It is the age old question of baseball: Is it crazier to give a seven-plus-year deal to a pitcher or to give a long-term contract to the best player in the game, who happens to be a drug addict. For years, this question has been pondered by those in and around the game with neither answer being obvious.
In all seriousness, it is a big decision for both the Phillies and Rangers this year, as Cole Hamels and Josh Hamilton hit free agency. Both are considered one of the best players at their positions, and both are expected to get huge paydays this offseason. Hamels is likely to make a CC Sabathia-type salary, which would require a contract in the length of seven years or more. Clubs typically do not want to invest that much into a pitcher since pitchers tend to not live up to the contract; think Barry Zito.
At one time, Zito was considered one of the best pitchers in the game. He had an off-speed pitch that could rival Hamel’s current change-up, but it all faded away faster than a beer in the Red Sox clubhouse. One look at his contract and you can see why the Phillies, or any other team for that matter, would be hesitant to invest. The Zito deal is the scariest of all scary movies.
Hamilton, on the other hand, is a natural by any definition of the word. He looks the role of a baseball player. He is calm, cool and athletic, but then there is that whole “drug addiction thing.” Any deal with Josh is a roll of the dice. There are no guarantees, and recent relapses by Hamilton with alcohol leaves everything even more up in the air. He could become this generation’s Mickey Mantle or he could turn out to be baseball’s version of Bubbles from The Wire, who just can’t seem to stay clean.
It is amazing how good Hamilton still is, even though he put his body through years of abuse. I would, without a doubt, love to have him on my team, but as a business move, the risk may outweigh the reward. I am sure he will receive much interest, but I doubt his contract offer will be for as long as Hamels’. Hamilton’s contract will most likely be very incentive heavy to cover the risk.
It is very exciting to see one of the best pitchers in the game and one of the best overall players in the game both becoming free agents at the same time. It will be interesting to see how it plays out. Ideally I would prefer that both players stay with their current teams but who knows what will happen. Does the risk outweigh the reward? I guess we have to wait and see.