At Home Plate: Hamilton, not Greinke, worth big contract

Both Los Angeles teams reeled in a big catch recently. The Dodgers signed the top free-agent pitcher in Zack Greinke, while the Angels brought in the top hitter on the market in Josh Hamilton.

Both received multi-year contracts for an excessive amount of money. But of the two, Hamilton may prove to be a better investment than Greinke.

The Angels have committed five years and $125 million to Hamilton. It seems like a lot of money – which, of course, it is — for a player with a history of injuries and substance-abuse problems.

Josh Hamilton (Photo by Keith Allison, used under Creative Commons License)

Josh Hamilton (Photo by Keith Allison, used under Creative Commons License)

However, Hamilton will benefit from hitting behind Albert Pujols, who was the financial beneficiary of a huge contract from the Angels last offseason. The Angels lineup is shaping up to be a modern-day version of “Murderer’s Row.”

If teams choose to pitch around Pujols, they’ll have to face Hamilton and vice versa. And of course, the Angels’ lineup will also feature Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo.

It was originally anticipated that Hamilton might only get a three-year deal with a higher base salary since teams were weary about his off-the-field issues. But the Angels went all-in with the slugging outfielder and are expecting a huge return.

The Angels needed a left-handed hitter to add to the lineup, so they went out and signed not only a lefty bat but also the best overall available player.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers made a splash by locking up Greinke to a six-year, $147 million deal. Coupled with last season’s acquisitions of Hanley Ramirez, Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, the Dodgers already have nearly $215 million in payroll locked up for 2013.

The real question is why the Dodgers felt it was necessary to bring in Greinke. The Dodgers have a young ace in Clayton Kershaw, who will command a contract similar to Greinke’s once he hits free agency in 2015.

Kershaw led a rotation last year that also included Chad Billingsley, Aaron Harang, Ted Lilly and Chris Capuano. Lilly and Billingsley went down with injuries, creating a space for Beckett later in the season.

Right after signing Greinke, the Dodgers signed South Korean starting pitcher Ryu Hyun-Jin to a six-year, $36 million contract. The lefty averaged 15 wins per season in Korea.

The Dodgers are likely to trade a starting pitcher, but as it stands, the recent acquisitions bring the total number of starting-caliber pitchers on the Dodgers to eight, with Lilly and Billingsley expected to be fully healthy by Opening Day.

Greinke has his own anxiety disorder problems that could be a concern, but the real issue is the amount of money spent on an area of surplus. A rotation of Kershaw, Billingsley, Beckett, Ryu and either one of Harang or Lilly would still have been a formidable rotation for the Dodgers in 2013.

Greinke thrived in the NL during his time with the Brewers, but if he doesn’t live up to his lucrative contract, it may go down as the most expensive mistake in baseball, especially since the Dodgers already had capable arms on their roster.

Some teams just don’t know what to do with all their money.

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