd thanks in part to a day of free-swinging at the plate that helped the Rangers to a 5-1 defeat against the Orioles.
The Rangers, for their part, are saying that Hamilton will be allowed to shop himself around, according to Jon Heyman, and will likely only be in on it if a very reasonable market emerges for the slugging outfielder.
How likely is that? Right now, it's absolutely impossible to tell. Generally, when a player is headed for free agency, you can put a ballpark year and dollar figure on them. Sure, you may come out surprised in the end, but as an executive Heyman mentions suggests, Hamilton is a complete wild card.
There's the free-swinging ways that resulted in a strikeout in one quarter of his trips to the plate and a general feeling that he's not far from being solved by waste pitches alone. There's the massive power that made a quarter of his fly balls leave the park, good for 43 round trips in total. There's the erratic defensive numbers which only serve to muddle the situation given their sample size issues. And, of course, there's the addiction concern, with relapses in 2009 and 2012 giving plenty of reason for concern.
For the life of me, I can't figure out which teams will be in on Hamilton, but as the years and dollars go up it gets harder and harder to imagine organizations throwing their hats in the ring. Do the Mariners want to invest to try and kickstart an offense that hasn't been able to get going for years? Will the Jays throw their hat in the ring on another pricey FA? Are the Marlins still completely desperate, or have they given up hope that anyone will ever come to their games? And hasn't it been too long since Kenny Williams did something completely crazy?
It's all just a mess, and one that I want the Red Sox to stay far away from. Except that it's possible that Hamilton is going to end up being the absolute perfect fit for the team, as crazy as it sounds. Because as that executive told Heyman, it's possible that Hamilton has managed to drive his price down with his erratic discipline and troubled history. It's possible that this is the one guy that nobody is going to take a risk on. It's possible that he'll have to take a very short contract for a player of his stature.
And in this offseason, with so much money off the books and relatively few places to spend it, if Hamilton's market fails to offer him the sort of long-term security he wants, there's no other player who can provide the upside he can in free agency, and no team that will be more willing to shell out big money in a short-term deal than Boston. Someone will probably end up offering at least four years, but it's something to keep an eye on.