After missing five games with what was later diagnosed asĀ ocular keratitis, Josh Hamilton returned to the Texas Rangers lineup last night to wreak havoc on the Oakland Athletics’ chances at postseason baseball with a key home run in the fifth inning of his team’s 5-4 victory.

Hamilton, who will almost undoubtedly test the free agent market this winter, has had a very good season, and even though he’s played in more games in 2012 than in any year since 2008, he’s still suffered through a myriad of injuries that have combined to see him miss 14 games. The latest, with symptoms including blurry vision and a lack of balance, was apparently brought on by an over consumption of energy drinks that led to his corneas drying out.

This is the second time this season that a substance dependency has interfered with the play of the recovering drug and alcohol addict, as his attempts to kick a chewing tabacco habit received blamed for a mid-season slump.

We are quick to roll our eyes when writers or members of the broadcast booth imagine every single individual play impacting a player’s future earnings. However, in the case of Hamilton, it’s largely believed that these injuries in combination with his checkered past will lead to shorter terms on a free agent contract than what he might otherwise be rewarded.

ESPN’s Buster Olney quotes one Major League Baseball executive:

He’s so athletic, and there isn’t anything he can’t do on a baseball field. But he was out of the game for a long time because of [his substance-abuse problems], and you have to ask, what kind of a toll did that take on his body?

Hamilton’s ability to play at least 140 games per season over the course of a long-term deal will be a major concern for any team that would be interested. As Mr. Olney discovers though, it’s difficult to imagine a team that would either have room for Hamilton in their outfield or be willing and able to afford to take such a financial risk in its commitment to paying the player.

As we’ve discussed before, long-term free agent contracts typically pay the player in a fashion that delivers value for the team in the first half of the deal and then value to the player in the second half of the deal as his production declines. With Hamilton, there exists no easy projection system to anticipate that decline.

If the player is seeking a multi-year deal in the fashion of contract similar to what Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols received last off season, general managers would be wise to stay away. However, if there is a negotiation room for a higher annual price at shorter terms to acquire Hamilton’s services, it would certainly be a tempting option, especially for a team whose roster is already prepared to compete for a playoff spot next year and the year after.

And The Rest

The Baltimore Orioles split a double header with the Toronto Blue Jays. [Toronto Sun]

The New York Yankees beat the Minnesota Twins, giving themselves a 1.5 game buffer for the American League East Division title. [River Avenue Blues]

The Detroit Tigers top the Kansas City Royals. [Motor City Bengals]

However, the Chicago White Sox beat the Cleveland Indians, thanks to some Adam Dunn heroics, so the Tigers remain one game back. [ESPN]

With the St. Louis Cardinals winning last night, and the Milwaukee Brewers losing, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to think there will be any changes to the Wild Card picture in the National League. [Pitchers Hit Eighth]

Canada secured a spot in the World Baseball Classic. [CBC Sports]

The Chicago White Sox are expected to decline Jake Peavy’s $22 million option. [Fangraphs]

Rooting for Roger. [Baseball Prospectus]

Luke Hochevar quick pitches Miguel Cabrera. Laughter ensues. [Big League Stew]

Estimating wRC+ from wOBA. [The Book Blog]

What is xFIP good for? [The Book Blog]

How Baseball Reference will handle the Melky Cabrera batting title saga. [Sports Reference]

Miami Marlins reliever Heath Bell isn’t so much of a fan of Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen, most likely because he’s not Miami Marlins closer. [Fish Stripes]

The L.A. Dodgers big trade going bust is apparently a good thing for baseball. [Biz Talk]

The L.A. Angels and their owner to general manager to manager relationships. [FOX Sports]