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Red Sox should have signed Josh Hamilton

The Los Angeles Angels have reportedly agreed a five-year $125 million deal with 2010 American League Most Valuable Player Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers, here in September.Jamie Squire/Getty Images/Getty

You saw what the Angels did.

It's probably what the Red Sox should have done.

They should have made a splash and signed Josh Hamilton, one of the best players on earth. But the Angels and the outfielder agreed to a five-year, $125 million deal Thursday. The Red Sox couldn't have done that?

Instead the Red Sox will have Shane Victorino in right field. No knock against Victorino, who presented himself well at his introductory press conference Thursday. He's a high-energy player, sort of the Dustin Pedroia of the outfield, good character guy and all that. But five years for Hamilton is a great deal.


It was not the seven- or eight-year commitments the Red Sox are trying to stay away from. But they chose to stick to their plan of value players at lower cost and years, and we'll see how that turns out.

"Shane fits perfectly into our short- and longer-term plan," Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said. "He's been a big part of great teams. He's a guy that can do a lot of things on the baseball field. A great defender, a great base runner, hitter from both sides of the plate, and one of the highest-energy players in the game."

Victorino, who signed a three-year, $39 million deal after passing his physical Wednesday, said all the right things at Fenway. He will wear No. 18, once worn by another high-energy guy, Johnny Damon. He said he's over the fact that he's no longer a center fielder, a position that players hold near and dear for as long as they can. When Jacoby Ellsbury was moved to left field by the Red Sox, he didn't take too it well.

"I did the same thing when I went to LA," said Victorino, who played the corners after being traded to the Dodgers in July. "People talked about how I should be the center fielder going there. But I always look at it as, 'I'm going to help this team win.' I came in as a right fielder. If you speak to [Phillies manager] Charlie Manuel you can ask him, he thinks I was the best right fielder that ever played.


"Don't get me wrong, I love center field, I want to be a center fielder, but I've played right. I'm excited for the opportunity to just go out there and have fun. I still might wrap myself around that pole, but if I've got to go get a ball I'm going to go get it."

Victorino, who is still fast and can steal bases, owns a career .341 on-base percentage and his switch-hitting ability is obviously an asset (though he hit only .229 lefthanded last season, with a .296 OBP). Cherington said he doesn't need Victorino to be a home run hitter, but just to be the player he's been for most of his career.

Theories abound as to why he struggled last season, from the pressure of being in a contract year to a hand injury.

"If I had an answer, I'd put my finger on it the last two years and figure out why I didn't hit .280, .285, .290, .300. More importantly, I think it's just about going out there next year," Victorino said.

"Last year I think everybody had it and speculated I was worried about staying in Philly . . . worrying about where I was going to be rather than just going out and playing the game. For the most part it got to me because I love Philly so much. But at the end of the day, I look beyond that now . . . I'm looking forward to 2013."


Victorino had a four-year, $44 million offer from the Indians, but Boston offered a better annual salary.

Did he have to be convinced Boston was committed to rebuilding?

"There is no convincing," he said. "It's Boston. That in itself says it all. It's the Red Sox . . . it's a storied franchise. I think still to me if you look around the game of baseball, there's one rivalry that you speak of and that's the Yankees and Red Sox.

"I look at the guys, the chemistry on this team . . . I look at the makeup of the team. This is one of those things we can turn around. And that's the goal. We don't want to be known as the team that didn't make the playoffs. I want to be a team that makes the playoffs . . . I fell short last year and it wasn't fun to be home in October."

Victorino needs less maintenance than Hamilton. But Hamilton can be extraordinary. The Red Sox needed an impact player in their lineup, and while there have been additions there's still not the excitement that Hamilton would have created.

It was no secret that Hamilton was seeking $25 million to $30 million per season. The question was years. Teams like the Red Sox would only offer three. Some would go four. The Angels stepped up for five. After not re-signing Torii Hunter and losing Zack Greinke to the Dodgers, the Angels were compelled to do something. And they surely did.


The Red Sox could have done the same. They could have created excitement. And while their mantra has been to quietly build a solid, contending team, Hamilton on a five-year deal would not have deterred them from that goal.

It's all about choices.

The Angels didn't get to the postseason after adding Albert Pujols and then Greinke. It was the nondescript A's and Orioles that made it. Maybe the Red Sox are hoping for a similar fate with high-energy guys like Victorino.

Thursday was that kind of a day.

The glitz and glamour of Hamilton vs. the low-key, lunch pail Victorino.

Twelve months from now, we should know which method was more successful.

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.