Editor's Note: We'll spend the next two weeks taking a look at 10 questions that face the Texas Rangers this offseason as they prepare for the 2013 campaign. We call it our "Texas Ten."
Today's question: How aggressive will the club get in attempting to bring back Josh Hamilton?
We saved the biggest question of the offseason for last. How the Rangers approach free agent Josh Hamilton sets up how they deal with the offseason as a whole. Will they get together, come up with certain parameters, and stick to them? If that's not good enough to bring Hamilton back, then they'll move on to other options.
So what might those parameters look like? We speculated about this a few weeks ago in our series on Hamilton, but my guess is no more than three years guaranteed with perhaps some vesting options for future years based on games played. We've discussed at length all the issues surrounding Hamilton -- on and off the field. But to me, it still comes down to health. Hamilton had his ups and downs this year, but if you look at his career as a whole so far, he's been an impactful player when he's not dealing with injuries. That's the biggest thing (in my opinion) to guard against when looking at Hamilton.
It will be interesting to see how the end of his season impacts his overall value. He dropped the routine fly ball on the final day of the regular season, giving the A's a lead they wouldn't relinquish in winning the AL West. And he was 0-for-4 in the AL wild-card game. He also didn't play in five games during a critical road trip near the end of the season with vision issues that he said had to do with consuming too much caffeine. It's the injuries here and there -- not to mention the big ones that have popped up during his career -- that teams have to consider before signing him.
Hamilton did manage to avoid a big injury in 2012, playing in 148 games. It was the second time in his five full seasons that he played at least 145 games. The other was 2008, when he played a career-high 156. But he's also 31 years old and has a history of injuries, from cracked ribs to torn adductors.
One clarifying point on the Hamilton saga: General manager Jon Daniels said the club wouldn't make a multiyear offer to Hamilton before he hits the free-agent market. Clubs have some time to do that with their own players, but both sides want to see what the market looks like. That is different from a qualifying offer. Texas will make a one-year qualifying offer to Hamilton. He's certainly not likely to take it, but they'll make the offer and get a draft pick if he leaves.
So what happens if another team offers Hamilton more than the Rangers are willing to pay and he leaves the club? Replacing Hamilton isn't really possible. He can impact a game in so many ways; it isn't feasible to try to find someone who can hit 43 homers and 128 RBIs despite a two-month slump.
The Rangers could venture into the free-agent pool for someone like B.J. Upton, though I think the price would be too high, and if they want to spend that kind of money, they might prefer to do it on pitching (Zack Greinke, anyone?). Or explore trade possibilities to perhaps send a combination of major- and minor-league players to acquire a big bat, whether in the outfield or somewhere else.
But the likely scenario is putting Leonys Martin or Craig Gentry -- or both, if you want to play the matchup game -- in center field. Don't forget that the club has invested a lot of money in Martin. Is now the time to see if he's worth it? Clearly, that duo won't fill Hamilton's numbers, but it's a deep lineup that could get deeper this offseason. So the attempt to get some of that production back may not happen in the outfield. And as we've seen before, this front office can get creative. Adrian Beltre was signed just as much to help the pitching staff when Cliff Lee didn't re-sign as it was to boost the offense. We'll see how the Rangers at least try to replace some of Hamilton's production.
How would you replace Hamilton's production? Should the club re-sign him? How much are you willing to pay?