The Texas Rangers might be losing a franchise icon this winter, as outfielder Josh Hamilton is eligible for free agency just days after the 2012 World Series ends.
Hamilton's career has been a roller coaster. The then-Tampa Bay Devil Rays selected Hamilton with the No. 1 overall pick in the 1999 MLB First-Year Player Draft, but injuries and drug addiction derailed his career. Hamilton then made his debut with the Cincinnati Reds in 2007, and was then traded to the Rangers later that winter.
The rest has been history. Hamilton put on a clinic at the 2008 Home Run Derby in Yankee Stadium, becoming a national sensation seemingly overnight. Though his 2009 season was derailed by injury, Hamilton more than made up for it in 2010, earning the AL MVP award, and leading the Rangers to their first-ever American League pennant.
Though he's remained productive the past two years, Hamilton's approach has raised the eyebrows of some fans and analysts alike. Hamilton's susceptibility to minor injuries is also a concern, as Hamilton had to miss four games in September with a vision problem, supposedly related to caffeine intake. The Rangers, meanwhile, went 2-2 in the four games without him, and wound up losing the division by just one game.
It seems possible that the Rangers have played their last game with Hamilton in their lineup. Though suitors aren't yet known, here's a look at a few teams that could make sense for Hamilton's services.
Baltimore Orioles - The Orioles will be coming off of an extremely successful season, no matter how the season ends for them. Owner Peter Angelos has always looked to make a huge splash in free agency, and recently, he's come up short. Adding Hamilton to an outfield that already has Adam Jones and Nick Markakis would give the O's one of the best outfields in the league.
Seattle Mariners - The Mariners need to eventually dig up an offense somewhere. Seattle will have Ichiro's contract off the books, and their owner has at least feigned interest in signing free agents, like Prince Fielder. Stealing Hamilton away from the Rangers might seem alluring to Seattle. Plus, the fences are coming in at Safeco Field, so that could help appeal to Hamilton.
Boston Red Sox - The Red Sox aren't a huge suitor for Hamilton, but it would be silly to entirely discount Boston here. Boston just traded Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett in effort to save money, but Larry Lucchino loves the spotlight. Boston needs a fresh start and a new face of the franchise, and they're better off going the homegrown route, but it wouldn't shock me to see Hamilton taking top dollar to anchor Boston's lineup. Still, Boston general manager Ben Cherington will probably look to avoid dolling out another $100 million to just one player -- especially one with Hamilton's baggage.
Texas Rangers - Let's face it. Hamilton won't find a better home than Arlington -- he's already done well in Texas, won an MVP, and gone to two World Series. Yeah, he might have been boo'ed, but the devil you know is always better than the devil you don't. Hamilton won't get top dollar on the market from the Rangers, but Texas should be able to make a fairly competitive offer for Hamilton's services. Hamilton does give the Rangers a 50-50 chance of re-signing him. Those numbers drop significantly, however, if Hamilton is just looking for top dollar.