The Phillies reportedly offered Josh Hamilton a three-year contract worth upwards of $80 million, but their interest in the former MVP was gauged as lukewarm by various sources. They may have pursued him further, if push came to shove, but it never really seemed like the Phils were in on him or hellbent on signing him.
Well, it’s all moot, as Ken Rosenthal has reported that Hamilton and the Angels have agreed on a five-year contract that ESPNDallas reports is worth $125 million. In other words, at the same age, Hamilton signed the Ryan Howard contract.
The deal is for more years and more dollars than most anticipated. It appeared that Hamilton was receiving a slew of shorter-term offers with high annual figures, or longer deals with lower annual salaries, but nothing with both.
Several teams seemed content to sign Hamilton for something similar to the Phillies offer, but there was very little evidence to suggest that he would sign the max-level contract he just signed.
This is the second straight year when the Angels swooped in to sign the top available free agent out of nowhere. While we could debate the merits of signing him at that price, the fact remains that the Phillies are now out of the Hamilton sweepstakes. Which means they still need to fill a corner outfield spot and have one fewer player to consider.
The next best option is Nick Swisher who, given his relative asking price, may have already been the best option to consider. Swisher combines solid power with a great eye, decent defense and that valuable combination of durability and consistency. The Indians are “hard after him” and figure to amp up their efforts now that other teams, like the Phillies perhaps, will shift their focus in Swisher’s direction. Aside from Swisher, the corner outfield market is weak, and trading a prospect like Domonic Brown for the right to pay Alfonso Soriano $5 million per year doesn’t seem all that prudent.
Unfortunately, the Phillies used a couple of their best trade chips in the Ben Revere and Michael Young deals — Worley, May and Bonilla — meaning it’s tougher to improve the corner outfield via a trade. It isn’t impossible but it’s tougher.
Ironically, this move figures to push Peter Bourjos back onto the trading block at a time when the Phillies no longer need a centerfielder. It could also push Mark Trumbo onto the market as well as a potential Phils target.
Acquiring Revere and Young at a combined cost of ~$6.5 million meant the Phils had money to spend and a clear area — corner outfield — where that money could get allocated.
With Hamilton off the market and Swisher the only remaining viable free agent, the Phillies are in a tough spot. They may have to overpay Swisher or trade even more prospects to upgrade.
Given his asking price and attributes, an argument could be successfully made — hey, I made it in my offseason plan — that Swisher was always the best and most feasible option. However, the Phillies haven’t been linked to him at all this offseason. Losing out on Hamilton hurts, as he would have seriously improved the lineup in the short-term, but if there is a silver lining it’s that the Phillies are now essentially forced to focus on Swisher.