Angels Keeping Raising Stakes With Josh Hamilton


When it comes to the Los Angeles Angels apparently money really is no object. Don’t let them see the Neiman-Marcus Christmas catalogue or they’ll buy everything in it and leave other rich people weeping at the empty places under their trees on the holiday morning. Josh Hamilton to the Angels. Nobody really saw that coming.

Talk about oneupmanship from the Angels to the Texas Rangers. And talk about a statement to us baseball observers who thought that the Angels might possibly have previously limited out on their budget. They didn’t even blush when they were buying the most coveted player in off-season free agency with a five-year, $125 million deal. So much for any thought that Albert Pujols broke the bank the year before with his $240 million contract.

This is like purchasing the biggest yacht in the world and then adding another as a friend just in case it gets lonely. Well, the uncharted waters with Albert weren’t as placid as everyone thought they would be for much of the 2012 season, but it’s not as if we heard the Angels complain of buyer’s remorse, either.

Josh Hamilton might as well put a big red X across the word Texas on his uniform now that he has agreed to a five-year deal with the rival Los Angeles Angels. Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Unlike the Miami Marlins, which invested zillions of dollars in several players in 2012 with the aim of winning right now and then threw a temper tantrum and sought to undo it all when it didn’t work out immediately, the Angels dug deeper for more resolve. They were beaten out in the American League West by the Oakland A’s and the Rangers last season despite their big spending. Instead of declaring that plan a failure after one season they became more determined to ensure they are going to win the division and keep on winning in 2013. Rich people are different than you and me.

The Angels signing of Hamilton is a double-edged blow. Not only was he the best position player on the market who could upgade any team’s lineup, the Angels swiped him from their biggest competitor, the Rangers, weakening Texas at the same time they helped themselves.

No one questioned that Hamilton is among the best hitters in baseball, but everyone questioned what the right length was for a contract. That is because Hamilton will be 32 next season and he comes with the baggage of an acknowledged drug addiction that he has overcome, even if employers wonder if he can stay straight. For those doing the hiring the issue was never what Hamilton might produce in 2013, it was always about what he might produce in 2017.

Hamilton made it clear he wanted a long-term deal. At first the notion of a seven-year contract was floated. No one bit and the buzz seemed to indicate that most offers were in the three-year range. Hamilton would have looked good in any uniform, but especially in a Boston Red Sox uniform. The word was that the Sox would not budge off of three years. Hamilton kept shopping and found someone to pony up for five years at a boggling price. For five years at $25 million per, Hamilton might have said yea to an offer from the Hanshin Tigers of the Japan Central League.

A five-time All-Star who has won an AL Most Valuable Player award, a batting title, and hit 43 homers with 128 RBIs last season, Hamilton was the biggest fish in the sea this off-season. In past years we would have been talking about the New York Yankees making this investment. It typified the seize-the-moment aggressiveness the old George Steinbrenner Yankees were famous for. What’s changed is that other teams seem to have as much money to spend as New York now and have shown the willingness to do so.

Hamilton may be booed every time he shows his face for a game in Texas next season (which being in the same division means that will happen frequently), but there is little doubt he did the best thing for himself. He got the longest contract he could. He got the most money he could. He landed with a very serious contender. And because the Angels are so loaded with talent he won’t have to put the team on his shoulders and pull the wagon by his lonesome.

We may all be surprised that Josh Hamilton landed with the Angels, but it all made perfect sense for Hamilton.