MLB Rumors: 5 Reasons Why The Texas Rangers Shouldn’t Re-sign Josh Hamilton
Why shouldn't the Texas Rangers resign Josh Hamilton? Here are 5 reasons.
At first glance, the idea sounds almost crazy: why would the Texas Rangers not resign their superstar center-fielder, Josh Hamilton?
After all, the reasons to do the opposite are numerous, and difficult to ignore: Hamilton is coming off his healthiest season in years. He set career-highs in several batting categories in 2012, and despite a couple of untimely slumps, showed exactly why he's considered one of - if the the most - gifted players in the MLB.
Most importantly, he's been the heart and soul of the current core of players that the Rangers have put together - a group that is among the most talented in the league, as made evident by their runs to the World Series in recent years.
That said - all good things come to an end at one time or another. With the disappointment of their playoff elimination at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles still fresh in their minds, Hamilton's impending free agency put the Rangers at a critical crossroad. Where does the team go from here, after being unable to reach baseball's pinnacle for the third straight season?
The simple answer from Occam's Razor would suggest that the team should maintain this core of players that they have - which has Hamilton right in the middle of it.
Not all things are equal in this situation, however. As it turns out, there are a number of compelling reasons why the Rangers might choose to go the other way instead.
Here, then, are several reason why the team might elect to move on from the Hamilton era:
Mike Napoli: the other (freed) man
Here's the thing: while all of the attention right now is on Hamilton, it's important to note that Mike Napoli's own potential departure could put an equally large hole in the Rangers' future plans.
Yes, Napoli is coming off a down year, and his offensive numbers could probably be replaced by a less costly homegrown option like Mitch Moreland.
That is, if Moreland could catch, anyway.
Considering that the Rangers' current next-best catching option is Geovany Soto, who put up an abysmal .591 OPS since joining the team, having Napoli's offense in the lineup as the catcher is not only key - it's irreplaceable.
The 30-year old Napoli provides the Rangers with flexibility at DH, first base, and catcher; and even in a down year, he still managed put up 24 homers with a solid .812 OPS. Not only that, he's just a year removed from the monster season that rocketed him up fantasy draft boards as an elite backstop.
That kind of upside won't come cheaply - but it will be cheaper than resigning Hamilton. Could the Rangers put themselves in a better position if they used some of the money allotted for Hamilton to resign Napoli instead, while having some left over to search for another piece of the puzzle? Depending on Napoli's market price, the answer may well be an emphatic "yes".
The Nelson Cruz conundrum
So, the Rangers have a problem: they have outfielder who is in his early 30s, is a supremely talented (but often injured) piece of the machine, and he's an impending free agent. The team now has to make a decision on whether or not to re-sign him for the long-term.
Except it's October of 2013, and the player is not Hamilton, but Nelson Cruz.
In what you could probably call a cruel deja vu, the Rangers will be looking at the same scenario next season, regardless of what their decision is on Hamilton. No, Cruz isn't quite on the same level as Hamilton, but when he's right, he's not too far away either. There's very little doubt as to what the oft-out-of-commission outfielder can do for the Rangers offensively when he's healthy, and he doesn't come with the other kinds of baggage that Hamilton does, either.
It doesn't necessarily have to be an either/or situation, but the Rangers might benefit from taking some initiative in turning it into one, signing Cruz to a long-term contract now and ensuring that they are not without two of its key outfielders by the end of 2013.
After all, with a talent like Cruz, a career-season is always on the precipice. That he's facing a contract season might even provide some extra motivation - just look at Hamilton this year.
The rise of Jurickson Profar
I know what you're thinking: what does a young shortstop have to do with the decision of whether or not to resign Hamilton, the Rangers' center fielder?
Well, perhaps a little more than expected.
See, a lot of franchise-building in sports is about being proactive in moving on, and the Rangers are one of the best teams in the league in doing this, having one of the best farm systems in the majors. Jurickson Profar is just the latest in a long string of home-grown talent that's ready for the big show.
Close enough, in fact, that there's already talks of him potentially being ready to become the everyday shortstop for the team in 2013, ushering a new piece to the Rangers core by shifting Elvis Andrus to second base.
As for current second-baseman Ian Kinsler, who the team has locked in through 2017? Well, it turns out that he might be making a move to the outfield. If so, the former 30-30 man could certainly alleviate some of the offensive loss from the departure of Hamilton, while Profar can get a chance to showcase the talent that made him one of the top prospects in the league headed into this season.
Most importantly, it'll give the Rangers a good reason to move on to the team's next era.
The quest for Zack Greinke, part two
It's no secret that the Rangers wanted Zack Greinke near this year's trade deadline, before losing out in the bidding for the righty's services to their divisional rivals, the Los Angeles Angels.
Even though their 2012 playoff run ended earlier than hoped, there's no reason to believe that the Rangers pursuit for Greinke has slowed even a little. Except now, the only thing that stands between the team and its coveted free-agent pitcher now is the same thing that separates them from a future with Hamilton: money.
As one of the very best pitchers in the league in his 28-year old prime, the cost to acquire Greinke won't be cheap. Unlike the case with Napoli or Cruz, the Rangers may well be in an either/or situation when it comes to Greinke: do they use the money left in their payroll to make a significant upgrade to the starting rotation and hope to find Hamilton's offense elsewhere, or do they go another season without a shut-down ace on the staff?
The opportunity to acquire ace pitching like Greinke won't come around every year - and given that starting pitching problems that the Rangers had down the stretch (ranked 22nd in starter ERA post-All Star break), the better long-term plan might be to jump at the chance to patch up a glaring need now, while the solution is only a number on a piece of paper away.
Josh Hamilton: The athlete vs. the headache
Of course, it was always going to come down to this.
Yes - the best reason for the Rangers to not resign Hamilton is also the simplest: Josh Hamilton himself.
See, it was never in question that the Rangers are a better team with Hamilton in it, just as it is the case that Hamilton is a better player because of the support he receives in Texas.
Yet, in many ways, the success that Hamilton has had came in spite of himself. You know exactly what I'm talking about - after all, it's the reason why Hamilton has been such a captivating figure in baseball since his fateful appearance at the home-run derby all those years ago.
Hamilton's won the battle between his all-world talent and his personal demons more often than not, but as he would tell you himself, that doesn't make those demons go away.
It'll be a constant battle that Hamilton will have to face as long as he lives; and pretty soon, it'll be one team's (likely) nine-figure battle to pay for, just to have what Hamilton can offer with his athletic skills.
So yes, the Rangers are surely a better team with Hamilton in it - at least for now; but between the relapses, injuries, and the apparent rift building between him and team owner Nolan Ryan, is the cost of being better something that the Rangers should want to pay for? Even if it locks them in to what will likely prove to be a bad contract?
After all, there's always other ways that the team can get better - maybe not as good as they would be with Hamilton, but still easily good enough to be considered a yearly contender.
Parting with the heart of the team is never easy, but in this case, it may well end up being the Rangers' best move towards sustained contention.