Amaro Should Sign Hamilton…If He Thinks Phils Can Make World Series
Tell the people what you think, Rube.
If these Phillies have serious world championship chops, sign Josh Hamilton.
If not, well, sell us your best corner outfield platoons as if they do.
That's what should dictate the next three months of signing and spending for Ruben Amaro Jr., the general manager of a team that, as currently constructed, feels on the fringe of contention, and, one year from punching the re-set button on its finances, doesn't have to force anything now.
In down free agent and trade markets -- worst in the last half-decade? -- the only splurging should be on players that vault the Phillies to a World Series stratosphere. That, of course, is Hamilton, who a year ago hit .285 with a .930 OPS, 31 home runs and 128 RBIs, representing power and consistency that, together, could restore the Phils to 2008 potency.
Whatever the substance of a Tuesday report that the Phils extended to Hamilton a three-year offer for undisclosed dollars, they have the money to do so.
Considering the cost savings from dealing Hunter Pence last July ($15 million) and economizing from Shane Victorino to Ben Revere between Opening Days ($9.5 million), with no positional price hike for Michael Young -- his $6 million due in 2013 is comparable to the $6.25 million Placido Polanco raked at third last year -- the Phillies have, in theory, $24.5 million available.
That's almost exactly the average annual value speculated for the oft-troubled superstar whose market has been whittled to none other than the Rangers and Mariners: four years and $100 million.
That's not markedly better than the alternatives, Cody Ross, Nick Swisher and, believe a CBS Sports report or not, Alfonso Soriano.
Ross, 31, in 2012 hit .267/.386/.481 with 22 home runs and 81 RBIs, with Boston, the leader in the clubhouse for his services. That's comparable to Swisher's 31-year-old production: a year ago, he hit.272/.364/.473 with 24 home runs and 93 RBIs.
Soriano, 36, who was reportedly discussed in a trade that would send Domonic Brown to the Cubs, hit 33 home runs, 108 RBIs with a .262/.322/.499 2012 slash line that's worth considering -- until you remember that the team's only outfield depth outside their projected starters is John Mayberry Jr., and Laynce Nix.
The Cubs, according to the report, would be willing to eat all but $10 million of the $36 million Soriano's due through 2014, when he'll be two years shy of 40-years-old.
But that, and the fact that Ross and Swisher won't be had at a discount -- not in an outfield market that saw Victorino and Angel Pagan land four-year deals worth $44 million and $40 million -- justifies turning back to Hamilton.
Of course, Hamilton has his baggage, the bigger concern there being the kind the Phillies can't contractually hedge against. There are plenty of write-ins available to protect against drug use detrimental to the club. Less, though, against complacency.
That, in any other year, might itself justify a pass.
In 2013? Hamilton could be all the difference in getting all that matters.
He'd help the lineup fall into place, as Jimmy Rollins, Ben Revere, himself, Ryan Howard, Darin Ruf, Chase Utley, Erik Kratz and Michael Young seems as well-ordered a set of batters as baseball's 19th-worst run producers a year ago could've asked for.
He'd also take loads off by hitting before Howard, who still needs to re-establish himself after a 2011 Achillies reconstruction, and Ruf, who'll be taking his first hacks as an everyday big-leaguer in 2013.
Best-case scenario: those three match the deep-ball pop of 2008 Howard, Utley and Pat Burrell, who then combined for 116 home runs on a team that finished second in baseball with 214 bombs and, you know, did pretty well for itself in October.
With the best of Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee maybe behind them, and with that prospect seemingly available, now might seem an opportune time for a final push with a staff that was once figured to have "not one, not two..." Miami Heat stuff.
But it doesn't have to be.
Next year, $50.5 million in 2013 commitments come off the books, in expirations for Halladay ($20 million, assuming his 2014 vesting option doesn't), Utley ($15 million), Young ($6 million) and Kyle Kendrick ($4.5 million). The only one maybe due for a re-up there being Carlos Ruiz, who's due $5 million in a year he'll have to ward off suspicion that amphetamine use fueled his MVP start to 2012 -- and will be 36-years-old after it.
That's over 29 percent of baseball's second-highest 2012 payroll, gone. Poof.
Still, there may not be much to wait for. It's early, but the 2014 free agent crop for corner outfielders and third basemen seems as thin as this one, with the only worthwhile inquiry being being, ironically, Pence. Attractive pitching candidates Josh Johnson, 30, Tim Lincecum, 30, Ubaldo Jiminez, 28, could be had regardless, as all would go for no more than Halladay's AAV, making for, at worst, an even swap.
Googlers punching in "Josh Hamilton" Wednesday afternoon found a headline from a Dallas Morning News entry that read, "Reports: Phillies offer contract to Josh Hamilton, deal could be done tonight."
Upon clicking the link, though, they found the URL no longer existed, which sort of captures the essence of a prospect that, really, could go either way, and justifiably so.
The foremost determinant, though, should be Amaro's valuation of his 2013 roster, and what it will be with, and without, Hamilton. Can they make the World Series? Or not?