Josh Hamilton couldn’t beat Albert Pujols during the 2011 World Series. So now he is joining him on the 2013 (and beyond) Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Orange County California.
Once again the Angels made a splashy and superfluous slugger signing. This team already had plenty of offense, so much so that owner Arte Moreno refused to make a $13.3 million qualifying offer to Torii Hunter after the popular outfielder hit .313 with 16 homers and 92 RBI last season.
Hunter signed with the Tigers for two years and $26 million. Then Moreno turned around and committed $125 million over five years to Hamilton.
“I was told money was tight but I guess Arte had money hidden under a Mattress,” Hunter observed via a Twitter posting Thursday. “Business is business but don't lie.”
The Angels outfield already featured breakout star Mike Trout in left, defensive wizard Peter Bourjos in center, transplanted first baseman Mark Trumbo (32 homers, 95 RBIs last season) in right and faded slugger Vernon Wells on the bench. (Wells is owed $42 million for the next two seasons, making the most expensive fourth outfielder in baseball history.)
Hamilton doesn’t fit snugly into the roster puzzle, but Pujols didn’t really fit last season. Moreno signed him anyway, despite having Trumbo and Kendrys Morales at first base.
The Angels don’t mind eating salary or giving away talent to make the pieces fit. Most teams don’t have that luxury, but Moreno can act on his whims. The result, in 2013, will be a murderous offensive lineup.
Here is how the experts viewed this signing:
Jeff Passan, Yahoo! Sports: “The race for supremacy in the West turned cutthroat, imbuing a rivalry in name alone with actual malevolence. Hamilton – spurned by fans, needled by ownership, rendered second fiddle by the Rangers' pursuit of Justin Upton and ultimately hunted with a $25 million-a-year offer from a team with the best player in baseball – got the final word with a stroke of the pen. The Angels, for the second consecutive year, poached the fruit of the Rangers' labor. And the Rangers, in the midst of an offseason in which their pursuits have hit dead ends – first Zack Grienke, then James Shields, now this – must regroup and figure out how to compete with the wonder-team Arte Moreno is building in Orange County.”
Ken Rosenthal, FoxSports.com: “Well, we have the Angels’ answer. The Dodgers traded for first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, right-hander Josh Beckett and outfielder Carl Crawford. The Dodgers signed righty Zack Grienke and Ryu Hyun-jin. The Dodgers this, the Dodgers that, and finally Angels owner Arte Moreno said enough. Does outfielder Josh Hamilton qualify as enough of a response?”
Jonathan Bernhardt, Sports on Earth: “What, you thought they would just go away? That’s not how the Angels work. How the Angels work: they clear $25 million off the books in combined owed money to pitchers Ervin Santana (now a Royal) and Dan Haren, replace them with more modest commitments to Joe Blanton and Tommy Hanson, and use what’s left over to help fund a $125 million, five-year contract for former AL MVP Josh Hamilton . . . By the time negotiations were starting to be reported by the national media on Wednesday afternoon, Hamilton was only an hour or so away from signing, lending credence to the early theory that Angels owner Arte Moreno, in a fit of pique over losing Zack Greinke or (more likely) just the entire concept of the Los Angeles Dodgers, decided it was time for his ‘Los Angeles’ team to make a big splash. Hamilton getting a call from a pushy owner demanding an answer now about $25 million a year for five years might also explain why Hamilton didn’t give the Texas Rangers a call to see if they wanted to match -- something Hamilton’s camp had publicly committed to doing.”
Bill Plaschke, Los Angeles Times: “With one huge swing-from-the-heels signing Thursday, the Los Angeles Angels of Nowhere are back, back, back, back. Hamilton may be fragile, his past may be checkered, the Angels may be giving him far too much time and money . . . but he still represents the kind of flashy billboard that owner Arte Moreno understands best. The Dodgers can spend millions, but the Angels will spend flashier millions. The Dodgers can play hardball, but the Angels are going to play long ball. The Dodgers can steal Zack, but the Angels are going to respond with Whack! And, oh yeah, the rival Texas Rangers can stick it in Nolan Ryan's cackle. Josh Hamilton? Can you imagine?”
