This by no means makes me believe the Phillies could go into 2013 with no clue and think they would compete to win the NL East. This is to say that if they go into Opening Day with a left-to-right outfield of Ruf-Revere-Brown, and have Mayberry and Nix around, they aren't necessarily toast to contend for a Wild Card, which anymore just means hanging around to the trade deadline (if that, some teams come back after), and making a good move. If in fact, the Phillies made no more line-up moves, strengthened the bullpen a bit, and got Roy Halladay back to being the old Doc, they'd probably be in the playoff chase all the way, if not win it. Those are still two "if's" though, and that's assuming you will get positive production from Ruf and Brown, which is no guarantee. As is, the Phillies are a crapshoot, but not a lost cause.
All of which brings me to Josh Hamilton, who I want the Phillies to get pretty bad, and basically have all off-season. Hamilton instantly changes the outlook, even if they have some pitching issues in 2013. He provides Ryan Howard the kind of protection that ends up in both having very, very good years. In fact, Hamilton is instantly our best offensive player. With the added offensive cushion he would provide, the Phillies would immediately be at the front of the National League East pack. If he actually ends up signing for three years at $80 million, I will be as bullish as anyone on where this team will go in 2013, as we will get a top five hitter in all of baseball.
The funny thing about this is, it doesn't guarantee anything in the playoffs. Sure, I do think Hamilton's run production numbers would produce enough wins for this team that they'd almost certainly be a playoff team (the Angels thought the same with Pujols, especially with Trout playing like that). Once you're there though, what does that mean? When the Phillies were way out ahead of the NL in 2011, and had the best staff in the game, they picked up an All-Star outfielder in Hunter Pence, and then were bounced in round one by the Cardinals. Hamilton is also no stranger to the playoffs, going to two of the last three World Series with the Rangers, and losing, while losing this year's "play in game." No player on the planet alone can guarantee playoff success. Barry Bonds was the best player of the last generation, had plenty of playoff chances, and never won a ring. There is no free agent alone who will bring a parade to Philadelphia, nor is there a guarantee anymore that the team they have would not.
None of that should diminish that I'd like to sign Hamilton, but it should caution you on how much to go. Remember, the Rangers matching an offer is like beating us handily with an offer. First off, he's comfortable there. Second off, Texas has no personal income tax. $80 million in Texas is therefore more than $80 million in Pennsylvania. Add into this plot that the Rangers failed to land Greinke for a big money deal, and they now probably have money to kill. If the Phillies did in fact go three years at $80 million to him, I'm not in favor of cold stopping there. I could see them going four years at a little less average-annual-value, or even five at a lower value, as being fine, but to get into a very deep bidding war for Hamilton won't make much sense. You still owe Ryan Howard $105 million, Cole Hamel's $144 million, and Cliff Lee about $88 million, to name a few of their bigger deals, and throwing a heap of money into another 30 something player doesn't make a ton of sense, particularly with the number of unknowns around Hamilton. I'd have no problem going $105 million for five years with Hamilton if they had to, or going four more preferably, as we'd get a great player. There's just no guarantee that getting him means there's a better chance to win a championship than say, Cody Ross.
I'd love to see Josh Hamilton sign with the Phillies, it's my first choice right now for the team, and I do think they have the money sitting around to do it. I certainly prefer Hamilton to Nick Swisher (who I definitely hope they pass on), or even Cody Ross (who I could live with). We just can't sit here and say for sure that we know this is the difference making move on a team that was in Wild Card contention in the final ten days of a nightmare season. The Phillies could win or lose championships either way. They should be smart about how they spend their money.