Hamilton intrigues Braves, but with a left-leaning lineup, they'll likely pass

Is Josh Hamilton a fit for the Braves?

If you're asking, you're not alone. The Braves have been asking themselves the same question, according to sources.

Hamilton intrigues them, because with Chipper Jones retiring and Michael Bourn likely to sign elsewhere, the Braves need to find an offensive boost this winter.

So the Braves will pursue Hamilton, the top hitter available on this winter's free-agent market?

Not so fast. In addition to the concerns that any team would have about Hamilton, who misses 30 or so games every year and has battled drug and alcohol problems in the past, there's another thing that bothers the Braves.

He's left-handed.

The Braves already have a heavily left-handed lineup, especially in the middle of the order. Emerging stars Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman both bat lefty, as does catcher Brian McCann.

With the switch-hitting Jones retiring, the Braves risk becoming even more left-leaning. Juan Francisco, who could take over for Jones at third base, is another left-handed hitter.

The Braves operate under a strict budget that often keeps them out of bidding for the biggest free agents, but with Jones ($13 million in 2012) retiring, Bourn ($6.845 million) likely to sign elsewhere and Jair Jurrjens ($5.5 million) probably not returning, they could have some cash available.

Just don't count on them spending it on Hamilton.

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