Posted by Will
Most consider outfielder Josh Hamilton to be the cream of the crop of this year’s free agent market. It’s certainly hard to argue with that statement; Hamilton hit more home runs in the first two months of last year than any one Seattle Mariner managed to post over the whole season. But in taking his seven year, $175 million asking price into consideration, I’d much rather have Nick Swisher at a much lighter asking price on my team than the overly expensive Hamilton.Hamilton is as talented as anybody in the game, but $175 million is too much. Way too much. His $25 million average annual salary would give him the third highest annual salary in the history of the game behind Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees ($27.5 million) and Albert Pujols of the Angels ($25.4 million), and tied with Ryan Howard of the Phillies. His overall asking price would make him the eighth richest player in the history of the game, behind Rodriguez ($275 million), Pujols ($254 million), Joey Votto ($225 million), Prince Fielder ($214 million), Derek Jeter ($189 million), Joe Mauer ($184 million) and Mark Teixeira ($180 million). Hamilton has a number of flaws, both on the field and off the field, that should prevent teams from breaking the bank on his services.Over the course of his career, Hamilton’s been suspended a number of times due to drug and alcohol abuse, dating back to the start of his career in 2003. He’s very injury prone, as he has only played in 148 or more games once in his six MLB seasons. He is also seen as an inconsistent player; after starting out the first two months of last season hitting .370/.422/.763 with 23 home runs and 57 runs batted in, he then proceeded to slug a whopping .200/.286/.395 with 8 home runs and 25 runs batted in the following two months, finishing out the season hitting .278/.349/.559 with 14 homers and 44 runs batted in. In other words, the first third of the season he looked like the clear MVP frontrunner, the next two months he looked no better than a bench player, and at the end of the season he wasn’t an MVP, but he wasn’t a benchwarmer either.
While Hamilton has loads of upside, I’d much rather have Nick Swisher, who isn’t nearly as talented as Hamilton, but also won’t cost nearly as much and offers a lot more consistency.
Since the 2009 season kicked off, Swisher has posted no less than 3.2 WAR but no more than 4.1 WAR. He’s averaged 3.75 WAR over that time, and using the 1 WAR/$4.5 million rule, Swisher has essentially been close to a $17 million player. Early reports out of the GM meetings say that Swisher will likely have to settle for a three or four year deal at about $11-13 million a year, which certainly falls short of his asking price of Jayson Werth-esque money.
Let’s just say that Hamilton decides to settle for a 25% discount and ends up signing for a six year, $130 million deal. Since 2009, Hamilton’s been a $20.5 million/year player, so you’re still going to be overpaying for him, even at a hefty discount. Even if a team decided to sign Swisher for say, five years and $75 million, quite a bit more than the reported contract he’ll likely have to settle for, you’re still going to be saving yourself a good $10 million which could be utilized to acquire other useful assets for your ballclub.
You may think that Swisher’s stats have been inflated due to playing in the hitter’s bandbox in New York, but he’s actually posted nearly identical stats away from Yankee Stadium since 2009, when he was traded from the White Sox:
Swisher has been a model of consistency throughout his career, and if teams are looking to get the best out of their buck, he would be a solid sign. While Hamilton is an outstanding player, he is likely going to be overpayed by a desperate team that will be constrained by his contract for the better part of the next decade.