Josh Hamilton at DH?

Scott explores the possibility of moving on from Big Papi

Josh Hamilton (Photo: Samara Pearlstein)

It seems a foregone conclusion that the Red Sox will attempt to re-sign David Ortiz for at least one more season at DH. However, an intriguing alternative to Big Papi comes in the form of one Joshua Holt Hamilton.

Hamilton’s life story reads like a movie, and one may be made of it by Casey Affleck. Hamilton was selected by the (then) Devil Rays as the first player chosen in the 1999 draft. He broke out in 2000, hitting .301 with 13 homers and 61 ribeyes in 96 games. He was named as the South Atlantic League MVP of its All-Star Game, and was on the 2000 All-Star Futures Game roster. However, his life was about to spin out of control.

Before the 2001 season, Hamilton was involved in an auto accident in which his parents were hurt. Soon after this incident, Hamilton started abusing alcohol and drugs. During spring training in 2003, Hamilton failed his first drug test. In 2004, Hamilton was suspended from baseball for repeated positive drug tests. Hamilton did not play organized baseball from 2004 until 2007. After being confronted by his grandmother in 2005, Hamilton started trying to get sober.

The Rays left him off of its 40-man roster in 2007, so the Cubs (selecting for the Reds) drafted him in the Rule 5 Draft and immediately traded him to the Reds. Hamilton hit .292/.368/.554, .390 wOBA, 130 wRC+, with 19 homers and 47 RBI in 90 games. After the season, the Reds traded him to the Texas Rangers for Edinson Volquez and Daniel Ray Herrera.

2008 was the year when Hamilton hit the national stage in a big way. For the season, Hamilton hit .304/.371/.530, .384 wOBA, 132 wRC+ with 32 homers and league-leading 130 RBI. However, the highlight of Hamilton’s season occurred during an exhibition. Participating in the Home Run Derby at the All-Star Game, Hamilton put on a performance that few will ever forget. Hamilton hit 28 homers in the first round and 35 overall, losing in the final round to Justin Morneau. Yankee Stadium echoed thunderously with the chant of “Hamilton! Hamilton! Hamilton!”

Hamilton was at his best in the 2010 season. Hamilton’s numbers were video-game-on-rookie-setting gaudy: .359/.411/.633, .445 wOBA, 175 wRC+, with 32 homers and 100 RBI in 133 games. Hamilton led the league in batting average, slugging and OPS, and was selected as the Most Valuable Player in the American League.

Tragedy found Josh in 2011. On July 7th, a Rangers fan reaching out to catch a ball that Hamilton tossed into the crowd leaned too far over the railing and fell 20 feet to the ground. The fan died while being transported to the hospital.

In 2012, Hamilton hit .285/.354/.577, .387 wOBA, 140 wRC+, with a career-high 43 homers and 120 RBI and an absolutely sick .292 isolated power mark. But Hamilton’s power came at a cost: he struck out a career high 162 times (against 60 walks).

David Ortiz is beloved in Boston but he will be 37 years old at the start of next season, while Hamilton will be 31 (he turns 32 in May). Ortiz wants a two-year deal from the Red Sox. Big Papi’s production isn’t declining yet but he notably missed the final month of the season due to an injury to his Achilles tendon. So the Red Sox have to decide whether to risk whether Ortiz’s decline will occur within the next two years (somewhat likely) as opposed to giving a long-term deal to Hamilton (whose production isn’t slowing down in the least). Additionally, Hamilton plays all three outfield positions, so he wouldn’t strictly be a designated hitter (although it might be wise to use him as a DH exclusively in the later years of his new contract). This gives the Red Sox lineup advantages over having Ortiz as DH, as Papi time playing first base seems over.

All of this will be weighed against dealing with Hamilton’s recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. Hamilton has had two incidents since declaring his sobriety where he admittedly drank alcohol (one in 2009 and another in 2012). Hamilton is tested for drugs three times a week and has passed every drug test since returning to the majors.

Also in the calculation is the changes to free agency in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. For the Red Sox to obtain compensation for losing Ortiz, they would have to make him a qualifying offer of $13.3 million for one year. Ortiz wants a two-year deal but might accept the qualifying offer. Assuming he declines the qualifying offer and signs somewhere else, Boston will receive the first-round selection of whichever team selects him, if that team was not one of the worst nine teams in baseball in 2012.

And therein lies the rub: Boston is one of those nine teams (the others are the Astros, Cubs, Rockies, Twins, Indians, Marlins, Royals and Blue Jays – the Pirates also have a protected pick for failing to sign Mark Appel). If the Red Sox sign a free agent that declined to sign a qualifying offer (as Hamilton certainly would so decline), they would not have to surrender their-first round pick as compensation – they would surrender their next highest pick. The Red Sox (hopefully) won’t be in this position too often, so it might behoove them to take advantage of the only fruit of their disaster of a 2012 season.