Mark Whicker, Orange County Register: “The strongest short-term effect will be on Texas, not just the Angels, who have decided that if you can't beat 'em, raid 'em. The Rangers already lost Mike Napoli, are losing Ryan Dempster, and traded Michael Young. They wanted Hunter and Zack Greinke and struck out. This puzzles Nolan Ryan, who thought players, especially hitters, would flock to such a loud house and such a jet-stream to right field. Ryan is reportedly planning to assure free agents that the state of Texas has not seceded from the U.S. (yet).”
Scott Miller, CBSSports.com: “This is nuts. Crazy. Eye-popping, intriguing, grist for wild daydreams of summertime … but absolutely and positively insane. The Los Angeles Angels of Holy Overreaction, Batman, let Zack Greinke take a walk . . . and grab Josh Hamilton instead? The Los Angeles Angels of We Collect Sluggers by the Barrel now will be committing close to $70 million in each of the next two seasons to three players: Hamilton, Albert Pujols and Vernon Wells? These guys finished third in the AL West last summer and missed the playoffs because they didn't have enough pitching. Josh Hamilton doesn't pitch. Specifically, they didn't have a strong enough bullpen: The Angels tied with Boston for the most blown saves in the American League at 22. Josh Hamilton doesn't close (Ryan Madson does, and that's another story). Cut that blown saves total even in half, and the Angels would have cruised into the playoffs and, who knows, maybe even won a World Series.”
Michael Rosenberg, SI.com: “The Los Anaheim Angels stole Josh Hamilton. Actually, they simply paid him what he is worth. But in baseball's free-agency market, that is a steal. Nobody pays the retail price in free agency -- everybody pays more, always. It's like the opposite of Kohl's. Five years and $125 million for Hamilton? That sounds about right to me, and I don't say that about too many big contracts these days. Albert Pujols's $240 million deal struck me as crazy. So did Alex Rodriguez's $275 million deal. So did Prince Fielder's $214 million deal. But this Hamilton deal . . . well, this makes sense. How did the Angels sign a perennial MVP candidate away from a division rival for a reasonable price? Don't just look at Hamilton's numbers. Look at his story. So much of free agency is about a story . . . Hamilton's story was intertwined with the one we all know so well. He has battled substance addiction. He played in an average of 129 games in his five seasons with the Rangers. He has occasional flaky moments. That was his story, and it made a lot of people nervous.”
MYSTERIES OF THE UNIVERSE
Questions to ponder while wondering if Danny Amendola will finally return to action for the Rams:
Some thoughts on the wonderful world of sports:
- While the teams in SoCal continue throwing crazy money at veterans, the Cardinals continued to invest in young power pitching. The organization placed an eye-catching $950,000 bet on 18-year-old hurler Alex Reyes, a 6-foot-3 right-hander with a low-90s fastball and a decent change-up. That was the second-highest bonus collected by a Dominican pitcher this year.
- Reyes grew up in New Jersey. He played high school and summer ball in the U.S. before moving to the Dominican Republic to live with extended family members, polish his baseball skills and gain international free agency. Baseball America reports that Kansas City took a long look at him before Reyes decided to sign with the Cardinals.
- This signing underscored this organization’s robust commitment to Latin America, a key piece in the franchise’s overall player development improvement. Reliever Eduardo Sanchez (Venezuela), starting pitcher Carlos Martinez (Dominican Republic), outfielder Oscar Taveras (Dominican Republic), second baseman Starlin Rodriguez (Dominican Republic) and second baseman Breyvic Valera (Venezuela) are among the key prospects produced by this program.
- Signing Reyes, a converted shortstop, was the equivalent of using a high first-round draft pick on an elite high school prospect. He may start his journey with the Cardinals’ Gulf Coast League affiliate, the typical first step for international prospects. Will he add velocity as he matures physically? Can he improve his curveball? Will he stay healthy?
- These are the usual questions teenage pitchers must answer after turning pro. Reyes is at the opposite end of the developmental spectrum from Michael Wacha, a 2012 first-round pick who arrived from Texas A&M as a finished product. Wacha struck out 40 batters in 21 innings at three minor league levels last season after starring for the Aggies.
“Five turnovers, 31 points. That says it all. Guys played hard, but you can't have those turnovers. You have to take care of the ball. Guys have to do it. I take full responsibility for them.”
Doomed Eagles coach Andy Reid, after his team’s latest embarrassment.