Posted on January 17, 2017 by Bryan Zarpentine
The Texas Rangers have agreed to sign outfielder Josh Hamilton to a minor league deal. Re-signing Hamilton had been expected for quite some time, but is now official. Hamilton will be invited to major league spring training and have the opportunity to make the Rangers’ opening day roster. In addition to playing the outfield, Hamilton will also see time at first base during the spring.
Hamilton’s story, as many know, is one of the greatest baseball odysseys ever heard. He was the first overall pick in the 1999 draft, only to have his career derailed by injuries and issues related to drug addiction. He overcame those problems to become a five-time all-star with the Texas Rangers from 2008 to 2012. In 2010, he won a batting title, was named American League MVP, and was MVP of the ALCS.
His performance during his five years in Texas earned him a five-year, $125 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels following the 2012 season. However, a couple years later, Hamilton was once again setback by injuries and drug addiction. In April 2015, he was traded back to the Rangers with the hope that familiar surroundings would help him stay clean and allow him to perform on the field.
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Unfortunately, injuries limited him to just 50 games in 2015. Knee surgery then caused him to miss the entire 2016 season. In August, the Rangers released Hamilton, knowing that by releasing him before September they could re-sign him and he’d be eligible to play in the majors before May 15. The Rangers have closely monitored his health since then. After he was medically cleared for baseball activities last month, Hamilton re-signing with the Rangers became inevitable.
Whether he plays this season or not, Hamilton will make $30 million as part of the final year of his contract with the Rangers. If he makes the Texas roster out of spring training, the Rangers will only pay him the major league minimum. It’s also important to note that Hamilton can request to be released if he’s not added to the major league roster by April 1. If he doesn’t make the opening day roster with the Rangers, it’s difficult to envision another team giving a chance, and so this could be Hamilton’s last chance to play in the big leagues.
It does appear that there could be room for Hamilton on the Rangers, especially if he proves he can handle first base, a position he’s never played but is eager to try. “I’m excited about it. I’ve been wanting to play first base for years,” Hamilton said Tuesday.
At the moment, the Rangers are expected to use some combination of Ryan Rua, Jurickson Profar, and Joey Gallo at first base, a trio with 43 combined major league starts at first base, so that position hasn’t exactly been solidified by the Rangers. Gallo and Profar are also expected to split time at DH, with Shin-Soo Choo possibly seeing time there as well. However, if Hamilton can produce offensively and prove that he can be somewhat serviceable defensively at first base and the outfield, the Rangers may be able to find a role for him.
It’s still possible that the Rangers could sign Mike Napoli to help fill the void at first base and the DH spot. Fellow free agent Mark Trumbo remains a remote possibility as well, although Rangers GM Jon Daniels has consistently said this offseason that the team is not looking to spend wildly in free agency. If either player is signed, it would hurt Hamilton’s chances of making the team out of spring training.
Obviously, nothing is being guaranteed to Hamilton, and considering his injury history, it’s far from certain that he’ll be able to perform at a big league level during spring training. However, he’s getting one last chance to play in the majors, and after the career/life he’s had, Hamilton figures to be one of the more interesting storylines to watch once spring training gets underway next month.