After trading away Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford, will the Red Sox jump right back into free agency with the signing of Josh Hamilton? David Ortiz is a sparkling reminder of the glories of Red Sox past. But Josh Hamilton could be the catalyst for a fantastic Red Sox future.

Categories: Adrian Gonzalez Boston Red Sox Carl Crawford Chicago Cubs Cincinnati Reds Cleveland Indians Colorado Rockies Daniel Ray Herrera David Ortiz Edinson Volquez Houston Astros Josh Beckett Josh Hamilton Justin Morneau Kansas City Royals Mark Appel Miami Marlins Pittsburgh Pirates Tampa Bay Rays Texas Rangers Toronto Blue Jays

Scott Candage is a long-time Red Sox fan. He recently came in third in the 127th annual Upperclass Twit of the Year competition. His best friend is a tree and he is a stockbroker in his spare time.

8 Responses to “Josh Hamilton at DH?” Subscribe

  1. Brian October 22, 2012 at 9:14 AM #

    Have to admit, i was very against giving Hamilton a deal until i read this article. The protected first round pick offers a lot of flexibility for the red sox and is something to consider. Assuming they keep ortiz, they wont have another pick until the second round and that's a small cost to pay for a player of hamiltons caliber.

    What kind of deal would you offer Hamilton? 85/4? I would really like to limit the length to 4 years or i feel we are making the same mistakes we did before.

    If you lose a pick in compensation, how does it effect the new draft slot system? Would the red sox simply lose out on being able to use that money?

    • ScottCandage October 22, 2012 at 12:19 PM #

      I think the line for Hamilton starts at 6/150. I don't really know the answer to your question on the draft slot system. I haven't found the correct answer but instinct tells me that for a team that loses a first round pick (or its next highest pick, if one of the bottom 9 this year, bottom 10 regularly) for signing a free agent who declined a qualifying offer would have its draft pool reduced by the amount of the slot of the pick it lost. Otherwise a team could game the system, and that was what MLB wanted to avoid in this CBA.

  2. mlblogspolelover44 October 22, 2012 at 9:29 AM #

    "New Yankee Stadium echoed thunderously with the chant of “Hamilton! Hamilton! Hamilton!”"
    The 2008 Derby was held at Old Yankee Stadium. New Yankee Stadium opened in 2009.

    • ScottCandage October 22, 2012 at 11:31 AM #

      Thanks for the heads up, I changed it for clarity, but I think of them differently. Pre-1973 was Old Yankee Stadium, 1975-2008 was New Yankee Stadium, and this one is New New Yankee Stadium. I'm old and cranky!

  3. Daniel Poarch October 22, 2012 at 7:16 PM #

    You make some valid points, but the idea of signing Hamilton to a long-term deal just doesn't sit right with me, especially if we're signing him just to be a DH and occasional outfielder. I would be happy if the Red Sox avoided 5+ year long deals to players on the wrong side of 30 for a while.

  4. Jim October 23, 2012 at 6:17 AM #

    "Assuming he declines the qualifying offer and signs somewhere else, Boston will receive the first-round selection of whichever team selects him, if that team was not one of the worst nine teams in baseball in 2012."

    Not quite right: you don't receive the exact first round choice of the signing team. They lose their pick, but it just disappears, and you get a choice after the first round.

  5. Hunter Golden October 24, 2012 at 3:46 PM #

    Hamilton wouldn't be in my offseason plans, but I also don't think him being in Boston is as crazy as everyone makes it out to be.

    There's no way he gets six years. Off the table. Between the injury concerns and personal issues, I think he caps out at five years, if that. I could totally see a four year/$100 million deal landing him. If the price is around 4 years, I'd kick tires for sure… I think he'd fit really well with the park and could always be moved over to LF later in his career, perhaps DH. Long story short – if the circumstances were right, I wouldn't have much of a problem nabbing him.

    Problem is that I don't see this team being a fierce contender next year. Is it really worth it to pay a premium for a guy in a year you've got little to no shot of contending seriously? If this were next year, I'd seriously entertain the idea of signing him, but I'm not sure adding him to the 2013 roster makes a lot of sense considering what else might be available.

  6. Gerry October 27, 2012 at 3:52 AM #

    Even with this brief financial window I don't see the Sox paying $25M per year even short term, much less for 5-6 years. That said, signing a Haren or even Sanchez or Jackson plus depth (the problem to contention remains pitcbing), add a dash of Farrell and Peterson, and maintaining this strong Pen and the Sox are contenders simply by adding talent to 1B and RF. A lineup built around Ells, PD, Papi, WMB, Lava, Ross plus two short term beasts from a group of Youk, Napoli, Davis, Swisher, Hunter, Upton, Choo, etc. would field a fiercely competitive team. The Sox can afford both Hamilton and Papi and Hamilton, and what a duo. But I am awaiting Bradley, Brentz, Bogaerts, Kalish, and would rather sign 29 year old, homegrown Ells to 5/1 at $15M per right now. Gotta keep spots open to build from within.