According to local and national media news outlets, a Hamilton deal is close to being finalized between the Rangers and Angels, with Yahoo! reporting that Texas will assume about $15 million of the $83 million still owed to their former star.
At $5 million AAV over the next three years, this is a reasonable gamble the Rangers are taking, one its fans should feel at least semi-optimistic about. Josh Hamilton said some dumb things after he left the organization in 2012 -- a departure that seemed fairly mutual at the time -- and for that (as well as it being the Angels he signed with), Texas fans have continually booed him over the last two years. (I've never really understood booing players who've done great things for that club in the past, but so it goes in major American sports.)
The day Hamilton originally left the Rangers, I recall Jamey Newberg writing something in his newsletter that stuck out to me. I can't find the original article and I'm too lazy to dig it up, but it was something to the extent of:
The Rangers paid Josh Hamilton $26 million for his age-27-31 seasons; the Angels are about to pay him $125 million for his age-32-36 years.
Although accurate at the time, it appears the Angels will end up paying somewhere in the neighborhood of only $110 million for Josh's 32-36 seasons. In two-plus years with the Halos, Hamilton appeared in 240 of a possible 341 games (70.4%) and generated a triple slash line (.255/.316/.426, 108 wRC+) of a below-average offensive corner outfielder. One could say, through a baseball lens, that Josh hit rock bottom in 2014, tying his career-low in games played (89), while reaching new lows in the HR (10 in 389 PAs) and strikeout rate (28.3%) departments.
For $15 million through 2017, Josh Hamilton is simply too talented to pass on. Once the organization's winning lottery ticket in a swap for Edinson Volquez, for the time being he's more like a scratcher at the convenience store: there's a chance the Rangers win some real value here, but if it doesn't work out he's cheap enough to discard.
As someone who's never really disliked Hamilton, sure, I'd love to see him come back to Arlington and get his career on track. He will get a chance to reunite with his former teammate, Michael Young -- who likely had some influence on the organization's final decision -- as well as Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre. It hasn't been that long since Josh left, but almost nothing is the same since he's been gone.
Between 2008-'12, Hamilton registered as the 3rd-best full-time outfielder in MLB, producing +22.2 fWAR and a .305/.363/.549 (136 wRC+) triple slash line. Because of the trajectory of Hamilton's career over the last couple years in Orange County, it's easy to forget that once upon a time this was a Hall of Fame caliber outfielder. With such a minimal financial obligation, the Rangers are hoping for a one to two-win upgrade over Ryan Rua and Jake Smolinski in left field, which seems like a sensible goal even if Josh Hamilton isn't much more than he was with the Angels.
If he's proved anything to us over the better part of the last decade, it's that Josh Hamilton has shit for brains. He generally makes bad life decisions, almost predictably, and that is tragic and sad. But there is legitimate hope that, given a fresh start in a familiar setting, Josh can cast his career in a new direction. Hopefully he can mash some baseballs along the way.
Update: Per Evan Grant, the Rangers are likely to pay Hamilton only $7 million over three years, which comes out to a little over $2 million AAV. That is the best of updates.