We’ve been through this before.
In all likelihood, the Milwaukee Brewers won’t be signing Josh Hamilton this offseason. There’s a lot of reasons why, and we’ve already gone through a lot of them
here at DoU. Yet for whatever reason, this is this year’s Rumor That Will Not Die.
Remember last year, when Jon Heyman (among others) was reporting that the Brewers were “said to be targeting Jose Reyes?” If you don’t remember, it was right around this time last year, as this SI.com post from November 7 shows. A month later, Reyes was sporting a Miami cap after signing a deal that could be for as much as 7 years and $124 million. The Brewers were never a true contender for him, as the Marlins were virtually bidding against themselves and the money was never really there for Milwaukee to sign him. A week after Reyes signed with the Marlins, the Brewers signed Aramis Ramirez to a modest-in-comparison $36 million deal.
This year, Heyman is again linking the Brewers to the top free agent on the market. This headline says “Brewers seriously thinking about making a play for Josh Hamilton.” It’s easy to joke about a headline like that. Of course they’re thinking about it. Doug Melvin & Co. are likely formulating their plans for the offseason, and anything that could improve the team should be on the table. That would probably include “Hey, Josh Hamilton is really good, it’d be great to have him, and that” talk. But that’s about where things stop making sense.
Last year, the Reyes rumors at least made a little sense because the Brewers needed a shortstop. There’s no such positional need for Hamilton this year. With Hamilton’s injury history, putting him in center field wouldn’t be the smartest idea, and that’s before you even start to look at the metrics (granted, he’s only played in roughly 950 innings in center over the past two seasons) and realize you’re taking away a great deal of Carlos Gomez’s value. If the Brewers were to play Hamilton in right field, that would take away playing time from Norichika Aoki, or force Aoki to center, where he’s also a defensive downgrade compared to Gomez.
Then there’s the issue of money. Even with all of Hamilton’s off-the-field and injury problems, the winning bid for him is still likely going to approach $20 million per year (he made $13.75 million this year). Between Rickie Weeks, Corey Hart, Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez and Yovani Gallardo alone, the Brewers are on the hook for $48.8 million in 2013. In 2014, even if Hart leaves for free agency, that number will be $50.5 million.
Look at it this way: the Brewers cannot add Hamilton for the price he’s likely to command and be on the hook for $70 million for just five players in 2014. If $100 million is “operating in the red” territory for Mark Attanasio, you cannot expect Melvin to fill the other 20 spots on the roster with $30 million. Jonathan Lucroy will make over $2 million that year, John Axford and Marco Estrada will be in their second year of arbitration, and Mat Gamel and Brandon Kintzler will be in their first year of arbitration. Attanasio is willing to operate in the red for a winner. As a successful business man, it’s doubtful he’d be willing to hemorrhage money for one.
Considering Hamilton has only averaged 134 games a year over the past three years (cutting it off there is actually doing him a favor, with only 89 games played in 2009) and with no DH available in the National League, that’s just too much risk for a team like the Brewers to take on.
Considering all the time he’s missed and the uncertainty of his health going forward, Hamilton would be better off taking the biggest deal he can, not settling for comfort. A reunion with the Narrons would be a nice story, but at this point it’s still more fairy tale than reality.