The hot stove season is upon us and the three teams that have lately been linked to the market’s top free agent are the Seattle Mariners, Baltimore Orioles and Milwaukee Brewers.
According to Richard Durrett of ESPN Dallas, Texas will will only go three years on the outfielder who spent the past five seasons with the Rangers, which is smart for a guy with his injury issues and past personal problems. It would be hard for a general manager to make a big investment for a player who has played an average of 122 games in the past six seasons and will turn 32 early in the first year of his new deal.
However, some team will likely go to five years and more than $100 million for Hamilton and according to Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports, Baltimore looks like a likely spot.
The Orioles ended a long playoff absence last year and should be in the mix again in the tough American League East. Baltimore will need to spend to keep up with the Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Rays and Hamilton makes sense for the O’s.
The Orioles could use a big bat in the middle of the order to go with Chris Davis, Adam Jones, and Matt Wieters. Those three were solid this year, but if you could put Hamilton fourth behind Jones and in front of Davis and Wieters with Mark Reynolds after that, the offense gets an big boost.
Baltimore also has room in the outfield as Jones returns and Nick Markakis will be back from injury. Nate McLouth was a great addition last season, but he is a free agent and it’s tough to trust to repeat his success.
Jones is a better center fielder than Hamilton, but Hamilton would be an above-average fielder at either corner spot.
Hamilton is coming off 43 homers, but the way he started the year it looked like he might hit 60. His power is legit, but 43 homers may be tough to repeat after he averaged 28.5 in his previous two seasons.
Somewhere between 35-40 homers is more realistic, but that could get him close to 125 RBI – a number he has exceeded twice – in Baltimore’s line-up.
After hitting .359 in 2010, he has settled in at .298 and .285 the past two years so expect him to be right around .290 for the next few seasons.
If he stays healthy and avoids a relapse of past personal problems, Hamilton should be able to put up 35 homers, 120 RBI and a .290 average for the next three or four seasons and that would help the O’s stay competitive in the East.
For fantasy purposes, either Baltimore or Milwaukee would be a fine destination for Hamilton although signing with Seattle would cause a drop in his numbers.
Milwaukee has a decent line-up, as Hamilton would likely fit right between Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez. Also, Miller Park is good for hitters, Hamilton could certainly put up 35 homers and a .290 average. The RBI total would likely be closer to 100 in Milwaukee, vs. 125 in Baltimore.
Seattle would not hurt his average or power numbers as much as you might fear, as the fences are coming in at Safeco Field, but the line-up around him would make it difficult to get to 100 RBI.