For much of the last five years, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have watched Josh Hamilton dominate pitchers in the AL West as a member of the Texas Rangers. Hamilton’s 46 home runs and 163 RBI’s in 225 games against AL West foes are indeed impressive.
But are those numbers that helped the Rangers finish either first or second in their division each of the last five seasons really worthy of a five-year, $125 million contract, for a soon to be 32-year old outfielder with serious injury concerns? Conventional wisdom and Hamilton’s history tells me one thing; No.
When healthy, Hamilton is one of the most feared left-handed hitters in all of baseball. There’s no denying that. But the key phrase in that statement is “when healthy”, a trend that Hamilton has struggled with since his return to baseball following bouts with substance abuse.
Hamilton didn’t play his first major league game until 2007 (eight years after he was drafted first overall in 1999) due to being suspended from MLB play. In the time that Hamilton has been eligible to play in the majors, he has developed an interesting trend: Hamilton has been on the field for more than 130 games just three times in six seasons.
Here’s the kicker; Hamilton has suffered injuries causing him to miss at least 30 games each season directly following the year in which he was on the field for those 130+ games. This isn’t exactly the health pattern that most GMs would confidently commit half a decade and $125 million dollars to.
Angels GM Arte Moreno has developed a reputation of making bold moves to sustain the Angel’s market share of the baseball enthusiasm in a Southern California demographic that is split with the equally big-spending Los Angeles Dodgers. Just last season, Moreno inked a 31-year old Albert Pujols to a 10-year monster deal worth well over $200 million, then followed that move up by plucking pitcher C.J. Wilson from the Rangers. To sum things up, Moreno has no fear when it comes to opening the checkbook.
But neither Pujols nor Wilson presented the risk of this Josh Hamilton signing. Not only is Hamilton a good bet to spend time on the trainer’s room table, he’s also suffered a few substance relapses. Putting Hamilton in Southern California’s Hollywood environment may not be the ideal match for an individual with Hamilton’s past demons.
To his credit, Moreno saw an opportunity to field a potential lineup of Rookie of the Year phenom Mike Trout, young slugger Mark Trumbo (if the Angels can re-sign him), Pujols and Hamilton. Those four alone are capable of producing close to 150 home runs between them. A healthy Hamilton may offer a nice reward, but at $125 million over the next five seasons with Hamilton’s history there is no wondering why the Rangers were willing to risk losing him. Even if it was to a division rival.