MLB Free Agency doesn’t begin on May 10th. That’s too bad for Josh Hamilton, because in the afterglow of his historic four home run game, he is perhaps the greatest player in the history of all-time on the internet. A Dallas columnist has completely reversed his stance on risk with Hamilton and wants Texas to throw caution to the wind and pay the man.
Jeff Passan reports that the Rangers have re-opened talks with Hamilton recently, after talks were put on hold in the aftermath of his offseason relapse. His past history is a complicating factor here, though I suspect, because this is a market where it takes one bidder to match a price, and Hamilton would easily be the best free agent hitter on the market, that he will get more than people want to believe in terms of years. All it takes is one big market team wanting to make a splash. Whether it’s Josh Hamilton’s history or Peyton Manning’s neck, the team that wants the elite player will make concessions to win the bid.
The other factor is simply valuing Hamilton’s worth as a player, setting aside those past addiction issues. We don’t know where Hamilton will end up this year (though the guess here is he won’t finish with more than 70 home runs, which is his current pace). If he plays like his average self over the last 2 years and one month, then he’ll end the year with MVP-like numbers based on his hot start, and an OPS+ in the 175-185 range.
When I look at similar players to Hamilton, like what I did with Albert Pujols last weekend, over the three-year span from age 29 to 31, the two most similar hitters were easily Alex Rodriguez and Willie Stargell. Gary Sheffield was a distant third. Rodriguez led the league in home runs (54), RBI (156) and slugging percentage (.645) at age 31, while Willie Stargell also led the league with 48 home runs and was runner up in the MVP voting at 31.
The 10 most similar hitters to Hamilton averaged 20.0 WAR for the five years from age 32 to 36; they averaged only 4.0 WAR from age 37 to 41. While there has been much discussion about not giving Hamilton more than a five year deal because of his history, the real history says really good hitters like Hamilton are a risk after age 36 anyway.
Personally, I would set his price at about $110 to 120 million for five years, but I would lose that bid to a team wanting to make a splash. Based on all the deals recently, from Jayson Werth to A-Rod to Albert Pujols, from younger signings like Matt Kemp and Joey Votto, I think Hamilton is getting more than five but not the 10-year deal that Pujols got. My guess, if he stays relatively healthy and productive this year, and hits the open market – 7 years, between $160 million and $170 million.
If free agency opened today, though, he might get eleventy billion.
[photo via US Presswire]