Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Hamilton Headed Back to Texas

Hamilton's brief but costly tenure with the Angels is over (Rant Sports)
On December 15th, 2012, the Los Angeles Angels signed Josh Hamilton to a five-year, $125 million deal. Two and a half years later, they traded him away for essentially nothing--either a player to be named later or a fraction of the $80 million he's still owed.

There have been a lot of ugly contracts handed out in recent years, but Hamilton's might trump them all. Depending on how much the Rangers pay, which is believed to be anywhere from $6-8 million to $15 million, the Angels are on the hook for at least $110 million for a season and a half of mediocre production. Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs agree Hamilton produced about three wins above replacement in 2013-2014 combined, meaning he cost the Angels around $35 million per win--five to six times what a win is supposed to cost on the open market.

The Angels bought high on Hamilton, who was coming off five straight All-Star appearances and a big 43-homer season. His first year in LA was a massive disappointment, as his OPS fell nearly 200 points and he hit half as many home runs in the same number of plate appearances. The Angels also flopped, going 78-84 after winning 89 games the year before.

Hamilton's second go-round with the Angels wasn't much better, as he played all of eight games before landing on the disabled list with a thumb injury, which he sustained while doing what everyone knows is one of the riskiest and least rewarding plays in baseball--diving headfirst into first base. The daring play cost him two months and much of his power, for he slugged just .386 after returning to action in early June. He missed most of September with shoulder soreness and was a bust in the playoffs, going hitless in 13 at-bats as the Angels were swept in the ALDS.

Hurt again, Hamilton is currently recovering from shoulder surgery. He also relapsed recently, which proved to be the straw that broke the camel's (more specifically, Arte Moreno's) back. The Angels owner had had enough of Hamilton, who was costing him truckloads of money and giving him next to nothing in return.

That Hamilton's career soured so quickly was hardly surprising, though it was something of a worst-case scenario. He has been undone by all the flaws that made this pact so risky in the first place. His high strikeout rate in 2012 proved to be the new normal, as he followed up that year's 25.5 percent whiff rate with a 24.8 percent mark in 2013 and 28.3 percent mark last year. His injury woes followed him, limiting him to just 89 games last year and shelving him for the start of 2015.

He was also hurt by the move away from Texas, putting up a .690 home OPS in 2013 and a .616 home OPS in 2014. Age has certainly been a factor as well, as Hamilton's decline is on par with what most athletes experience in  their early 30s. Lastly, he was unable to shake the personal issues that have plagued him his entire career, ultimately preventing him from realizing his full potential.

In light of all this, one can understand why the Angels were so eager to cut bait and move on. They realized Hamilton was a sunk cost and not worth the headaches. Obviously they feel they will be better off without him, even if that means paying most of his contract for him to go away.

As for the Rangers, they can't be any worse with him. They are currently last in the AL West and are getting nothing offensively from their outfielders. Hamilton had his best years in Texas, so it's worth finding out if he can recapture some of his former glory with his old team. Hopefully he does Alex Rodriguez-style, because when he's right he's one of the most electrifying talents in the game. If he doesn't, the cost to the Rangers is entirely inconsequential. They can't lose.

The Angels, meanwhile, will continue to lose money on Hamilton for three more years. All they can do is hope he doesn't return to form with their division rivals and take advantage of all those opportunities he'll get to punish the team still signing his checks.

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