Just looking at Josh Hamilton's season as an outsider without being invested in the Texas Rangers and seeing how he fell apart, the prodigious outfielder had a monster season — a career year in most regards.
Hamilton hit .285 with a career-high 43 home runs and 128 RBIs with a .930 OPS. In a normal season, when there's not a Triple Crown winner and the greatest rookie to seemingly ever play the game, Hamilton might be your AL MVP for the second time in three seasons. But again, those numbers are just on the surface. They don't account for the all problems, such as the massively long slumps and the five games he missed down the stretch because he had too much caffeine.
It's those factors that make Hamilton the most interesting free agency case in recent memory, maybe ever — in any sport.
He's 31, but his body might be more like 36 or so with all the self-inflicted damage done in his younger days. The Rangers have, in a veiled way, told Hamilton he's not coming back in 2013, making it known that he should go test the waters and see how things go. That's front office speak for "we don't want you anymore."
So who does want him? There aren't many likely matches. If you're a Rangers fan, you'd probably prefer Hamilton goes to the National League so he can't haunt the Rangers for years to come, but the only possible matches there are most likely San Francisco and Washington, and neither of them are very likely.
In the AL, the only teams that would seem to fit signing a big-money free agent are in the AL East: The Blue Jays, Orioles, Red Sox and Yankees.
The Yankees aren't the big spenders they used to be, and they're going to have trouble getting rid of A-Rod's monster contract. The Red Sox, on the other hand, just dumped a bunch of bad contracts on the Los Angeles Dodgers a couple of months ago. It would make some sense. The most sense would be made in either Baltimore or Toronto, with Toronto having the most money they're willing to spend and a team that's seemed to be on the brink for a couple of years now of breaking out and having a season like the Orioles did in 2012.
That's essentially 2-3 teams with a realistic match for Hamilton. What if none of them jump in? How would you feel about Hamilton being back in a Rangers uniform? It'd be great, as long as it came at the right price. The biggest snap with any Hamilton dealings is going to be the term of the deal, not the amount.
If Hamilton could be had for 4 years in the $100-$120 million neighborhood, it'd be hard to make a case against going for it. But all it takes is a team going all Los Angeles Angels (Albert Pujols) or Detroit Tigers (Prince Fielder) on you and going way out of the ballpark from what anyone else would offer.
What's your max on a deal for Hamilton if no one else shows interest? Or would you echo the rumored sentiments of some folks in the organization who reportedly said they wouldn't want him back even if "he played for free."