The Baltimore Orioles aren’t content with being one of baseball’s most surprising stories of 2012. This winter, they plan to pursue the biggest free-agent hitter: Josh Hamilton.
Hamilton is on the Orioles’ list of targets for left field, according to a source with knowledge of the organization’s plans. Hamilton has started more games in left field than center over the past three seasons, and the Orioles have an opening there now that Nate McLouth has become a free agent.
Baltimore also has some interest in free-agent outfielder Cody Ross, the source said. Ross would be a cheaper option than Hamilton and had success in the American League East with the Boston Red Sox this year.
The Orioles wouldn’t need Hamilton to play center field, as Adam Jones is coming off a season in which he won a Gold Glove while starting 161 games there. Baltimore’s internal options to play left field include Nolan Reimold, Xavier Avery and L.J. Hoes. Reimold, this year’s Opening Day left fielder, is the most experienced of the group, but he played only 16 games before undergoing season-ending surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck. So it appears likely the Orioles will add a left fielder this offseason, one way or the other.
Statistically, the 31-year-old Hamilton is top position player available on the open market. Over the past three years with the Texas Rangers, he has averaged a .952 OPS, 33 home runs and 107 RBI. But questions persist about his long-term durability, given his injury history and struggles with addiction. In the past, Orioles owner Peter Angelos has emphasized the importance of clean medical records and personal conduct before acquiring players.
John Perrotto of Baseball Prospectus reported recently that Hamilton’s asking price is seven years and $175 million. The Orioles might have difficulty signing Hamilton if the bidding reaches that neighborhood. This year, the team’s Opening Day payroll was between $80 million and $85 million.
— Jon Paul Morosi