By Shannon Drayer
It didn't take too long for the Mariners to be linked to Josh Hamilton. Both Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com and Bob Nightengale from USA Today did just that yesterday with Nightengale going so far as to say that the Mariners and the Orioles are expected to be the finalists in the bidding war for Hamilton's services.
It is far too early in the game to put too much stock into such expectations. Nightengale was passing on what other GMs were telling him and basically what that says to me is GMs have noticed that both teams have a need for such a bat and both teams have money to spend. In the case of the Mariners, that is true. How far they or others are willing to go for Hamilton remains to be seen.
The Mariners have money to spend but have made it clear that they won't be spending just to spend. In the case of Hamilton, I don't see them breaking the bank to get him and quite frankly in the case of this player and the question marks that he comes with him I think that would be foolish regardless of need. In addition to what we know about Hamilton -- and to be clear, I am more concerned about his physical state in the long run than his mental state -- there is what we don't know and I am always suspicious of premium free agents whose teams do not fight to keep them.
Now the cupboard is hardly bare for the Rangers; their offense will not fall apart without Hamilton so it is not critical they keep him. Still, if we were talking about Michael Young instead of Hamilton, well we wouldn't be having that conversation. They would not let Young get away regardless of what they had. It is a different story with Hamilton. He certainly has plusses but the risks cannot be ignored and as such have to be taken into consideration when determining his value.
Look at how tough 4/36 was to stomach in the case of Chone Figgins. What if you get it wrong with Hamilton? I believe that Jack Zduriencik and crew will, if they haven't already, do their due diligence and make a determination of just how far they are willing to go with this player. It will not be a case of Josh Hamilton-or-bust for the Mariners and it does not appear to be for the Rangers either.
Hamilton's camp has put out the word that he is looking for seven years at $175 million. Many find this to be on the outrageous side considering the questions surrounding him but I wouldn't be surprised to see him get it. I highly doubt anyone is going to pick up the phone and call the agent today and say, "Sure, seven years, $175 million. We are in!" Four, even five years sound much more appropriate. Unfortunately, I would think that there are several clubs, Mariners most likely included, that are thinking that as well. There is the problem. Multiple teams digging in at fair value. I think the Mariners would draw the line there but if every other team does not do the same at that point then the numbers are going up. We will see what happens.
The possibility for spending does not end with Hamilton. They could make multiple free-agent signings or they could look to take on significant payroll in a trade. There were rumblings a few weeks ago that the Dodgers could make Andre Ethier available. I would not be a fan of that move but the M's could most likely take on his remaining salary. If the Rockies were to make Troy Tulowitzki or Carlos Gonzalez available, again, those are salaries the Mariners could most likely take on. They, of course, would have to give up talent as well but to get something you have to give something and I would imagine that if the Mariners were to trade for a proven impact bat this offseason, Taijuan Walker would almost have to be involved. Are you ready to deal him?
That brings us to the final place where the Mariners need to put some of their dollars this offseason. It is time to sign Felix Hernandez to an extension. Both sides would like this and I believe it will get done but I would expect that to happen much later in the winter.