Sunday, December 9, 2012

Hamilton poor fit

For several months now, rumors have swirled that the Milwaukee Brewers are interested in signing free agent outfielder Josh Hamilton. But at the Winter Meetings in Nashville last week, manager Ron Roenicke downplayed the whole idea.

“We are good offensively,” Roenicke said. “We don’t need to make any changes in what we have with our regular players. And Josh comes at a high price.”

Roenicke’s voice is one of reason. While fans in Milwaukee would love to see a star-studded outfield that included both Hamilton and Ryan Braun, signing Hamilton would be unreasonable for a variety of reasons.

The Brewers already have a potent lineup that led the National League in both home runs and runs scored in the 2012 season. They are in position to return that everyday lineup in 2013, and the arrival of Josh Hamilton would crowd an outfield that has three viable starters in place. 

On top of that comes questions of Hamilton’s salary and age. He will be turning 32 next season, and injuries have hampered him his whole career. He has only played in 150 games once in his six-year career, and will most likely be seeking at least a five-year deal. Spending big money on Hamilton over a long period of time is a risk that the Brewers won’t be willing to take. The Brewers made an effort to keep Prince Fielder in Milwaukee through free agency, but lost the bidding war to Detroit. If the Brewers couldn’t retain a player that grew up in their farm system, it can’t be expected that they will manage to sign Hamilton, one of the premier free agents this offseason.

Even if the Brewers could afford Hamilton, the organization is better advised to focus on a pitching staff that is stretched thin in the bullpen, and largely unproven in the starting rotation. Roenicke knows the importance of finding pitching this offseason as well.

“Obviously anytime you can get a quality starter, that’s important,” Roenicke said. “But if what we’re looking at isn’t much better than our young guys, all of a sudden it becomes important to look at the bullpen. Because there are holes in the bullpen. There aren’t holes in our starting rotation.”

The most immediate need appears to be in the bullpen, with the Brewers only returning relievers John Axford, Jim Henderson, and Brandon Kintzler. But the starting rotation is far from a sure thing either. While the Brewers already have six starters to fill five rotation spots, three of those candidates have less than a year of major league experience. 

Josh Hamilton would be an exciting addition to any club, but he isn’t the right acquisition for this one.

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