Until recently, the Angels were planning on sporting no more than a $145 million payroll in 2013. Enter Josh Hamilton.
Start giggling now.
It seemed like they were done when the acquisition of two starting pitchers (Tommy Hanson and Joe Blanton) and two back-end relievers (Ryan Madson and Sean Burnett). That pushed them to about $140 million.
Angels’ owner Arte Moreno, one offseason removed from spending more than $315 million on Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, decided he couldn’t let another winter go by not being the center of attention. The opportunity presented it self and prompted Moreno to push the payroll to a franchise record of about $165 million:
The acquisition of Hamilton makes cost-controlled Angels outfielders like Peter Bourjos and/or Mark Trumbo expendable. This gives them an opportunity to trade for a starting pitcher (like knuckleballer R.A. Dickey of the Mets who is currently in a stalemate in his contract negotiations with the Amazins’). It also counters the big-ticket moves made by the crosstown-rival Dodgers, who are fresh off signing Zack Greinke to a five-year, $147 million contract that the Angels were at one point unwilling to offer. It cripples the division-rival Rangers, who lost out on trading for James Shields, won’t be able to add Justin Upton and can’t bring back Hamilton. Adding Hamilton comes one offseason after the Angels signed Wilson, the Rangers’ former ace, to a five-year, $77.5 million deal.
“Really excited to dust off the Xbox controllers for the next few years on the road,” Wilson wrote on his Twitter account, @str8edgeracer. “It’s a great day to be an Angel/Angel fan!” Speaking to Rangers reporters at a media luncheon on Thursday, Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said Hamilton never gave his former club a chance to match the Angels’ offer.
“Our full expectation was that the phone call was going to be before he signed, certainly not after and giving us an idea,” Daniels told local reporters. “Josh had indicated recently, last week, he told us he felt it might be time to move on, but that we were still talking. I’m not going to get in to the reason, technically, why. I thought we had additional conversations this week that had moved it along in a positive direction. Apparently not.”
The 31-year-old Hamilton won the American League Most Valuable Player Award in 2010 and has long been considered one of baseball’s best all-around players, hitting .313 while averaging 33 homers and 107 RBIs the last three seasons. With the Angels, Hamilton’s left-handed bat seemingly fits perfectly behind Pujols in the cleanup spot. The likely scenario MLB.com trots out is to have Hamilton starting in left field, Mike Trout staying in center and Trumbo in right. This makes the chances of Bourjos being dealt more likely than ever.
Although he wants to stay in Anaheim, but Bourjos wants an opportunity. “I’m not sure what’s going to happen now,” he said when reached by phone Thursday. “But at the end of the day, from my perspective, I just want to play. I really don’t want to go through what I went through last year where I wasn’t playing. The last two months, I got like three at-bats. So hopefully, if I’m the odd man out, hopefully they’re willing to trade me and I’m able to go somewhere and play every day.”
With the Angels bottomless pockets and the Yankees trying to get under the cap, the landscape of the American League is starting to change. No longer will big spenders be solely relegated to the Northeast. Will this guarantee that all roads to October will lead through the left coast? I’m sure that teams like the Baltimore Orioles and the Detroit Tigers will have a lot say about that. Nonetheless, the hot stove just got very interesting.