Rumor Mill: Josh Hamilton to Milwaukee?

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by Andrew Coughlin

Rumors are circulating in the baseball world that the Milwaukee Brewers may be a player in the Josh Hamilton sweepstakes. Will Milwaukee make Hamilton their new center-fielder in 2013?

Free agent to be Josh Hamilton has been linked to the Milwaukee Brewers within the past few weeks by two highly credible baseball insiders.  Could Hamilton, one of the best sluggers in the majors, be a good fit in Milwaukee?  I think a better question is: Would the Brewers be able to go after him and pay him the kind of money he could command on the open market?

Buster Olney of ESPN and Jon Heyman of CBS Sports have both reported that Milwaukee will be in the market for the outfielder. 

Apart from having cleared enough money from their payroll to make Hamilton a competitive offer, the Brewers also have something else that may appeal to him that other teams do not.  Milwaukee hitting coach, Johnny Narron, also served as Hamilton's "accountability partner" and off-field coach since 2007.  Hamilton's a recovering addict and his battle with substance abuse has been well known across the MLB for years.  Narron has helped Hamilton through his demons on and off the field and remains in close contact with him to this day.  A battle with substance abuse addiction is a very sensitive circumstance and a place of comfort and support might outweigh the almighty dollar in this instance.

Because of the risk that comes with Hamilton's addiction problems, it's widely believed that teams will be hesitant to go the 9 and 10 year offers that Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols received in free agency last year.  Teams may be more inclined to go 4 or 5 years on a deal, which would be good news for the Brewers, if they feel inclined to be in on the bidding for the All-Star's services.  However, as we saw with Fielder last year, it only takes one team to put a hefty contract on the table and 99.9 times out of 100 the player chooses the better contract over comfort.  The presence of Narron may not be enough to entice Hamilton away from a huge payday and Milwaukee has other needs to address this off-season.

The Brewers are looking to revamp their bullpen and will definitely allocate some of their funds towards veteran relief pitchers.  They could also use a veteran front line starter in their rotation, so they may not want to spend big on an outfielder they do not necessarily need.  The Brewers could bring back all eight of their position players without blinking an eye and be quite happy to do so.  Milwaukee was an offensive juggernaut last season, leading the NL in runs scored, RBIs, HRs, stolen bases, team SLG% and finished second in team OPS.  They are clearly not in need of another bat, but Hamilton would look good slotted in between MVP Ryan Braun and 3B Aramis Ramirez.

Josh Hamilton 2012 Stats

G H R 2B 3B HR RBI BA SLG OPS
148 160 103 31 2 43 128 .285 .577 .930

 I do not think the Brewers will sign Hamilton, but I can see them going after him and making a good offer.  They don't need a slugger, but  a left-handed power bat would be a nice fit in between those two right-handed hitters in the 3 and 4 spots and protecting Braun in the lineup.

Here's how the Brewers opening day lineup would look if Hamilton is a Brewer next season.

1.  RF Norichika Aoki  

2.  2B Rickie Weeks

3.  LF Ryan Braun

4.  CF Josh Hamilton

5.  3B Aramis Ramirez

6.  1B Corey Hart

7.   C Johnathon Lucroy

8.  SS Jean Segura

9.  Starting Pitcher

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