All In The Name: Josh Hamilton vs. B.J. Upton

November 19th, 2012 by Mike H. | Filed under Baseball, Phillies, Sports.

Earlier in the offseason, I wrote a piece in which I stated that Ruben Amaro and the Phillies should completely stay away from the free agent class for centerfielders. Alas, what you or I would do is generally the exact opposite of what Amaro does.  I’m still advocating staying away from signing either option as both have their flaws that throw up red flags to me.

The case for not signing either one:

First of all, both have their off the field problems.  Hamilton’s a walking anxiety disorder. He suffers from alcoholism, has trouble staying on the field, and is already on the wrong side of 30. As we know most “elite” players who are signed to massive contracts after age 30, generally don’t live up to their contract.  He is also left-handed. On a lineup already saturated with left-handed hitters, Hamilton doesn’t help the need for a right-handed power bat. On the other hand, B.J. Upton is a right-handed bat with pop, but tends to strike out on par with Ryan Howard. While Upton does manage to stay on the field, his level of “effort” seems to make people wish he wasn’t in the lineup. The biggest reason why neither player should be signed is purely financially motivated. Both are looking for multi-year deals in the neighborhood of 5-7 years at 15-25 million per year.

The case for B.J. Upton:

It’s really easy to see why the Phillies would have interest in Upton. He’s got the traits the team is looking for. He’s right-handed, he’s got pop, and he’s on the right side of thirty. In the past three season, 2010 thru 2012, Upton has 174 extra base hits, including 70 home runs, and has stolen 109 bases. However, all that is coming at the expense of his ability to get on base. From 2010 – 2012, Upton has just a .317 OBP, but when he gets on, speed kills as his SB:CS ratio is just over 4:1. While Upton is heading into his prime, I wouldn’t expect a drastic increase in power, unless he manages to find a way to cut down on the strikeouts. From 2010 – 2012, Upton has struck out 29.5% of the time. In fact, I’d expect a decrease in his RBI totals by switching leagues.

The case for Josh Hamilton:

Hamilton has two major negative marks going against him: his “inner demons” and the fact that he is a left-handed hitter. Adding Hamilton into the fray basically makes the middle of your lineup completely left-handed. I think if added, moving Utley to the two hole and putting Hamilton in the three hole would be the best bet, but that leaves you with Ruiz or Ruf hitting behind Howard. We all know that when Hamilton is actually on the field, he is a tremendous hitter. From 2010 – 2012, Hamilton has 212 extra base hits with 100 home runs and 23 stolen bases. His biggest advantage is his ability to get on base. Over the same three season period, Hamilton has gotten on-base 37% of the time. In the same light, one of Hamilton’s biggest draw backs is his ability to get on the field, having played in 134 games on average during the last three seasons. I could, however, see an increase in Hamilton’s power numbers as he’d be switching from predominantly hitting in three of the worst power hitter parks (Seattle, Oakland, and Los Angeles) to hitting in three of the easiest (Philadelphia, Washington, and New York).

Conclusion.

I still think that either option isn’t the best option go forward for the Phillies. Knowing that Amaro likes to get the “name” guy, I’d hope he’d go after the lesser of two evils. Both players will cost a small fortune. Both players will be at the cost of the Phillies best draft pick since drafting Gavin Floyd back in 2001. Both players come with baggage. Upton has been known to take plays off and Hamilton has been known to keep himself out of the lineup. So what do they both offer that’s positive? The ability to play center field. So what ultimately should be the deciding factor in which player is acquired, if one must be? How they perform against left-handed pitching?

  • Upton (2010-2012 vs LHP): .253/.355/.469 with 20 HRs, 4 3Bs, 33 2Bs, and 128:77 K:BB ratio
  • Hamilton (2o1o-2012 vs LHP): .275/.318/.505 with 28 HRs, 4 3Bs, 20 2Bs, and 129:30 K:BB ratio

Considering the cost of both players, I’d prefer to not sign either one of them and go with an internal option: John Mayberry, Jr. While Mayberry isn’t the sexiest of names, he’s the smartest move financially. While Upton has been rumored for a 15M annual contract and Hamilton reportedly is looking for closer to 25M per, Mayberry has yet to hit his first year of arbitration. Granted his production is in a significantly less number of plate appearances, Mayberry’s value is on par with, if not exceeds, both Hamilton’s and Upton’s.

  • Mayberry (2010-2012 vs LHP) .290/.337/.544 with 17 HRs, 0 3Bs, 21 2Bs, and a 51:18 K:BB ratio.

I’d rather save the money and go with Mayberry with option of going to a Tyson Gillies or Jiwan James if needed in the future. Who’s your choice?

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