Sunday, November 4, 2012

Hamilton Wants The Benjamins

Today, via the Dallas Morning News, it was reported that Josh Hamilton and his agent will seek a 7-year contract worth approximately $175 million. Hamilton was the 2010 American League MVP, and since joining the Rangers in 2008 has averaged ~ 4.5 fWAR per season. Hamilton is 31 years old and only getting older, so let's assume that in a 7 year contract he will average 4.5 WAR for 4 years and 2.5 WAR for 3 years. That would mean that he would accumulate 25.5 WAR. According to the current $$/WAR estimates, Hamilton would be worth between $115 and $120 million.

So, Hamilton is seeking a contract that is roughly $55 million more than he will be worth over the next 7 seasons. Now, this is merely a prediction on my part, I didn't factor in inflation, the fact that $/WAR goes up every season, and the value he provides a team in ticket sales, merchandise sales, and overall fan interest. So, given all of that, it's quite possible that were a team to sign Hamilton to a 7-year $175 million contract, they may only end up overpaying him by about $3 million per season, a reasonable figure in the long run. In addition, if the team that signs Hamilton moves him, as it should, to a corner outfield spot, his chances of getting injured should drop, thus allowing his offensive production to pick up. It could make him more valuable, thus justifying the money just a bit more.

Hamilton, who has made it known that he would like to remain in Texas, will allow the Rangers to match any offer made to him throughout the offseason. Jon Daniels and his baseball operations department love to give prospects a chance, and have been known to use the trade, rather than free agent signings, to add to the Rangers roster. On the other hand, Hamilton has been a fan favorite and fixture in Texas since bursting onto the scene there in 2008. If he were to sign elsewhere, Daniels and his staff would need to replace his presence with another big name like Zack Greinke or B.J. Upton. To add one more caveat, the Rangers have tendered Hamilton a qualifying offer, which he could still accept. If so, he would make $13.3 million next year, and would become a free agent after the 2013 season. If he declines the offer, any team that signs Hamilton will forfeit their 1st round draft pick to the Rangers, but most likely, any team willing to give Hamilton a contract is willing to give up their 1st round pick.

Hamilton's asking price is high, but why shouldn't he ask for as much as he can? As a free agent his job is to agree to the most money possible, it is the job of the team that signs him to determine everything else. Hamilton's major issue this past season was his increased tendency to strikeout. He had a career high K% of 25.5%, which is well above the AL average of 19.3%. Also, Hamilton's overall production any return if he was to stop trying to hit home runs. His fly ball percentage rose from 37.6% in 2011 to 41.1% 2012 while his line drive percentage remained the same. Hamilton's home run total was the highest of his career in 2012, but his tendency to hit more fly balls may have led to fewer overall hits. This is proven through Hamilton's drop in his infield hit percentage which went down from 9.0% to 6.5% from 2011 to 2012. Moving Hamilton from center field to a corner outfield spot, and working with him to hit the ball in the air a bit less often could increase his production to a 6.0 WAR player, which would justify a contract of $25 million per season for 7 years.

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