The Angels have totally signed Josh Hamilton to a five-year deal worth a robust $125 million. Most teams were wisely avoiding giving the injury-prone outfielder more than three expensive seasons, but the Angels have never really cared very much about the length of a contract, have they? This is the same team that took on Vernon Wells and gave Albert Pujols a magic infinity deal that will pay him in forever dollars until the world ends. Then again, if the Mayans were right none of this will matter. They’re not, though.
Hamilton started off the 2012 season in some sort frenzy to hit 1,000 home runs, and he even had a four-homer game against the Orioles. Hamilton cooled down considerably after his death stretch, and Texas manager Ron Washington even began to shift him around in the order accordingly. We can’t blame a lot of the panic on Hamilton, though; when you have a player this good and this experienced, there is little reason not to let him work through it without worrying him. The end result for Hamilton was a season in which he hit .285/.354/.577 with 43 homers. He had plenty of trouble in the outfield (which is an issue the Angels will have to recognize as prevalent down the road), and his season wound up worth 4.4 WAR per FanGraphs.
Hamilton has certainly been an excellent player over the past six seasons, but you really have to question the Angels on this one. Hamilton will turn 32 in May, so he’ll be 37 by the time this deal expires. He’s battled all sorts of injuries throughout his career, and there are personal issues to consider as well. I’m not about to insinuate that the Angels have to worry about Hamilton relapsing into addiction, but I’m sure it’s in the back of the organization’s mind somewhere whether or not they want it to be.
More troubling from a baseball standpoint is the prospect of having Hamilton for five seasons when there are on-field issues to consider. He’s been a premium power hitter for years now, but he’s never had the elite kind of plate patience that signifies a top-notch approach. That may not matter; there are plenty of hitters who have had walk rates in the neighborhood of Hamilton’s career 8.3% mark who have been outstanding for years. Still, it’s worth considering because Hamilton won’t get to play his home games in Arlington anymore, and that park offers an enormous advantage for the batsmen. Hamilton showed virtually no home/road split difference in 2012 (.937 OPS at home, .924 on the road), but he’s done so in the past. His 2011 home OPS was 60 points higher than what he managed on the road, and that mark was nearly 300 points higher in 2010. Even if the new park isn’t a huge problem now, a couple of years and/or a couple of injuries could change that.
Hamilton has been in his prime for the past five seasons, so let’s take a look at what he’s been worth over that span. According to FanGraphs’ valuation system (which assigns a dollar value to a player’s performance based on how many wins they’re accounting for), Hamilton was worth $18.6 million in 2008, $6.2 million in 2009, $33.6 million in 2010, $18.3 million in 2011, and $19.6 million last season. In total, that puts Hamilton’s value over the five-year stretch at $96.3 million. That’s excellent, but it’s well short of the $125 million the Angels will be paying the man for five seasons that will happen as he gets older and more brittle. I realize that valuation method might seem unfair because Hamilton missed some time over the past five seasons and the value of the win is constantly changing, but that’s kind of the point. Maybe the Angels are just determined to take the franchise player from every team that appeared in the 2011 World Series; who knows?
The Rangers can’t do much of anything but shrug their collective shoulders and move on. They’ll get the 22nd overall pick in next season’s amateur draft, and they’ll have to look for other options to flesh out their roster. Much like the Cardinals with Pujols a year ago, Texas was wise not to betray its better judgment and dole out an extremely lengthy deal to a player with so many question marks looming over his head. It’s a good thing the Rangers have such a fruitful farm system to depend on. Between their player development system and their reluctance to shell out more cash or more years than they’re comfortable with, I’m becoming more and more convinced that the Rangers are one of the better-run franchises in the game.
Josh Hamilton will most certainly make the Angels a better team in the immediate future. He’ll transform the lineup into something much more ferocious and give fans a whole new reason to be excited. Still, I don’t like this deal going to five years, and I don’t even think Hamilton warrants $25 million per season. Going that far on annual average value might make sense to limit the contract’s length, but the Angels were willing to give Hamilton five years anyway. There is very little hope that this works out in the long run for the Angels, though it might be what they needed to make a playoff run in 2013.