Reportedly, the Rangers declare great interest in signing Josh Hamilton to a contract extension. Naturally, expressing such interest comes straight from the “GM for Dummies” handbook. If the club fails to appear genuine with this interest, then Team Hamilton (represented by agent Michael Moye) has every reason to use the “disrespected and unloved” approach to shun any and all overtures from the Rangers. If the club legitimately has such interest or at least creates such a perception, then Team Hamilton loses potential leverage that might prove useful in forcing the club’s hand on an extension.
Therein lies the problem for both the Ranger and Hamilton. If the club lacks 100% commitment to getting this extension done, then at some point down the road one or both sides could find themselves in baseball’s equivalent of an arranged marriage. The Rangers may have the guy they want, but they may be taking on a lot greater risk than they would like. Hamilton could finish his career with Texas, but he may do so with the sense that he is not truly wanted there.
Why would the Rangers NOT want a legitimate MVP-caliber player? Well, the reasons are varied. Some may be easily dismissed, but others may have some staying power. All are worth examination.
- The immensely talented Hamilton costs the team $13.75M this season, and has 1 more year of arbitration eligibility. A bump into the $16-17.5M range would not be a stretch. Beyond that year, he could consume somewhere in the neighborhood of $15-20M a season for 6 or 7 years (or more). With guys like Mike Napoli and Colby Lewis set to become free agents after this season and $80.6M already committed to next season, the two sides would either have to agree to a back-loaded deal, or the Rangers would ostensibly have to push payroll in the direction of $125-130M for 2013.
- If anybody might be considered stricken with bad injury luck, it might be Hamilton. He has only played 150 games or more in a season once, and that happend way back in 2008. Since then, he has played 89, 133, and 121 in the seasons leading up to 2012. For a guy who CAN carry a team, the concern is whether or not he can stay healthy enough to carry a team.
- Despite his great start (.406/.458/.840/1.298 with 14 HR and 36 RBI), the reality remains that Hamilton’s 162 game average projects to .313/.370/.556/.926 with 35 HR and 121 RBI. Even if he plays 130-140 games a year with those same numbers, we are talking about somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 HR and just under 100 RBI. Is that work $15M+ for a potential best-case scenario?
In all fairness, Hamilton falls into the category of true “difference makers”, but will retaining him mean Nelson won’t stay beyond 2013? Keep in mind that the Rangers already have $55.4M committed to 5 players for 2014 (Ian Kinsler, Adrian Beltre, Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, and Elvis Andrus). With guys like Neftali Felix, Alexi Ogado, and Mitch Moreland under cost-controlled circumstances for a few more years, the Rangers have the flexibility and the money to keep Hamilton. The question is whether or not they should.