Last Autumn, the Texas Rangers took a curious approach to retaining their own free agents. A pair of southpaws, Darren Oliver and C.J. Wilson, were not only allowed to test the market, but did so without ever getting an offer from the Rangers until after they had already been courted by other clubs. Both Oliver and Wilson signed elsewhere and both were publicly miffed by the lack of interest shown by their former team.
As former AL MVP Josh Hamilton gets set to hit the market at the conclusion of the World Series this year, it appears the Rangers are willing to go the same route.
#rangers will let Josh Hamilton shop around first, before making him an offer. chances depend on no one breaking bank.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) October 9, 2012
Hamilton and the Rangers had been in extension talks last Winter, before the outfielder suffered a relapse of alcohol problems. Eventually, the two sides agreed to table talks until the end of the season. Until recently, it looked like Texas would still make Hamilton a priority, but the club hit a skid at the end of the season, losing eight of their final nine games to chock away the division. Then they lost the Wild Card game at home and their season was over.
Hamilton has taken a great deal of blame for the Texas tailspin. He was 0-for-4 in the Wild Card game, including a crucial strikeout in the eighth inning that came on a pitch Brian Matusz left middle-middle to the slugger. In the final and deciding game of the regular season, Hamilton dropped a routine fly ball in what was a tied game in Oakland. The A’s scored two additional runs thanks to that gaffe and never looked back.
Today on a Dallas radio program, team president Nolan Ryan said he wished Hamilton had waited until the off-season to try quitting his smokeless tobacco habit. Hamilton claimed it was the effects of withdrawl that had lead to a protracted mid-season slump.
Texas has a huge amount of money tied up in the roster as it currently stands and they haven’t been shy about spending to augment their roster. There is little doubt that the most talented player available this Winter will be Hamilton, but the baggage that comes with him may be proving too much to bear for the Rangers, especially in a market that will hold viable alternatives.
There is little doubt that clubs like Boston and Seattle will have obvious openings in both their lineup and payroll. A whole host of additional clubs will be involved in the process as well, especially if Hamilton’s price tag falls. While he was probably projected to land a six or seven year deal before the season began, and certainly at better than $20 million per year, the public souring of the Rangers on their star hitter figures to limit the overall deal. It stands to reason that no one knows the players better than his current team; if they have hesitation in committing a mega-deal to him, everyone should as well.
There will still be a deep market of suitors for Hamilton’s services, but it will interesting to see whether or not the Rangers will be heavily involved.